Health and safety orientation for new workers is an essential part of an organization's health and safety management system. It is often the case that many organizations rush through these orientation sessions, failing to realize that each worker has different experiences and skills. As such, each worker may have different learning needs or different comfort levels with their new job role.

What Is Employee Orientation?

Employee orientation, also known as employee induction, is the process of introducing new, inexperienced or transferred workers to their work environment, job task, supervisors and co-workers.

Benefits of Orienting New Workers

Orientation provides new workers with the relevant safety information about their job position and task, as well as informs them of potential workplace hazards. Additionally, orienting new workers can also be significantly beneficial to the organization itself, as it increases retention rates, which reduces turnover, as well as highlights the organization's moral obligations to ensure the health and safety of their workers.

Nine Topics to Cover During New Employee Orientation

The following nine topics are the minimum requirement for companies to review with new workers before they can commence their jobs:

1. Employer Contact Information

This information is essential for new workers, especially in large organizations, if working alone or in the field. It is important for employers to provide their workers with this information so that they can easily access it in the event an emergency arises.

Information should entail:

  • The names of company managers, department heads and supervisors
  • Direct line phone numbers and email addresses of the worker’s manager, supervisor, department head(s) and administrative staff
  • Company contact phone numbers including security, reception and emergency after-hours
  • Company postal address and fax number(s)
  • Emergency contact information including fire, hazard response, hospital, police, ambulance and poison control

2. Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or Safety Representative Contact Information

All employers have a duty to establish a joint health and safety committee (JHSC), whose role is to promote and strengthen health and safety culture so that workplace injuries, accidents and illnesses may be prevented. During orientation, new workers should be introduced to the JHSC members and provided with basic information about the JHSC including:

  • The purpose of the JHSC, its goals and objectives
  • Names of its members and their contact information
  • The procedure(s) for bringing forward to the JHSC any work-related issues or concerns
  • How a new employee can become a JHSC member

3. Employer and Employee Rights and Responsibilities

It is a common misconception by most workers that their managers and/or supervisors are solely responsible for workplace health and safety. Therefore, both the employee’s and employer’s rights and responsibilities under the relevant health and safety act must be outlined. Discussions should encompass:

  • The importance of and the procedure for reporting accidents
  • Compliance with workplace regulations
  • Precautions to ensure health and safety at work
  • Thee process for exercising their right to refuse dangerous work
  • The importance of hazard reporting
  • Reporting unsafe working conditions
  • The right to know

To learn more about worker rights, check out How to Refuse Unsafe Work.

4. Health and Safety Procedures and Codes of Practice Related to the Worker’s Assigned Job Task

A procedure is a specific, step-by-step course of action that outlines how employees can safely complete tasks and jobs. A code of practice is a documented set of rules that outlines how an employee should work in hazardous situations or environments. Employers are required to develop safe operating procedures or codes for practice for all job positions, and to provide new workers with adequate instructions and guidelines on how to work safely. Therefore, explain the company’s procedures and codes of practice as it relates to the new worker’s job, as well as outline expectations. Additionally, you may ask the new workers to demonstrate how he/she would safely complete their job task according to the organization's procedures and codes of practice.

5. First Aid and Reporting Injuries and Illnesses

Employers are required to establish, maintain and visibly post all information regarding first aid procedures and best practice. Supervisors must communicate to new workers all information related to first aid, introduce first aid providers and indicate the location of first aid kits. It is recommended that a first aid reporting template or an injury/illness reporting template be provided. Each template must be written based on the emergency needs of the workplace.

6. Accident/Incident Reporting Procedures

The importance of accident/incident reporting must be communicated to all new workers. Explain the organization’s procedure for reporting accidents/incidents, and provide information regarding whom to contact to make such reports.

To read more on accident and incident reporting, check out: 10 Critical Steps You Must Take When Investigating and Reporting Accidents.

7. Emergency Procedures and Preparedness Emergency

Emergencies are unexpected and therefore, are a vital part of a company’s health and safety management system. The JHSC must:

  • Provide the company’s emergency personnel contact information
  • Review evacuation plan, inclusive of exit routes, signals and sirens
  • Encourage new workers to review the plan and attend emergency preparedness training sessions
  • Give the location of fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, etc.
  • Provide information on potential hazards and exposures

Additionally, there should be a Q&A session at the end to allow new workers to give their input and recommendations as it relates to the emergency plan.

8. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The PPE policy should be discussed especially as it relates to selecting, inspecting, using, replacing, purchasing and maintaining in good working order.

9. WHMIS: Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System

WHMIS is a comprehensive information system that provides information on the safe use and handling of hazardous materials and controlled products in workplaces. Encourage workers to read the warning labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS).

The Bottom Line

The length of time an orientation session takes is unique to each workplace and the specific job task. However, while employee orientation helps integrate a new worker into the workforce, they do not provide new workers with all the necessary skills needed to do their jobs, effectively, efficiently and safely. Therefore, it is important to also provide ongoing training in order to ensure the optimum health and safety if new workers.