As an employer you need to pay special attention to the safety of inexperienced workers, who account for nearly half of all reported workplace accidents, according to a new survey.
The survey, by the Golden Triangle Business Roundtable in Texas, found that workers with less than five years’ experience accounted for 43% of reported workplace injuries.
It also found that workers with between five and 10 years’ experience accounted for another 34% of incidents.
OSHA says there are a few reasons younger and inexperienced workers are more prone to workplace injuries:
- They are often are employed in industries that have a higher frequency of injury hazards (think hazards in restaurant settings associated with slippery floors and use of knives and cooking equipment).
- Inexperience and lack of safety training.
- Less aversion to taking risks.
The risk is more acute in construction and other craft fields that already have high rates of workplace incidents.
“Decision-making continues to be reported as leading accident causes and risk-taking continues to be a pre-existing cause for accidents,” the Golden Triangle Business Roundtable report said.
Inexperienced workers get injured or sick on the job for many reasons, according to OSHA, including:
- Unsafe equipment
- Inadequate safety training
- Inadequate supervision
- They are more apt to take risks
- Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youths under 18
- Pressure to work faster
- Stressful conditions
OSHA recommends taking the following actions:
- Ensure that young or inexperienced workers receive training to recognize hazards and are competent in safe work practices particular to your worksite. Training should be in vocabulary that workers can understand and should include prevention of fires, accidents and violent situations – and what to do if injured.
- Drive home the point that workers should not take any risks when doing their jobs. They should not stray from standard operating procedure to get the job done.
- Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new employees. Have an experienced young worker answer questions and help the new worker learn the ropes.
- Encourage young workers to ask questions about tasks or procedures that are unclear or not understood. Tell them whom to ask.
- Ensure that equipment operated by young workers is both legal and safe for them to use. Employers should label equipment that young employees are not allowed to operate.
- Make sure all workers know whom to talk to if they are hurt on the job.
Supervision is crucial
The only way to ensure your workers are carrying out their safety obligations is to supervise them adequately.
The amount of supervision will depend on the nature of the work and the control measures you already have in place. So, if you have a risky activity or low control measures, more supervision may be necessary.
But, supervision does not mean the constant surveillance of your workers’ work activities – rather, it means general direction, coordination and oversight.
To identify activities that may need greater supervision, you should answer the following questions:
- Do any work tasks involve a high degree of risk?
- Are new or inexperienced workers performing the tasks?
- Are apprentices or young workers performing the work?
- Are workers using new or recently modified machinery?
- Do any of your workers have language difficulties or physical restrictions/limitations?
- Do any tasks require interaction between many different workers?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you should step back and analyze the work tasks and risks and then determine how much supervision may be required to ensure the safety of your less experienced employees.