Emphasising the need to work safely when welcoming new employees

To achieve a successful safety culture, everyone at work must propagate safety. Also newcomers. But how do you ensure that safe and healthy working is at the “top of new employees’ minds” from the outset? Natascha Vandewalle, prevention advisor at Mensura: “Employee safety is a combination of awareness, behaviour and resources.”

“A nice job is a safe job. This means you adequately protect employees against occupational risks. But it's just as important that you make them feel good and well-supported,” says Natascha. “A safety culture is about more than a safe environment with the right protective equipment and procedures. It includes action points for each of the seven welfare domains: occupational safety, health, ergonomics, environment, occupational hygiene, working environment, and psychosocial well-being. It is best for companies to first draw up a safety policy in which they describe how far they should and want to go in all these areas. Then it comes down to involving newcomers in this story as soon as possible.”

Do companies pay sufficient attention to safety policy when welcoming new employees?

Natasha: “In practice, onboarding takes place in very different ways, and this varies greatly depending on the sector. For example, chemical companies pay a lot of attention to safety during onboarding. And this is logical - there are a lot of inherent risks in that sector so there is more pressure to provide good information about this from the first working day when compared to less risk-sensitive work environments.

In the latter we often notice a kind of interim solution. Especially for smaller companies, the main goal is to get newcomers working as quickly and smoothly as possible. The welcome procedure pays attention to a specific machine or workstation, but the procedures in case of excess stress or bullying at work usually do not get the same attention.”

What will be covered during successful onboarding?

Natasha: “The Welfare Act (Codex) accurately describes the welcome procedure for companies. The list of points is extensive, but not everything applies to every sector. Depending on the risks, you first inform new employees about what their job entails and the specific protective equipment this requires. It is also important to inform newcomers about who they can turn to in case of problems. How such a welcome procedure can look like in your company is something for the internal prevention service to develop.

You are advised to briefly mention all these matters during onboarding. It is even better to work on a welcome brochure. You can then limit yourself to the essentials during the welcome and inform newcomers where they can go for additional information.”

The main points during onboarding according to the welfare law:

- the specific job content and its associated risks;

- the personal protective equipment that will be required;

- whether or not a medical examination is mandatory;

- basic instructions for first aid;

- the emergency procedures currently in force, for example in the event of a fire;

- the internal and external contact points: confidential counsellor, prevention advisor (psychosocial affairs) and occupational physician;

- the composition and members of the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work;

- environmental matters such as internal guidelines about sorting and recycling;

- instructions on ergonomics and workplace organisation;

- the procedures for accidents at work.

Does onboarding not threaten to become an impersonal process, riddled with rules and procedures?

Natasha: “The Welfare Act also provides a solution for this: employers would do well to designate a buddy who will accompany and support a new employee. Under the wing of an experienced colleague, newcomers often feel better and more personally supported, and they are more willing to ask questions.

Some companies go one step further with mentorship. A mentor is not only there for work-related questions, but initiates newcomers into the corporate culture. How do colleagues greet each other and how are they treated on birthdays?”

How do employers maintain a focus on safety after onboarding?

Natasha: “Ideally, employers do not regard the welcome of a new employee as a one-off event, but rather as the start of a process with regular follow-ups. Discuss the points of attention and ambiguities at regular intervals. Also, provide training and workshops, for first aid and fire fighting for example.

To really implement safety in your corporate culture, you can add a recurring “safety agenda point” at meetings. Point out that colleagues should be critical of their own and each other’s behaviour in terms of safety. Finally, the hierarchical line also plays an important role: you must set a good example yourself. A safety culture can only succeed if everyone – from management to supervision in the workplace – pays attention to it.”

Use the Check-In Tool for a safe start for newcomers
By notifying employees of the importance of health and safety from their first working day, you not only help prevent accidents at work. Newcomers will also feel welcome and become familiarised with the company more quickly, become integrated more easily and start to work independently faster.

To support you in all this, Mensura developed the Check-In Tool, which provides handy and comprehensive advice for new employees, based on an online questionnaire. Find out how it works.