According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 874 fatal work injuries in construction in 2014, the highest total since 2008. Research by CPWR, the center for construction research and training, has found that construction workers are 18 percent more likely to experience a workplace injury than workers in other fields. CPWR researchers also found that the risk of injury doubled for construction workers who held five or more construction jobs each year when compared to those who only worked one or two jobs. This data suggests that worksite inexperience increases the risk factor for work-related injuries, perhaps because new construction workers may not understand their safety rights and responsibilities. They may also be uncomfortable reporting jobsite hazards or underestimating their risks.
To reduce safety risks and keep your worker’s compensation claims and insurance costs low, it’s important to consider new workers when creating or reviewing your jobsite safety program. Experts suggest that one of the best things you can do is provide safety orientation for every new worker on your jobsite. Each orientation should include:
- The hazards they can expect to encounter and how to identify them
- How to assess and report hazards
- The personal protective equipment available on the jobsite
- When personal protective equipment is required
- Worker OSHA rights and employer responsibilities
- Review of the jobsite safety program and their responsibilities
- How to handle emergency situations
- How to report jobsite accidents and injuries
You can also reduce new worker safety risks on the jobsite by assigning low-risk duties during the first month. Initial tasks should not require complicated training or require solo work. Instituting a mentoring program or buddy system through which you pair new construction workers with those who are more experienced can be a very helpful addition to a thorough orientation.
Reinforce safety with new workers on a weekly basis. After the first month, assess their knowledge of your jobsite’s safety policies and procedures. If you determine a new worker has a firm grasp of the information he/she needs to help maintain the safety of the jobsite, you can then advance him/her to higher-risk duties.
Research by the Institute for Work and Health has found that the risk of work injury is particularly elevated during a worker’s first month on the job and remains higher than average for the first year on the job. Those in their first month on the job are over three times more likely to experience a lost-time injury as those with more than 12 month’s tenure. If you’d like assistance reviewing your current jobsite safety program to ensure it properly addresses new worker risks, we’re here to help.