3 min read

Show new & young workers that safety is part of your organization's DNA

Show new & young workers that safety is part of your organization's DNA

CBC recently reported that the province of Ontario is facing a historic labour shortage. At the time of the report in early October, there were over 300,000 vacant positions – most of them in the skilled trades.

At Leading Minds. Exceptional Results: An Open Forum with CEO of the Year (COTY) Nominees, Yves Tremblay, President and CEO of Pronghorn Controls said they’ve experienced labour shortages before, but it’s different now. “We’ve been able to hire from different parts of the country – even places like Ireland where standards and training are congruent with what we have here. The difference now is that there are strong tailwinds in all of the other regions, so we are competing with them. There is a smaller pool of workers to draw from.”

To fill the void, many organizations are turning to new workers to offer opportunities. WSPS Advisory Committee members report that many of them are recruiting employees from entirely different industries and training them with the skills they need to be successful and safe on the job.

Who are new and young workers?

A new worker is someone who has been in a job for less than six months. They may have taken on a new role, looking at expanding their responsibilities, or venturing into an entirely new line of work on a permanent or temporary basis. Contractors, sub-contractors, and young workers also fall under this umbrella. Young workers are those under the age of 25, including teenagers working part time and young adults starting full time positions.

New workers are three times more likely to be injured in the first month of employment. Research shows they are more vulnerable to injury and illness because of their lack of experience, reluctance to ask questions, and communications barriers.

As leaders, we have an opportunity to protect the new workers joining our teams in the coming months and years, so they do not have this experience. We set the tone. As Phil Verster President and CEO of Metrolinx said at the forum, “Safety is not a priority. It’s not something you discuss, or something you focus on; it is in your DNA. It is about culture…it is something you taste, smell and feel. It is a passion.”

New recruits can tell if you’re authentic about safety before they enter the workplace

New and young workers care about your commitment to safety. In the 2023 Health and Safety Leadership Survey, 73% of employees said they need to know about an organization’s health and safety program before accepting an offer of employment.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Convey your commitment in job descriptions, interviews, employment agreements, policies and procedures and conversations at every level of the organization. 

Talk to new workers early and often about:

  • Your culture, values and commitment to safety

  • The training and support they will receive to be a safe and successful contributor

  • Your expectations of them 

  • Risks and hazards in your workplace

  • Their rights and the roles and responsibilities of all workplace parties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Standard operating, emergency and evacuation procedures

  • The processes and systems you have in place for reporting hazards and incidents

Any time new information is released, including policies, procedures, instructions on new equipment or information about hazards, remind employees where the information can be found and encourage them to reach out for help if needed.

New workers should be trained and informed of all their rights, including refusal of dangerous work, proper training in all equipment, provision of acceptable PPE, and involvement in health and safety discussions, planning and activities. 

Most importantly, they should feel safe to talk to their direct supervisor when they have concerns or hazards arise – and not just when they’re new, but throughout their employment relationship with your organization.

Make safety fundamental to the employee experience

Tremblay says that “Walking the talk is not complicated, but it’s also not easy. You have to be on the work front – not just for the big visits. People judge where you spend your time, not what you say.”

Employees should feel this in every interaction – with leaders and colleagues at all levels of the organization. Following are some tips to help you achieve this level of commitment.

  • Create a safe and inclusive culture through authenticity, openness, action and commitment to continuous improvement.

  • Model the behaviour you expect of others.
  • Train leaders to be psychologically safe, operate through an inclusive lens and be aware of bias and blind spots.

  • Evaluate regularly to ensure that employees understand what is expected of them, they feel supported and know how to be successful.

Stay engaged and practice active listening

Check in with all employees regularly, particularly new workers who might be feeling unsure about asking for help to build confidence and competence. 

  • Gather feedback through regular surveys and quizzes

  • Recognize positive behaviour formally and informally 

  • Check in at the 30, 60, and 90-day milestones to see how new workers are doing and then set up a regular schedule for two-way dialogue as employees mature into their roles

  • Talk about safety in every meeting

  • Have focused safety talks/rallies

  • Organize opportunities for retraining and refreshing

Use health and safety to build bench strength and employer brand

Nominee Sabesh Kanagaretnam, President and CEO, 4S Consulting called safety “the great equalizer”, noting that it may not be the thing that attracts someone to become a miner or electrical technician, but it is the thing that can distinguish one employer from another.

Employees who participated in WSPS’ Health and Safety Leadership Survey agree. Over 90% of employees in organizations where health and safety is treated as a strategic priority said they would refer others to work in their organization.

Creating a culture of safety is a win for everyone. New and young workers learn how to be safe and successful early in their careers, and your passion for safety enhances your employer brand at a time when a competitive edge is critical.  

Get to know the author – Fresh Communications



CEOs see success when safety is their north star

CEOs see success when safety is their north star

In a recent episode of the Inside the Strategy Room podcast, author, Harvard Business School professor, and former CEO of Medtronic, Bill George,...

Read More
Many leaders are grossly underestimating the importance of health and safety to employees

1 min read

Many leaders are grossly underestimating the importance of health and safety to employees

If you think applicants aren’t paying attention to your commitment to health and safety, think again. The results of the most recent Health and...

Read More
Healthier, happier employees and better business results: Are you ready to adopt a four-day work week?

Healthier, happier employees and better business results: Are you ready to adopt a four-day work week?

Before 2020, few employers could imagine having a large contingent, if not all, employees working from home. Of course, that was before the pandemic...

Read More