| Summer 2005

Safety Orientation: First Step to Reducing Workplace Accidents
By David Wylie

Dennis Hof with Laura Drennon

As an employer, you expect new hires to make some mistakes. It comes with the territory. Those mistakes may result in lost productivity, but employees usually learn valuable lessons from them.

Some mistakes, however, don’t include a second chance. Approximately 27 percent of job-related fatalities involve employees who have been on the job for less than 90 days, according to a recent Texas Mutual® claim analysis. That’s why workplace safety should be a key component of every new employee’s orientation.

“The first few days and weeks on the job are the most critical for safety training,” said Dennis Hof, Texas Mutual® safety coordinator. “If new employees start practicing unsafe work behaviors early, those habits can be hard to break. The key is to teach them to do their jobs safely before you let them start working.”

Hof meets with every Texas Mutual® employee during their first day on the job. He discusses evacuation routes and emergency procedures and teaches new employees the basics of office safety.

A good safety training program meets regulatory requirements and prepares new workers for the unique hazards they will face on the job. It can also be a good refresher course for current workers who take on new tasks.

Include hands-on demonstrations of personal protective equipment, the safety features on machines, and the safest way to perform each task. Ask employees to repeat the procedure until you are confident they can do it.

Supervisors should allow employees to adapt at their own pace. If your employees do not understand a procedure, encourage them to ask questions. Every employee should trust that management will not reprimand them for reporting unsafe conditions or asking questions.

Earning this kind of trust requires actions. If management demonstrates a commitment to safety, new employees are likely to follow their lead. Likewise, experienced workers can team up with new employees to help them correct unsafe behaviors before they become bad habits.

“The main points of that initial training are name recognition and accountability,” said Hof. “I want new employees to know who I am and that I’m always available for them. I also want them to understand that management and I expect them to report safety hazards or other safety-related concerns.”

Safety training is an ongoing process at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Hof follows up throughout the year with ergonomic evaluations, safety inspections, and other activities that reinforce the importance of a safe work environment.

Like many Texas Mutual® policyholders, Hof takes advantage of our safety resource center. It offers a multimedia library of training resources on behavior-based safety, safety orientation, and a host of other safety topics. Most of the items are free, and many are available in Spanish.

Policyholders can also visit texasmutual.com to register for a free workers’ comp workshop. Each workshop includes a safety presentation designed to help you get “buy-in” for your safety program at every level of your company. Once you achieve that, you have taken the first step toward instilling safe behaviors that will help new employees become safe, productive members of your workforce for years to come.

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