New Employee Orientation – Delegating the Wrong Tasks

Clark Dan Written by Dan Clark

Is your new employee orientation plan as sharp as your formal training program?

Recently, while visiting a local supermarket, I asked the owner the very same question.  The question came after he and I realized that cuts and laceration claims were on a dramatic rise. Further research revealed that most of these injuries came from the combination of new employees and deli-slicing machines. I was stumped, as the supermarket had a comprehensive new hire training program.

Even more investigation revealed that the injuries were occurring during off-shifts or weekends, where the majority of new employees start out. The research found that department managers, who usually work weekdays, were delegating the responsibility of training to other associates during the off-shifts or weekends.

Typically, the supermarket’s new hire training focused on operating deli-slicers, but when delegated to an associate, critical demonstration on blade cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) was not covered. There were behavioral issues, as well. The associate responsible for the training gave no demonstration on safe blade cleaning, did not wear any PPE—such as cut-resistant gloves—while blade cleaning, and did not secure or unplug the power. Why? This was how the associate worked, cutting corners to save time. New employees often learn on the job by example, good or bad. 

We have often heard “they never showed me that” or “I was never told about that” from new employees after an unfortunate incident.  If you’ve delegated new employee training tasks, take the steps to ensure that clear and concise instruction is provided.  Your new employee training program may be great on paper, but may be ineffective if not delegated appropriately.

The Big Chill Approaches

The temperature atop Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire hit 25 degrees below zero last Monday. And, with wind gusts over 100 miles per hour, the wind chill stood at minus-65 to minus 70 degrees. The scary part, pointed out by the weather observers stationed there, is this – it’s not even winter yet!

Yes, it’s been getting colder for the last few weeks but one thing is for sure -- it's going to get colder. Maybe not Mt. Washington cold, but definitely colder. It's a fact of life that many workers have to deal with.  For some workers it may be a minor nuisance because they're not out all day. For others, it could cost them a finger or toe from frostbite.  In extreme cases, some workers lives will be threatened.

The amount of protection a worker requires depends on the amount of exposure to the cold. With any employee safety concern, you should evaluate the workplace conditions to accurately assess the situation. From there, proper training should be done for all employees, including monitoring their actions and taking corrective actions when needed. This is your best means of incident prevention.

It’s also useful to contact an expert on the topic. Here at MEMIC, we are fortunate to have a cold weather expert on staff.

Peter Koch, a MEMIC Safety Specialist, has been working with ski areas who are insured with MEMIC for years. Before that, he worked in the ski industry. An obvious exposure these employers are faced with is working in some extreme cold conditions.  Much of the information Peter uses to train ski industry employees can be applied to numerous other jobs that require employees to be outdoors.  Here's a newsletter that Pete put together (Download The Cold Challenge newsletter ). Not only is it useful for supervisors to evaluate their workplaces, but it is also a great safety meeting topic.  And, of course, it is important to note that knowledge of cold weather exposure is equally important for anyone participating in outdoor recreation during wintertime.

Time to Set a SMART Goal

As we approach the end of yet another year, it's time to get prepared for the next one.  One thing most safety-conscious companies do is set employee health and safety goals.  By doing so, companies are forced to review their current situation and increase awareness. Just doing this can greatly improve the possibility of reducing the frequency and severity of injuries. 

How you set your goals can vary by the number of people involved in the process.  While it can be cumbersome to include everyone, the truth is you have a better chance of succeeding if everyone is pulling on the rope.  The more owners, managers and especially front-line supervisors participating in any goal-setting process, the better the buy-in and the better chance you’ll succeed as an organization.  Let's face it, if owners, managers and front-line supervisors aren’t buying in, you are not going to meet the goal.

Some companies are small enough so that the decision-makers can knock out a set of goals in about an hour.  Larger businesses may need to get more creative and/or invest more time.  In either case, there are some basic things you should consider about setting a goal. We call them SMART goals.  Here is what comprises such a goal:

    Agreed Upon

This approach is not new. MEMIC has been using SMART Goals for many years in our Leadership Training classes.  By touching on all five of these items you will be improving on the accuracy and overall ability to hit your target.  Incidentally, this same process can be used in the areas of productivity and quality as well. And with 2009 fast approaching, now is the time to set your goals.

Make sure you communicate the goals to everyone in the organization- not just at the beginning of the year, but repeatedly throughout the year.

An Educational Opportunity Worth Considering

Anyone who's been a safety professional for a few years is eventually going to be asked by someone on the floor or job site “how did you get into this safety business anyway?” 

When I was first asked this very question some 20 plus years ago I answered honestly that I thought it was a worthwhile job to have.  When they asked “what training did you have to take," the answer was none. 

I, like the many safety professionals I've had the pleasure to work with over the years, started the same way. You had to be able to do two things: number one, know the OSHA standards for your particular industry and, number two, be able to deal with people.  Dealing with people has not changed. The educational requirements have.

Earning a certificate or degree no matter what the field is an obvious advantage compared to when I first got started. When looking at employee health and safety programs, the offerings have increased over the years but they’re still somewhat limited.

That's why, if you’re from my neck of the woods, a course titled “Safety and Risk Management” offered this fall by the University of Southern Maine (USM) through their Environmental, Safety and Health degree program may be of interest to someone looking for that formal education.

This course covers risk management process for industrial and commercial safety. Visit USM’s website for information on course ESH 342.