Summer is all too short, especially in Vermont. Employers should be aware that summer presents special work hazards and a need for extra safety measures. The two main reasons summer presents additional safety concerns are:
1. Inexperienced workers.
2. Seasonal hazards.
Studies have shown that more work injuries occur to younger workers and to inexperienced workers, new or relatively new on the job. In the summertime, employers take on more high school and college-age workers who are young and have limited experience and limited or no training in their new jobs.
Seasonal work, by definition, means work that requires a new work force with the season. Seasonal workers are either brand new to the work, or, at a minimum, their work skills that have not been utilized since the previous work season. Seasonal work by its very nature introduces inexperienced workers into the work force.
The summer season also presents work hazards which are not present the rest of the year. In the warmer months we have more work available in trades that may be hazardous such as construction, carpentry, road work, agriculture and roofing.
Summer work can be safe as long as employers are aware of the special hazards it presents and the need for extra training and safety measures. Here are some tips to keep your workers safe this summer:
Training – time spent training new workers and providing refresher training to seasonal workers will pay off in proper procedures being followed and reduced injuries.
Safety first – bring safety out into the open, introduce it in the interview and with hiring, mention it at staff meetings, training sessions; all the time, make it a work priority.
Address your work hazards – each business is unique. If your work involves heights, provide extra training on height safety. If it involves special machines or equipment, focus on equipment safety and proper procedures. Take stock of your work hazards and address them with training or safety measures.
Monitor safety - training takes you half-way, safety measures and training must be reinforced through supervision, monitoring, follow-up and consequences. This can be time consuming and supervisor intensive but can yield lasting safety results
Team workers – one sure way to train and supervise young or inexperienced workers is to team them up with a skilled, more experienced worker, to learn the job right and to receive monitoring and regular feedback.
Protective equipment – have readily available the protective equipment necessary for your work. Skilled labor may require personal protective safety equipment such as gloves, goggles or hard hats in all range of sizes, readily available. Even unskilled labor may need guidelines or pointers to wear the right shoes or clothing to perform their jobs.
Beware of fatigue – extended daylight hours and warm weather encourage us to extend work hours. Extended hours can also cause fatigue or diminished attention. A longer workday may be fine with appropriate breaks and continued attention to safety.
Reward safety – you reward good work or a job well done. Start rewarding good safety. Notice and reward a worker who follows a safety procedure or notices a hazard. In a particularly hazardous work environment, employers may provide safety incentive to workers by offering a group reward if workers work for an extended time (a month or the summer) injury free.
Employers can enjoy productive summers by taking a little extra time to consider the hazards of summer and the safety measures needed to minimize injuries.