Safely onboarding new employees in construction

Working in the construction industry is inherently dangerous; it’s standard for employees to work at a height, in a hazardous area or with high-powered equipment. In an industry that exposes even seasoned employees to risk on a daily basis, it’s especially important to understand the increased risks to new employees.

New-hire construction workers experience work-related injuries more frequently than any other type of employee. Shockingly, among Pinnacol policyholders, more than 50 percent of workplace injuries involve construction employees who have been on the job less than 12 months. These injuries not only put your newest and most vulnerable employees at risk, but also they can impact the financial stability of your business. In 2018, claims filed for new-hire construction employees cost Colorado businesses $39,745,542.

Injuries experienced by new construction employees from 2015 to 2018

Onboarding stats
Take a look at the snapshot of the claims reported in the construction industry for workers employed zero to 12 months. Trends show an increasing number of claims experienced by construction new hires as compared to the general industry. How does your organization look compared with the rest of the construction industry in Colorado?

Since there are a variety of factors that impact new-hire safety in construction (organizational safety culture/climate, past experiences, worker attitudes and project scope), it’s essential that you take the time to recognize job site hazards and prepare new-hire employees for all types of work, equipment and risk. Any new employee coming into your organization for the first time will require an introduction to the way your organization values safety and conducts business. Every new hire deserves the opportunity to perform his or her job safely.

Claims experienced by workers on the job less than 12 months

Construction claims chart
This chart shows the cost and number of claims experienced by new hires (on the job less than a year) as compared to total claims in the construction industry. Of all Pinnacol construction claims, new-hire claims account for more than half of the total number of construction claims filed. For example, in 2015, new-hire claims accounted for 52% of the total claims cost and 50% of the total claims filed.

Elements to your onboarding process

There are a few ways to prevent new employees from becoming statistics. Construction organizations should begin by designing an onboarding process for all new hires. The process should include an orientation that continues beyond Day One and includes a verbal check-in with new employees at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months and 12 months after their hire dates. Checking in just once a month can ensure that your employees have the appropriate equipment and the training they need to work safely. This approach will encourage safe attitudes and safe work behaviors, and will prevent injuries on the job site. Access a sample checklist in Pinnacol Resources at the bottom of this page. 

Basic onboarding flow chart

Onboarding process

Management commitment is also critical to safety success. This means that those in positions of leadership should demonstrate a commitment to safety and take an active role to provide the adequate resources, time, personnel and financial support to create safe worksites. Safety measures should be incorporated into the business model to demonstrate that the organization values safety and believes it is as important as production.

One way to do this is to ensure that communication to new employees comes from management through a written letter or a video, or face-to-face. For example, you can create a written safety policy statement from the owner / president to welcome new hires and express the importance of workplace safety. If you’re feeling creative, you can even use your mobile device to create a 30-second video from the owner / president. This approach strengthens your safety message. However you choose to communicate, tell new employees (even if they have years of experience) about your safety expectations so they understand the importance of safety at your organization. This effort can positively influence worker attitudes and behaviors.

Safety training is another way to prevent new-hire injuries

Training is vital for employees who face occupational hazards on the job site, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even requires it. Make sure safety training for new employees includes how to recognize job site hazards and how to control or eliminate those hazards. Some of the OSHA standards that require training include emergency preparedness, hazard communication, ladders, scaffolds, fall protection and personal protective equipment. Pinnacol also offers complimentary and low-cost in-person and online training to every policyholder.

Safe hiring practices

Now that we’ve gone over how to begin developing an onboarding process, don’t forget that managing new-hire risk begins before you actually hire your employee. In addition to development of an onboarding process, selective screening tools can be used to minimize the chances of hiring someone who is not a good fit for the organization. These screening tools may be conducted during the pre-employment or post-offer application process. Note that you should always check with your employment law representative prior to implementing screening options. Some pre-employment screening options include:>

  • References.
  • Credit scores.
  • Criminal records.
  • Drug and alcohol screens.
  • Education verifications.
  • Re-employment verifications.
  • E-Verify.
  • Integrity testing.
  • Motor vehicle records.
  • Name and address verifications.
  • Professional certification verifications.
  • Sex offender registries.
  • Social Security validations.
  • Workers’ compensation history.

Want to print this resource? Download a copy in English and Spanish.

If you’d like more information, please contact us on our Safety On Call line at 303.361.4700 or safetyoncall@pinnacol.com. Safety consultants are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and can address all your safety-related questions and concerns.