New to the job
Workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as during the whole of the rest of their working life.
The extra risk arises due to:
- lack of experience of working in a new industry or workplace
- lack of familiarity with the job and the work environment
- reluctance to raise concerns (or not knowing how to)
- eagerness to impress workmates and managers.
This means workers new to a site:
- may not recognise hazards as a potential source of danger
- may not understand 'obvious' rules for use of equipment
- may be unfamiliar with site layout - especially where site hazards may change from day to day
- may ignore warning signs and rules, or cut corners.
Six steps to protect new starters
Assess the new starter’s capabilities. For example:
- literacy and numeracy levels
- general health
- relevant work experience
- physical capability to do the job
- familiarity with the work being done and the working environment (especially where conditions change rapidly, such as on construction sites).
Don't forget to assess cultural and language issues (grasp of English) too, where relevant - you may need to use visual, non-verbal methods such as pictures, signs or learning materials such as videos/DVDs/CD-ROMs.
Provide an induction. Plan it carefully, including photos of hazards where possible, and use plain, simple language. Take time to walk around the workplace or site with new workers and show them where the main hazards exist (eg falls, slips and transport).
3. Control measures
Make sure the control measures to protect against risk are up to date and are being properly used and maintained:
- Involve employees and health and safety representatives in discussions about the risk and how best to make sure new starters are protected.
- Emphasise the importance of reporting accidents and near misses.
- Make any necessary arrangements for health surveillance.
- If required, make sure suitable personal protective equipment is provided and maintained without cost to the workers.
Provide relevant information, instruction and training about the risks that new workers may be exposed to and the precautions they will need to take to avoid those risks.
Provide adequate supervision. Make sure workers know how to raise concerns and supervisors are familiar with the possible problems due to unfamiliarity and inexperience.
6. Check understanding
Check workers have understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely, and are acting on it, especially during the vital first days/weeks at work. Remember to make sure workers know how and with whom they can raise any concerns about their health and safety and that they know about any emergency arrangements or procedures.
Young people may lack the experience and maturity at work of their colleagues, so could be more at risk. There are particular factors you need to consider for this group of new starters in the workplace.
Migrant workers are another group that may be particularly at risk when starting work. You may need to take action to protect them.
Accident rates by length of time in job
The table below shows how much higher the risk of having an accident is for new starters, compared to those who have been working for longer.
The figures given are the number of RIDDOR-reportable accidents (first column) and the number of accidents of all kinds (second column) expected for every 100 000 workers.
Note: Rates are based on RIDDOR reporting arrangements in place before changes to the legislation effective from April 2012.
|Length of time in job
||All workplace injury
|Less than 6 months
|6 to 12 months
|1 to 5 years
|Over 5 years
Analysis of investigated accidents to vulnerable migrant/foreign workers (fatal and selected non-fatal) in the construction sector reinforces this evidence:
- Eight out of 16 fatal accidents happened during the first ten days on site, half of them on the very first day.
- Only two of those who died had been in the UK a year or more.
- Only five of the 16 migrant workers killed were known to have even limited experience of the UK construction industry - none of the injured was known to have any.
- The pattern of accidents (by type) is broadly the same as that for other workers in the sector.
Together with the wider evidence from the Labour Force Survey, this suggests a doubled risk of injury in the first six months of employment.