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10 Considerations for Getting the Best Results from Your Health and Safety Orientations

Health, safety, and environmental orientations are essential to any organization’s HSE management system as it is a process where new employees, contractors or visitors becoming familiar with the various expectations prior to starting work.

Many companies do not afford this process the importance it deserves, as they rush through the practice to get new employees started on the shop floor. Different employees have different needs when it comes to learning, working in the middle east for example, the language barrier can often become a communication barrier and methods for addressing these requirements can be done during the training.

Any employee or contractor starting work at a new company will generally have their own perceptions about methods of work within their new organization. They may come from establishments with an inferior safety culture to those of the new one, the first impression given during an orientation is essential in highlighting the importance of following the basic safety rules and their responsibility for continuously contributing to improving health and safety standards at work.

Receiving an HSE Orientation is no longer just an option, it is a basic requirement enforced in almost every health and safety regulation worldwide. From the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA – USA) in 1970, the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 (HSE Executive – UK), OHSAS 18001 (Now ISO 45001) management system requirements to countless regional and country-specific laws and regulations.

Employers should use this opportunity to ensure workers are aware of health, safety and environmental considerations, general hazards at the worksite, their responsibility for reporting any incidents, what to do in case of any emergencies and generally understand their moral obligations to contribute to the health and safety of their colleagues.

From my personal experience, the most effective HSE orientations have been ones where classroom training is combined with a specific site walkthrough by the particular supervisor, explaining the specific hazards in a given location or individual activity the worker may be involved with. This gives the new employee good knowledge of the overall company safety rules as well as their specific work-related risks. These two elements of the training should always be considered hand in hand.

The below points highlight the basic information that is required for any HSE Orientation:

1.      Security and site access requirements: This section must look at access, badging, vehicle and material entry and exit requirements as well as entry into specific work locations.

2.      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The general rules for PPE within the company and where specific PPE requirements may be found depending on the type of work that needs to be done.

The specific site orientation with the supervisor should normally provide more specific PPE requirements for the individual jobs.

3.      Permit to Work (PTW) Requirements: This should look at when permit to work systems are applied and additional training that may be required for issuers and receivers of these permits. Information on how to request permits and general permitting rules within the company may be explained.

4.      Critical at risk tasks within the organization: this section should include the essential considerations for critical tasks such as working at heights, confined space activities, working with hazardous chemicals, high voltage electrical work, hot works, rigging and lifting activities, work using radioactive materials and others.

Only an overview of the control measures for these risks are to be given during an orientation. It should also be communicated to the new employees if further training will be required prior to undertaking these tasks.

5.      Responding to emergencies: what are the company’s responsibilities during emergencies, what is expected from the employees, emergency systems available, reporting emergencies and first aids, methods of communication and location of any incident command or medical centres.

Involvement of external bodies in the event of any emergency escalation such as the police, fire department or the medical services should also be communicated to all new joiners.

6.      Reporting and investigating accidents: clear guidance on whom to report incidents to, an overview of the various types of incident categories such as near misses, at-risk behaviors or conditions, persons responsible for investigating accidents and their involvement where needed.

7.      Environmental Considerations: highlight the requirements for any waste segregation, pollution prevention and any other environmental considerations relevant to your organization

8.      General policies: policies on smoking, using mobile phones, housekeeping, and driving within the work locations to be addressed. Driving rules may also include expected driver behaviors when using company vehicles outside of work hours.

9.      Safety culture: organizations should very clearly explain the basic expectations with regards to stopping any work where there’s a risk of injury and back this up with clear and visible leadership commitments. An overview of any behavioral programs or safety committees and there expected participation with these programs should also be included.

10.  Leadership Commitment and the role of the HSE Department: An overview of how the HSE department will support them is essential to be highlighted in any company orientation. It is also important that the training contains commitment statements from the companies top leadership highlighting the importance of safety and their commitment to supporting all employees in identifying risks, speaking up on safety behaviors and stopping work where they believe, they or they’re colleagues safety is compromised.

An effective HSE orientation should incorporate the new employee into the workforce and immediately support them to become a contributing member of the organization. To do this effectively, companies must afford the time for the new employee to receive this training before introducing them to the workplace.

It is of course, not practical to assume that the orientation will provide new employees with all the specific skills they need to do their jobs safely. An orientation session, however, is a strong starting point.

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April 11, 2018

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