Managing the Risks of Injury to FirstYear Employees

New employees may be at higher risk of on-the-job injuries than more experienced employees, research shows. According to Travelers data, nearly one-third of workplace injuries occur within the first year of employment, and account for nearly one-third of claim costs. First-year employees are over-represented in claims data for frequent injuries, such as muscle sprains, as well as more catastrophic injuries, such as amputations.

Travelers, the largest workers compensation carrier in the U.S., frequently analyzes claim data to detect common loss trends. Comparing your organization’s experience to this benchmark data can help you identify where additional training programs and safety best practices might help your employees avoid common workplace injuries, to which first-year employees may be more susceptible.

“Safety training programs and practices should start before an employee’s first day and continue throughout the employee’s time at an organization,” said Chris Hayes, a Travelers Risk Control professional.  With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and potential for new hiring or return of furloughed employees, it is critical employers have robust safety training programs and practices in place. 

Workplace injuries affect more than just the injured employee. Taking steps to create a safer workplace can help protect all employees from the risks of injury at work. Here are five areas to focus on to help prevent workplace injuries, especially for first-year employees who may be at greater risk:

5 Ways to Help Protect First-Year Employees From Risks of Injury at Work

1. Integrate Safety into the Hiring Process

A formal hiring process and clear job descriptions can help attract qualified job candidates. Job descriptions should convey your safety culture and the organization’s expectations around best practices, so potential employees understand the importance of safety, starting with their first interactions with the company.

Conducting behavioral interviews and background checks can help identify candidates who are likely to fit well into the company’s safety culture. Once hired, safety training can begin on day one before an employee starts executing the tasks of their new role.

2. Conduct a Job Safety Analysis

A job safety analysis, or JSA, is a process that breaks down each step in a job, describes the hazards associated with each step and defines the safe work method that minimizes or eliminates each hazard. 

“Conducting a JSA can help companies understand the hazards of a particular job and help define the procedures to address the exposure,” Hayes said. Safety training based on those risks should be skills-based, rather than awareness-based only, so employees develop a firsthand understanding of proper safety protocols. This can be more effective than, for example, simply watching a video or online tutorial.

3. Onboard and Continuously Train Employees

Even experienced employees can be at a higher risk of an injury during their first year of employment. They can be new to the role, new to the department or recently returning to work in a transitional duty role after an injury. Regular safety training can ensure that employees understand and adhere to safety expectations and procedures.

“Just because a new employee is experienced doesn’t mean they understand your safety expectations and procedures,” Hayes said. For example, even if an employee has experience at another construction site or has used a piece of equipment before, they need training on the safety protocols at the new organization or for the new task.

4. Implement an Accident Analysis Program

An accident analysis program can help identify the root causes of injuries after an accident has occurred. Companies can develop corrective actions to reduce the likelihood of similar accidents and injuries, such as those caused by repetitive motions, awkward body posture and overexertion.

An analysis should document a description of the accident, where it occurred, the length of tenure of the employee(s) involved and how often the accident could happen if improvements are not made. Use this data to better understand employee injury risks at your business and to inform updates to your training programs and mitigation plans.

5. Support Employees Throughout Their Careers

After the first year on the job, employees are still at risk of injuries at work. Sprains and strains top the list for longer-tenured workers, according to Travelers data. Employers can take steps to reduce workplace injuries, by implementing illness prevention programs and general safety trainings  which help to foster a safety culture.

Be prepared before an injury takes place and have a plan that helps injured employees return to work as soon as medically appropriate. For example, a transitional duty program can help employees remain engaged and connected at work during their recovery.

Travelers can help organizations improve their safety cultures and manage their workers compensation claims to protect their business. Talk to an agent today.