Zero Accident Culture

Starting School for Waste and Recycling: New Employee Orientation

As an owner or manager, it is integral that you act as a teacher and remind both the new hire and your employees of the rules and provisions of the company, including those for safety.

John Wayhart

Zero Accident Culture (ZAC) is a belief system that there is no such thing as an “accident” in the work place, as all accidents are preventable in some way, shape or form. ZAC is a responsibility process that begins and ends with senior executives who instill the proper parameters and motivators for workplace excellence. It starts with the management team understanding each job, its exposures and how safe performance will lead to superior results for the company. From there, proper and effective hiring practices, as well as an extensive new employee orientation, will set forth the company’s safety and zero incident standards. Last month (Waste Advantage Magazine, April 2012), I wrote about instrumental hiring practices and some insightful ways to create a Zero Accident Culture mindset before someone reports to work. Now, it’s time for the next crucial phase—new employee orientation—or what I like to call “Waste and Recycling School”.

First Day of School

What was one of the first items your elementary school teachers went over on the first day of class? Need a refresher? Most of the time, it was listed on a poster hanging up in the classroom. Yes, it was the classroom rules. As an owner or manager, it is integral that you act as a teacher and remind both the new hire and your employees of the rules and provisions of the company, including those for safety. This is not the time to be the “greeter” or best friend; instead, you need “lay the groundwork” at the beginning in order to set the zero incident tone early. Designate trusted and dependable workers who have an understanding of the job requirements the new hire will be responsible for to serve as mentors and ongoing teachers for the first 90 days.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

During the training process, the senior executive team should set meetings twice a month with the “designated teacher” or mentor to review the progress of the new hire and areas for continued education in the waste industry. Often times, through these meetings, you may discover that the mentor may be spending too much time on the overall company operations, because they expect the new employee “knows what to do” in terms of safe and effective practices. In turn, the mentor should have weekly meetings with the new hire to discuss processes, proper techniques—such as lifting—and any problems or advice.

Report Cards

Feedback. Feedback. Feedback. Provide guidance and feedback on their work. Keep an ongoing chart or report throughout the week in order to provide specific feedback and to re-call booth positive or negative instances. It is very important to highlight work ethic and positive practices in order to renew confidence and encourage forward momentum. After all, the first few weeks of any new job or school can be very overwhelming. Use any negatives experiences as a learning tool. Do not degrade the new hire in any way; rather, spin an instance into a learning activity. They will begin to see how sincere and determined you are in creating the very best work environment for them and for the company.

Setting and Executing Goals and Objectives

Great companies set themselves apart through the execution and support of both company and individual goals. Find ways to assist a new employee with setting challenging, but attainable, goals toward their job function. At first, have the mentor create a few immediate objectives with the employee that can be achieved by the end of that day. Establishing small goals and feats first will positively influence their work ethic and drive to succeed in the new role.

Have Another Lesson Planned

It’s difficult to coordinate new employee orientation as supervisors, trainers and mentors all have jobs to do as well. If the designated mentor must be called away to perform work during the orientation process, make sure there is another trainer readily available. The alternate should be introduced on the first day to appease any awkwardness of working closely with a new employee. As an executive team member, and one who helped hire the new employee, don’t be afraid to check in with him or her. Find a task you can do together and ask for their help; use that time to get to know them on a more personal level. Job descriptions are important, but the mission is everything.

Graduation Day

Empowerment is a privilege … not a right. Demonstrate to new employees the eventual reward that can come after orientation is over and they are fully integrated in their job requirements. If the employee is accountable, is the right fit and has been given the proper guidance and tools to succeed, let him or her earn greater authority and privilege. Once orientation is over, outline a one-year timeline that coincides with their goals. The timeline can serve as a checklist to keep them on track towards graduation day—the time he or she becomes a fully-integrated and empowered employee within the organization.

While it may seem time intensive and costly to implement strategic hiring practices and new employee orientations, the damaging results of a major workers’ compensation claim or a few minor incidents from not doing the proper due diligence in hiring, is far greater.

John Wayhart is a Senior Vice President at Assurance Agency (Schaumburg, IL). With more than 29 years in the insurance and risk management industry, his expertise lies in providing solutions for a wide range of businesses including the waste and recycling industry. In 1989, John trademarked the Zero Accident Culture® and continues to teach, coach and mentor this process to help drive down the cost of risk to improve operational effectiveness and financial results. He can be reached at (847) 463-7161 or [email protected].