Injury Rates Higher Among New Employees
May 21, 2020 | Juli Jenkins, SCLA
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that workplace injuries occur more frequently among new employees. As this becomes a persistent problem for workers’ compensation, it underscores the importance of an effective safety management program.
Why are new employees more likely to sustain injuries?
New employees are often not adequately trained. In addition to information overload, there may be a gap between what an employer thinks an employee already knows and what an employee actually knows. Training programs should emphasize safety basics throughout and give employees time to adjust to job demands. The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America recommends the following elements be included in new employee orientation:
- Site-specific information, including identifying present and expected hazards and how they are handled, as well as required personal protective equipment
- Hazard assessments
- Encourage employees to identify and report hazards to a supervisor
- Safety culture
- Inform employees of their OSHA rights
- Reporting injuries and incidents
- Safety program participation
- Emergency preparedness
Poor hiring practices. Keeping the workplace safe means you also need to hire the right people to maintain a safe environment. A thorough interview and in-depth screening process will help find qualified workers who will fully understand the job responsibilities. Other suggestions that may help include:
- Show applicants the job they would be doing before they are hired.
- If the job has specific physical demands or may involve exposure to a workplace health hazard, specify the information in a formal job description and require a pre-placement physical.
- Implement a drug-free workplace policy, which includes a pre-employment and post-accident drug screening. Ensure your policy has undergone legal review before any testing is done.
A small pool of qualified candidates. With low unemployment rates prior to COVID-19, many employers were struggling to find qualified candidates to fill open positions. It’s important not to rush the process. Stick to quality hiring practices and promote policies and practices that reduce job turnover. By encouraging permanent employment and improving job security, you will have fewer jobs to fill and experienced workers on your team.
Bringing employees back to work after an injury.
Despite best efforts, accidents and injuries still happen. When they do, the goal should be to bring injured employees back to work as soon as their doctor allows. The longer employers wait to bring back injured employees, the less likely they will return to work. Reassure employees that their recovery is expected and that they will receive proper work accommodations upon their return.
When employees return to work following an injury, keep these tips in mind:
- Be patient
- Provide a calm, quiet work area where lighting can be adjusted, if needed
- Alter the work tasks to accommodate their injury to help employees work comfortably and with less pressure
- Instead of a busy, high-stress environment, allow employees to ease back into their regular hours, workload, and tasks
Remember that when injured employees return to work, they may not be as productive at first. Depending on the injury, their thought-process, speech and reaction times may be slower, and they may have more difficulty concentrating. With time, employees will incrementally be able to return to their regular work level.
Bringing an employee back after an injury is all about patience and accommodation. As long as employers exercise both of those elements, employees will feel encouraged and able to return to their original job.