Featured image depicting Keeping workers safe – the first 90 days

Keeping workers safe – the first 90 days

Three top tips to ensure new employees understand your safety culture and stick to it!

By Larry Pearlman  |  May 26, 2022

Why are the first 90 days so critical?

The first 90 days set the stage for the entire employment relationship, yet new employees typically report that onboarding is a poor experience. They see this time as a ‘check the box’ exercise. This is deeply concerning given that employees are at their most vulnerable during those first months. In fact, research by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) in Toronto, Canada[1] found that employees in the first month of their job are three times more likely to suffer a lost-time injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year.

Something must be done to change this! In fact, safety onboarding should begin even before a new employee joins your organization. We believe that new workers should be introduced into a safety culture and mindset as soon as they apply for a role. How do we to this?

What can business and safety leaders do NOW to protect their people? Here are my three top tips for ensuring new recruits understand your safety culture and stick to it!

1. Make safety integral to the recruitment process:

  • Be clear about safety expectations in job descriptions. Use descriptive videos to show candidates the job’s environment
  • Provide candidates with realistic job previews and physical demands descriptions
  • Ask candidates interview questions that are about safety 
  • Involve the entire team in the selection process to build commitment to the new hire’s safety performance

2. Get new hires thinking about the details of risk and safety, quickly. These include:

  • Setting the safety cultural expectations
  • Identifying hazards and mitigations
  • Demonstrating the use of required PPE
  • Explaining the use of “stop work authority”
  • Describing how to report injuries
  • Developing skills to “see” risks and to perform risk assessments

3. Be innovative in your onboarding techniques. These might include:

  • Highly interactive games, like learning maps
  • Tactile experiences like the Japanese ‘Do Jo’ approach*
  • Specific training centers to educate and reduce ergonomic risks

*“Dojo is Japanese for “place of the way.” The concept is both a physical and metaphorical space where teams can come to learn agile principles, certainly, but also improve other aspects of software engineering or embrace new frameworks and tools.” (Thomson Reuters).

‘Must wins’ for the first day

  • ‘Green hat programs’ to easily identify new hires and give permission to intervene for safety
  • Assign new employees to jobs with lower risk profiles and lower workloads
  • Assign “peer sponsors” to help new employees learn how to manage risks the right way
  • Utilize front line leaders and others to reinforce positive behaviors and address unsafe behaviors through safety conversations

‘Must wins’ for the first 90 days

Must wins are the processes that have to be implemented correctly to all new hires. These include:

  • Gradual acceleration to full utilization within the role at a pace that matches the employee’s capabilities and competence
  • Have a clear set of curriculum and training that describes the safe way of doing things and describes the “why” behind these expectations
  • Skills and expectations should be verified to ensure competency
  • New hires must be aware of the operational risks they will be exposed to in the job, as well as how to manage those risks
  • Leaders and others must demonstrate their safety focus and caring through conversations that frequently reinforce positive behaviors


When new employees’ competencies are verified, make a big deal of retiring the green hard hat. Celebrate their ‘graduation.’ At the same time, as all of us know, safety is never ‘done.’ Ensure that this initial induction is the beginning of a lifelong commitment to ensuring every worker goes home safely to their family, every day.

If you would like to learn more about how JMJ’s  Incident and Injury-Free™ methodology can help you create a culture of care across your organization and projects, contact us for a no-obligation chat.

[1] https://www.iwh.on.ca/newsletters/at-work/69/study-finds-persistence-of-higher-injury-risk-for-new-workers

About JMJ

For over three decades, JMJ has been delivering impactful cultural change to help executives, leaders and front-line workers transform safety, sustainability, and business performance. We combine the deep experience of our people with our proprietary Transformation Cloud platform to deliver breakthrough results, making the impossible possible. www.jmj.com

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