Many businesses hire additional workers during the holiday season to help with increased demand. This year, retailers are expected to employ between 640,000 and 690,000 temporary workers, according to the National Retail Federation.
Improperly trained temporary hires can present workplace safety risks. A 2014 study conducted by Travelers Insurance found that 28 percent of injuries happen within the first year of employment.
Don’t Skimp on Seasonal Employee Safety Training
Woody Dwyer and Scott Humphrey, risk control specialists with Travelers, spoke with Small Business Trends via telephone and provided the following ten safety training tips.
1. Instill a Safety-first Mindset
Every business should instill in temporary hires a safety-first mindset from the outset. That includes helping employees understand the business’s expectations related to the particular job for which they are being hired.
“If employers don’t tell employees what to expect, they will bring their own set of expectations to the job,” Dwyer said. “You can’t just assume people will follow safe practices, which is why safety orientation is so important, to help employees keep safety top of mind.”
2. Clearly Communicate Job Requirements
Seasonal workers need to understand the job requirements clearly so that when they start they won’t be shocked.
“Post-hire shock is one of the main reasons employees quit,” Humphrey said. “They find out the job was not what they expected it to be.”
3. Conduct Functional Capacity Evaluations
Along with clearly communicating the job requirements, employers should conduct what Dwyer and Humphrey call functional capacity evaluations.
“When you hire a new employee, ensure that they can handle the physical demands associated with the job, such as picking up heavy packages,” Dwyer said. “The same holds true when an employee returns to work following an injury.”
4. Mentor New Employees
Many companies have instituted mentoring programs to help new hires learn the ropes. That means, rather than merely telling someone what to do, show them, and then monitor their progress. When they fail to meet the guidelines, coach them until they get it right.
5. Prepare Employees for Changes in Store Layout
During the holiday season, there may be potential alterations made to the store, such as changes to the layout or added Christmas decorations.
“Make sure new hires are familiar with their surroundings and responsibilities,” Dwyer said. “While they may have a lot of industry experience, your unique facility is still unfamiliar territory for them.”
6. Train Workers to Manage Inventory Safely
Stores carry a higher volume of goods during the holidays, which may result in warehousing items at higher than shoulder height. Train employees in proper material handling, lifting techniques and ladder safety.
7. Teach New Employees to Take Their Time
“New workers want to please their employer,” said Dwyer, “which may mean they rush around, hurrying to accomplish assigned tasks. That could result in slips, trips or falls. Rather, teach these employees to take their time. That’s part of the safety-first mindset.”
8. Do Background Checks
Companies should make sure that delivery drivers hired during the holiday season have valid driver’s licenses. Also, do a background check, to ensure they have no violations.
9. Choose Smart Decorations
Choose smart locations for any additional holiday displays and products. Some Christmas decorations could be combustible, which increases the risk of fire and, as a result, injury or worse. Dwyer and Humphrey recommend that businesses keep decorations away from heat sources. If candles are used, select the battery-operated kind.
Also, secure decorations properly so that foot traffic can navigate around them safely. This is particularly true when it comes to large displays.
Dwyer provided this additional advice: “Be sure you are not covering up emergency exit signs, over-crowding aisle ways or any place that would make it difficult to get out in an emergency situation. Also, don’t string multiple extension cords together, to extend a decoration to an area a single plug can’t reach. Not only could this result in a trip and fall incident, but could also be a fire hazard.”
10. Talk to an Insurance Agent
A final tip, said Dwyer and Humphrey, is for the business owner to speak with his insurance agent in advance, to ensure he has the proper coverage.
“An experienced agent can help small business owners understand how to keep their stores festive, yet hazard free, during the holidays,” they said.
The holiday shopping period means a boost in foot traffic, more celebratory decorations, changes to the store layout and extra staff to manage the workload. It can also mean increased risks for injury. So, during this season, make safety a priority and train new hires well.
“Know the risks associated with a particular job, communicate what those risks are, develop safe work practices, train new employees to follow them and coach them when they don’t,” Dwyer said. “That should lead to fewer workplace injuries and a safer, more profitable holiday season.”
Nursery Employee Photo via Shutterstock