Over the next four months, many employers will onboard new employees—both recent graduates and summer interns. Safety training, while important for all employees, is especially important when onboarding employees who are entering the workforce for the first time and may have never before undergone safety training.
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) was established over 45 years ago with a mandate to ensure workers’ safety and health while on the job. Depending on your workplace, of course, the nature of your safety-training program will vary greatly in terms of focus, scope and hours. In today’s post, we examine why safety training matters and just some possible approaches across different sectors.
The Statistics: Why Safety Training Matters
In 2014, 4,679 workers were killed in work-related accidents. Hispanic workers were especially at risk, accounting for 789 death. This largely reflects the fact that Hispanic workers are both overrepresented in the construction industry, where many fatalities occur, and more likely to not be legal residents and therefore, more likely to be put into dangerous positions at work with no legal recourse. 20.5% of deaths occurred in the construction industry, but manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries were also sites of workplace fatalities and injuries. Major causes of fatalities include: falling (39.9%), electrocutions (8.5%), being struck by an object (8.4%) and being caught between (1.4%).
According to the OSHA, most of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers followed OSHA guidelines and trained workers to follow the guidelines. The ten most frequently ignored OSHA guidelines in 2015 were:
- Failure to properly install fall protection.
- Failure to engage in proper hazard communications.
- Failure to install proper scaffolding on construction sites.
- Failure to use the required respiratory protection.
- Failure to control hazardous energy.
- Failure to follow guidelines when operating industrial trucks.
- Failure to exercise caution when using ladders.
- Failure to exercise caution when around electrical, wiring methods, components, and equipment.
- Failure to apply machinery and machine guarding guidelines.
- Failure to properly implement electrical systems design requirements.
Fortunately, the OSHA offers guidelines on how to mitigate these dangers and if properly implemented, most workplaces can prevent most fatalities and injuries. Below, we outline just a few steps different industries can and should take into consideration when implementing safety training programs.
The construction industry remains one of the most dangerous places to work. Every year, thousands of workers suffer injuries and fatalities on the job. Sadly, most of these injuries and fatalities can be prevented. To begin, construction crews should never assume that workers have already had safety training, even if they are experienced. Second, managers should pay special attention to safety issues at all times, ensuring that workers are taking precautions and that scaffolding and other protective structures adhere to OSHA guidelines. Finally, managers should carry out ongoing safety audits and respond to any concerns promptly.
Like the construction industry, the manufacturing sector is home to many workplace fatalities and injuries. Falling objects, improper machine guarding and “stuck-in-between” injuries are common alongside injuries involving the improper use of heavy machinery, including forklifts and industrial vehicles. Once again, as new workers arrive, it is critical that safety training is carried out. Ongoing safety audits are also recommended.
Preventable fatalities and injuries are far more common in agriculture than many people assume. While urbanites often assume that farms are just about growing vegetables or raising life stock in a bucolic setting, in order to carry out these activities, in most instances, heavy equipment, open machinery, and chemicals are also involved. After all, despite the rise of the farm-to-table movement, most food is still produced using machines and chemicals that are in fact very dangerous. Unlike a construction site or factory, however, many farms are small operations and even less likely to be inspected on a regular basis. Nevertheless, like any other type of employer, farmers and ranchers are in fact obligated to provide safety training to new and existing employees and obligated to follow all the OSHA guidelines that apply to larger industrial work sites.
Healthcare also poses major threats to employees. Among other concerns, in the healthcare sector, it is critical that new employees undergo extensive training to learn how to handle and dispose of potentially contaminated materials. Beyond avoiding infectious diseases, this means learning how to handle chemicals (e.g., sterilants), materials that may cause an allegoric reaction (e.g., latex), and physical agents (e.g., radiation).
While most retail jobs may appear more or less safe, employers are still obliged to follow OSHA guidelines and post their emergency plans in a public place. Also, retailers should take time out to engage in at least a brief safety training program as they welcome new employees. Improper lifting of boxes and falling objects in storerooms are just two of the many safety concerns that arise in the retail sector on a regular basis.
For more on how to train new employees on safety issues, see eLeap’s training course: New Employee Safety Orientation and Training.
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