Young and new workers need site-specific safety training

Online training does not replace the site-specific training that new workers need. An OHS consultant weighs in with tips for employers. 

Photo of young worker and employer looking at a control panel while working at a brewery.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, online training has become more popular than ever.

“The pandemic resulted in a clear paradigm shift to virtual learning; training could continue, remote teams could be connected, and the value of learning did not have to be undermined,” said curriculum developer James Kruck in this OHS Canada article from September 2021, What’s next for safety training?

Yet despite the many excellent options for online health and safety training, employers still have a responsibility to provide site-specific information about workplaces. Workers need supervised, hands-on training in the tasks they’ll perform. This type of training is better suited to a physical setting that allows for more interaction as workers learn new concepts.

“In-person training allows for an easier and more effective question-and-response process to ensure understanding when workers are learning new skills and concepts,” says Robin Schooley, an OHS consultant with WorkSafeBC’s Young & New Worker Program. “Online training can give workers foundational knowledge about their rights as workers and about health and safety issues that pertain to every workplace, but it doesn’t take the place of what’s required of an employer on a site-specific level.”

This is especially important for young and new workers who face a higher risk of injury at work during their first weeks at a new job. Lack of training, orientation, and supervision is a typical reason for these injuries. Other reasons include hesitancy to ask questions, inexperience, lack of understanding of their workplace, and lack of preparation for the workplace.

The first day at a new job

Robin suggests that employers should carefully consider how best to orient new workers when they start their jobs. (In a pandemic, this will include following current provincial health orders.) An in-person introduction will help the new worker learn the specifics of the worksite. Where is the first aid station and who are the first aid attendants? What are the emergency response procedures and where are the emergency exits? Who do they talk to if they have any health and safety concerns?

Training and orienting young and new workers is a regulatory requirement – and is part of an overall health and safety program. Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers are prepared for the job before they start working. Training must be specific to each workplace and updated regularly.

Learn more in Support for employers: Training and orientation for young and new workers. This resource includes a checklist that employers, supervisors, and trainers can use in their young and new worker training. The checklist is also available in multiple languages, as well as in a modifiable Word format that can be customized to specific workplaces.

Thank you to Robin for sharing this reminder.

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