Keeping new workers healthy and safe at work

A young male worker with safety glasses at a bench constructing a circuit board with his hands.

A new worker is three times more likely to be injured on the job than a worker who has been on the job a year or more [Morassaei et al., 2013].

Who are new workers?

New workers can include

    • summer students
    • temporary or contract workers
    • workers who have transferred to a department or work area with new hazards

Before a new worker starts the job

You can minimize the risk of an injury or illness by doing the following.

Prepare your supervisors. Ensure new workers are initially under constant supervision. Their supervisor must be aware that new workers are at higher risk of injury or illness. They must also be familiar with the hazards and risks of the new worker’s job and with health and safety legislation.

Tell others in the workplace. Let everyone in the work area know that a new worker will be starting. Inform them of who they are and what they will be doing. Encourage everyone to help keep an extra eye out for the new worker. You can help others identify the new worker by providing a special-coloured hard hat, shirt, or nametag. Ask colleagues to be patient and to answer any questions the new worker may have.

Assign new workers to less risky work. Avoid immediately assigning a new worker to work that involves a high degree of skill or risk. Start them in a role where they can progressively excel and incorporate new tasks into their job over time.

Evaluate the work area for hazards before they start. Consider where the worker will be working and identify hazards associated with their job. Examine

    • the work processes they will be a part of
    • the environment they will work in
    • materials they will use or may be exposed to
    • equipment and tools they will use or encounter
    • people they will interact with, such as coworkers, contractors, or the public

When a new worker starts

Frequently encourage new workers to ask questions. New workers generally want to impress their peers and supervisor. Therefore, they may be less likely to ask questions when they do not know something. This can be extremely harmful. Everyone, from the supervisor to colleagues in the workplace, should frequently encourage new workers to ask questions.

Provide orientation and training. New workers must receive orientation and training at the start of their employment on the following topics.

    • Where to find answers to questions about their work, tasks, etc
    • Procedures for reporting a hazard
    • Restricted areas
    • Emergency response plan

Ensure they receive training on the following topics.

    • Worker Health and Safety Awareness in Four Steps
    • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
    • Workplace violence and harassment
    • Other hazards in the workplace and the procedures required for a healthy and safe work environment

Take it slow and prioritize your information. You will likely want to cover a lot of information as soon as a worker starts. But be careful not to overwhelm them. Consider what information must be provided immediately and what information can be provided over time. For example, can their orientation be spread out over two weeks instead of two days?

Identify hazards and risks on the job. Before beginning work, ensure the supervisor and new worker carry out a workplace inspection for hazards and risks. Confirm they document their observations and identify corrective actions, such as raising the work onto a table to avoid the need to bend or correctly using hearing protection.

On the job

Show them. Before a new worker begins a new task, show them how to perform it safely. Review critical steps in the procedure. Break down the task into small steps and have them master chunks at a time. Encourage them to ask questions.

Watch them. Once you are confident they understand the task, closely observe them performing it on their own. Offer feedback on what they are doing correctly and what could use improvement. Continue to encourage questions.

Make sure they understand. Depending on the nature of the task, you may want to formally test their knowledge and skills about what they have learned. Perform a knowledge check at the end of the day, or even a day or week later. This will confirm they have a better understanding of how to do the job safely. Ensure they understand why tasks must be performed a certain way and what can happen if done incorrectly.

Continuously supervise. Ensure the worker is under the direct observation of a seasoned coworker or supervisor until you are confident in their ability to perform the task safely on their own.


Document all orientation and training provided to new workers. If you already have an orientation checklist, you may want to incorporate the health and safety aspects into this document.

Need help?

WorkBright™ can help you develop a customized health and safety orientation program that addresses the unique hazards of your workplace. Your personalized program will help your supervisors effectively manage new workers, reducing the risk of injury and illness.

Morassaei S, Breslin FC, Shen M, et al. Examining job tenure and lost-time claim rates in Ontario, Canada, over a 10-year period, 1999–2008 Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2013;70:171-178.