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The most dangerous six months of your career

August 27, 2015 at 2:56 PM

Starting a new role is an exciting prospect, and the biggest worry should be learning the ropes in your chosen career. However recent research has shown that employees are just as likely to have an accident during their first six months in a new job as they are during the rest of their working life.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released figures which demonstrate just how hazardous a new role can be, and in doing so effectively underline the importance of adequate health and safety training for all new starters in the workplace.

 Length of time in job   Reportable injuries  
  Less than 6 months  3,316
  6 to 12 months  1,023
  1 to 5 years  1,084
  Over 5 years  973

There are various reasons behind the increased risk of accidents for those new to a job, aside from the obvious factor of a lack of experience when joining a new workplace or industry.

Yet there may be hazards that a new starter simply doesn't recognise as a risk - and it is here that effective health and safety should be stepping in. A new recruit may not be familiar with either the job, the working environment, the site layout or the equipment they are expected to use, even if how to do so seems obvious.

There may also be a reluctance to ask questions or raise concerns, because they will want to impress their new managers and colleagues and avoid giving the impression that they can't cope. Therefore in their eagerness to do well, they can be vulnerable to cutting corners or ignoring warning signs.

What's more new recruits might not know who they should put questions to, especially if induction hasn't been done properly.

New starters talking to trainer in induction

New starters: Managing the risks

Although the risks are heightened, there are some straightforward yet effective precautions which can be taken to mitigate this as much as possible. For example:

• Give a thorough and well-planned induction, including a complete tour of the employee's new workplace which points out all the main hazards.

Coned area with Safe Area sign

• Make sure new starters understand who they can put their questions to, and ensure that they are adequately supervised. Stress the importance of reporting near misses and the correct procedures for accident and injuries.

• Where people are using equipment that’s new to them, provide clear access to manuals and take them through the relevant procedures for each piece of equipment - even for something like a ladder, which may seem fairly straightforward.

• Check workers have understood everything they have been told

• Provide regular health and safety refresher training throughout the year.

Health and Safety training shouldn't be a tick box exercise

Over the years I've attended many health and safety training sessions, and would be the first to admit that having it on your calendar isn't the most exciting thing to tackle first thing on a Monday morning.

However it is a vital requirement that could ultimately save the life of a team member, and so employers should ensure that the training meets these requirements in as engaging a fashion as possible.

Training should focus on the attendees as individuals and recognise their varying skill levels, experience and knowledge. What have they done before and how familiar will the working environment be? What needs to be communicated or refreshed in order to maintain a safe workplace?

Man asleep during training session

Be especially vigilant when training employees or colleagues who are potentially more vulnerable, such as young people or migrant workers. If English is not their first language, visual methods of training may be more appropriate. The HSE has published specific guidance on protecting migrant workers, which is also well worth a read if your employees fall into this category.

When an employee is taking in a lot of information, as with any new job, training has to be interactive and interesting - not just a box ticking exercise. Be clear that your message is of direct relevance. Use real-life examples, not just statistics, and lighten the information with touches of humour where appropriate.

Finally, don't preach - rather be plain, clear and honest as you bring your messages home. Remember from the start that, as with most training, you have only one chance to get it right

The statistics speak for themselves and getting an employee through the first six months of a new job unscathed should be a goal for every business (and employee!).


What is the new starter induction and H&S training like where you work? Do you have any further tips to how the training can be made more engaging?


About the author

Martyn Gilbert photoMartyn Gilbert is the Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors and has worked in the legal industry for over 18 years, developing processes and systems to assist lawyers in helping injured people.

 Martyn's last blog was winter is coming, are you and your roads ready?

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