The Ultimate Guide to Safety Orientation (Free Template)

The first day of a new job — there’s no feeling like it! But you never dive straight into a new role, no matter how experienced you are. Every new employee must go through employee health and safety orientation, a program that introduces the new worker to the company’s policies. 

Health and safety orientation programs provide a lot of information that many workers feel is common sense. But as a safety pro, you never know what a new employee does or doesn’t know. And you know you have site- or facility-specific information to share. So, the orientation provides extra assistance and continuing education during the first few days, weeks, and months of an employee’s tenure.

Are you looking to formalize your company’s new safety orientation training? Or maybe revamp an existing program?

Use Safesite’s guide to health and safety orientation programs to get you started.

What is Employee Health & Safety Orientation?

New employee safety orientation programs cover information under two broad umbrellas:

  • Organizational health and safety (information common in every job, including fire safety, slips and falls, workplace bully, etc.)
  • Role- and employer-specific health and safety (information unique to your organization and the employee’s role and working environment)

Orientation allows new hires to hit the ground running safely by empowering them with information. While initial orientation is critical, their education is ongoing.  A good orientation program features multiple components that you can pull out and use for retraining. You want to retrain the basics on a regular basis, even when the information should be well-known.  You also need to retrain when:

  • You have new information or revised best practices
  • You spot a deficiency
  • An employee experiences an incident (or near miss)
  • Company policy dictates retraining (usually according to a set interval)

Why Every Worker Needs Health and Safety Orientation

You hired an experienced employee who knows how to do their job. So why (besides an OSHA mandate) does everyone need orientation? There is a long list of well-documented and researched benefits of running orientation programs. For example, well-oriented employees:

  • Experience greater knowledge acquisition
  • Improve their use of available resources (study)
  • Are more likely to make changes to worksite conditions for the better

There are real benefits for employers, too. With the right program, your company can:

  • Help new employees feel valued and confident
  • Impact worker behavior positively (even if there is insufficient evidence on the impact injuries & illnesses) (study)
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Increase commitment to the organization (study)
  • Start the working relationship off on a positive note with good communication and a mutual understanding of your organization’s safety culture

8 Things to Include in Employee Health and Safety Orientation

Every health and safety orientation plan is unique because it needs to reflect your industry, organization, facility, and roles. However, every program also has core components mandated not only by federal OSHA but state and union groups, too. Your program will include;

  1. Worker rights
  2. Company safety rules and policies
  3. Basic health and safety
  4. Hygiene
  5. Work hazards
  6. PPE
  7. Injury and illness reporting programs
  8. Contact information

Worker Rights 

Explain the OSH regulations that grant workers federal and state rights. Include any union rights, if applicable.   In addition to a safe place to work, the OSH Act grants workers the following rights:

  • File complaints with OSHA to trigger inspections
  • Converse in private with OSHA inspector
  • Review work-related injury and illness records
  • Receive training for hazards and hazard control
  • Get training on the OSHA standards applicable to the workplace
  • Participate in training in a language and vocabulary they understand
  • Get copies of their own medical records
  • File a complaint if their employer retaliates against them for using their OSH Act rights

Company Safety Rules and Policies

A successful safety program is built on the foundation of engagement. Worker engagement starts on day zero of their employment. You’ll use the orientation program to run through the safety rules and policies from your existing company safety program.

Basic Health and Safety Processes

There are a few basic health and safety programs that every employer benefits from reiterating at the start of employment. While they do tend to occur across industries, you never know who has had what (or what quality of) training.   So, it’s smart to include the following items into your format: 

  • Manual handling
  • Material handling
  • Safe operation of equipment
  • Housekeeping
  • Hazard communication (chemical SDS and where to find info) where applicable

Emergency Procedures

It’s your new employee’s first day on the job and your organization experiences a worst-case scenario. Do they know what to do?   Including emergency procedures and preparedness in your program is vital, and it’s another subject you should run as a toolbox talk or safety stand down when meaningful changes occur or as needed.   Include topics like:

  • Facility emergency action plan
  • Workstation emergency action plans
  • Emergency evacuation routes and plans
  • Using fire extinguishers, fire exits, emergency eyewashes, and other emergency equipment
  • Contact details for emergency services

Hygiene

Hygiene is critical at work, so it’s worth reiterating. Explain that it’s company policy to wash your hands before eating, drinking, and using the washroom.

For companies building COVID-19 programs into orientation, use this block to reiterate the importance of hand hygiene not only for preventing COVID-19 outbreaks but also for limiting common communicable diseases in general (e.g., limiting the impact of flu season.

Work Hazards

OSHA requires you to provide workers information and training on hazards that apply to your workplace. Your orientation should include a learning session and a tour of the work area and wider facility to discuss all applicable hazards.

Don’t forget to discuss hazard management processes, including reporting, mitigation, and communication. While work hazards are vital, be sure you also include psychosocial hazards, including work-related stress and workplace violence, as required.

Arm workers with information to help them navigate these hazards and risks, including any policies and procedures for managing these hazards (e.g., a workplace violence prevention policy).

PPE

Run through your PPE Program and provide adequate training and fitting for any equipment the employee needs for their new role. Make sure you discuss:

  • How and when to wear PPE
  • PPE care and management
  • Where to report damaged or missing PPE

Injury and Illness Reporting Procedures

When does an employee need to report an injury or illness? And how do they do it? Run through the process in this block.

Contact Information

Finally, brief every new hire on the correct modes of contact and contact information for their:

  • Employer
  • Health and safety team or committee
  • Local authorities including poison 

You’ll also use this block to collect emergency contact information for the employee and send copies to the emergency coordinator and/or human resources.  

Tools for Building an Effective Safety Orientation Program

The goal of safety orientation is to prepare workers for the hazards they will encounter during their day-to-day life and inform them of their rights. To achieve those objectives, orientation needs to be more than a box-ticking exercise. You need it to be engaging, measurable, and comprehensive. And you want the information to stick.   

The design of your orientation program plays a big role in whether and how workers absorb and use this information. And design starts with setting the right goals.

Set Your Strategic Goals

You can’t measure the success of your orientation program if you don’t set a goal. Your goals will come from different stakeholders in the organization, but as a safety manager, your big question is: what is most important from a health and safety perspective and for the organization?    Some appropriate goals include:

  • Seeing safer behaviors from new employees sooner
  • Empowering employees to make the most of the resources
  • Helping employees to start thinking in terms of “us” quickly

It’s helpful to make your goals personalized but also to look at the science behind each objective.

For example, studies show that training works better when it focuses on empowering workers rather than trying to change behavior. You may find it easier to alter your goals to meet those objectives. In other words, empowering workers might mean then creating a program that’s less a “do this and not that” seminar and more of an explanation of mechanisms and information to empower safe decision-making right off the bat.

Once you determine your goals, you can then choose methods to measure your success. Your measurement methods will depend on the goal and your resources. These can include surveys and skill testing.

You can continue to evaluate the success of both your orientation and refresher programs using data from your safety program, such as safety observations and time to hazard resolution.  

Tip: Get more from your program by using worker participation in developing both the goals and the program. What do superintendents most need from new hires that they don’t currently get? What do teams need to integrate new workers faster? Use this feedback to generate ideas.

Choose Your Content and Training Methods Carefully

Every orientation must contain specific pieces of content dictated by state and federal law. You must choose whether you want to directly cover OSHA or if you want to incorporate the state and federal OSHA requirements into your own policies, programs, and procedures. (See OSHA Training Requirements for General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, Federal Employee Programs.)

As previously discussed, your content will reflect your organization’s policies, regulations, and culture. So while there’s a similar thread running through all health and safety orientation, the details will differ from company to company and even site to site.

Find Your Training Delivery Tools

Beyond the information provided, it’s up to you to determine how you deliver the training.  While online learning has come leaps and bounds in the past ten years, some companies still choose to deliver training in-person in a classroom-style every time. You may also browse methods like presentations, videos, or interactive training depending on your requirements and resources.

To start finding a direction, you may find it useful to review some of the research on effective training methods for your goals and even your industry.

For example:

  • One study found that using methods like hands-on training and behavioral modeling produced better knowledge acquisition among workers. These methods were also correlated with a drop in accidents and injuries.
  • Another study from Taiwan showed that construction workers found both high learning effectiveness and general satisfaction when using e-learning methods.

Other training delivery tools can include: 

  • one-on-ones
  • group meetings
  • self-guided exercises
  • video presentations
  • reading materials
  • guest speakers
  • key coworker interviews

Note: You can make the training your own. However, remember your OSHA requirements: you must provide the training in a format the employee can understand (language, literacy, educational level, and vocabulary).

Set the Flow with Pacing and Sequencing

There’s nothing worse than spending three straight days reviewing health and safety regulations. It’s boring for new hires; it’s exhausting for you. And it stops workers from getting out into their new roles.

To make orientation more digestible, it’s better to see health and safety orientation as an ongoing process rather than a big event. You can then pace the training in a way that makes sense for your program while supporting workers along the way.

Do keep in mind that some training must start before employees can start performing their tasks. You can’t ask them to start work or risk exposure to a hazard without the right training. So, you’ll need to knock out work hazards, PPE, and emergency procedures right away.

It’s also helpful to show them safe behaviors for their task prior to letting them out into the field. Everyone wins when workers know the safe way to work from day zero rather than waiting to be corrected.

Ultimately, pacing and sequence will depend on industry and role. A few tips for setting up a schedule include:

  • Build in time to provide a warm welcome. Don’t get straight into the training without first engaging with them.
  • Give workers the tools to move around the building and through orientation safely first.
  • Set expectations early (company policies and rules).

Provide Evaluation and Feedback

You set goals, so you need to determine whether or not you met them by evaluating the results of your program. Use feedback and evaluation to assess employee readiness and the strength of your program.

Ideally, you’ll provide regular feedback as orientation progresses. You can get qualitative and quantitative feedback from them. Using skill tests will demonstrate things like the effectiveness of your manual handling training.

However, you can also get qualitative data by asking them:

  • Do you know what’s expected of you?
  • How comfortable do you feel reaching out to coworkers with questions?
  • Do you know where to go to problem-solve?
  • Are you aware of what resources are available to do your job?

These high-level questions demonstrate both readiness and the quality of your program because more than anything, they identify whether an employee feels self-sufficient or is at least on the road to self-sufficiency. However, they are only indicators. New hires get a truer sense of their preparedness after being out in the field.

Once they start work, you can re-ask these questions or go deeper. You might ask:

  • Did you feel prepared for the past few days of work?
  • What resources did you feel you needed? What resources were missing?
  • Where do you go to find what you need?

Get a Strong Start with a Well-Planned Safety Orientation Program

Safety orientation for new employees is often required for compliance, but it’s also your company’s opportunity to build stronger working relationships from Day 0. You never know what knowledge your new workers bring with them, and your organization has unique processes and procedures to share.

The most important part of building a safety orientation program is making sure everyone is always learning. Orientation isn’t an event: it’s a process. So make sure you not only keep the information coming but you continue to get feedback on the strength of your program.

Are you looking for a new tool to help your team put their safety knowledge to work? Track toolbox talks, keep tabs on training and certifications, and get workers involved with the work of safety with Safesite. Begin your safety revolution by scheduling a demo.

Team Safesite

By Team Safesite

We're a group of safety and tech professionals united in our desire to make every workplace safer. We keep a pulse on the latest regulations, standards, and industry trends in safety and write about them here on our blog.

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