Health and safety orientation

What you need to know

Health and safety orientation is a vital component of UNB's health and safety management system. It is the process of introducing new, inexperienced, transferred and returning employees to a safe and healthy workplace.

Orientation provides employees with necessary safety information about their job and tasks, informs them of specific details about workplace hazards and provides an opportunity to learn about the institution and their colleagues, ask questions and to clarify new or confusing information.

In New Brunswick, all employers are required to provide new employees with orientation before they begin work at the workplace as well as job specific training.

First impressions are forever

Too many times companies rush through orientation not realizing employees have different comfort levels with their new job, bring different experiences to the job and have different learning needs. Orientation is not meant to be a checklist task – it is an employee’s first impression of the management system and the overall workplace culture.

New employees starting with any company will have expectations about the workplace culture and the emphasis on the safety orientation they receive will be reflected in their work performance, their eagerness to learn and their willingness to contribute to a safe and healthy workplace.

The benefits of orientation

The benefits of providing new employees with a comprehensive orientation are numerous:

  • Employees become aware of the health and safety hazards on the job, controls for these hazards and how they can affect their safety and the safety of others.
  • Helps reduce the risk of potential injuries and accidents.
  • Meets legislative requirements (demonstrates due diligence).
  • Helps balance the company’s need for productivity with the employee’s need for safety and security.
  • Increases efficiency of the new employee.
  • Contributes to building a retention culture within the organization, thereby reducing turnover.
  • Demonstrates the company’s moral obligation to protect the employee from harm.

Who needs an orientation session?

All new employees who meet any of the following definitions need an orientation.

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act new employees as any person who is:

  • New to a position or place of employment.
  • Returning to a position or place of employment in which hazards have changed during the employee’s absence.
  • Under 25 years of age and returning to a position or place of employment after an absence of more than six months. 
  • Affected by a change in the hazards of a place of employment.

Are employers obligated to deliver orientation?

In short, yes. The OHS Act came into force in New Brunswick in 1983 and provides the basic framework for making New Brunswick workplaces safe and healthy for employees. It:

  • Fosters the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) by requiring employers to provide for a healthy and safe workplace, making them directly responsible for implementing and monitoring health and safety.
  • Imposes both general and specific duties on all workplace parties to exercise health and safety practices.
  • Gives employees three basic rights: the right to know about hazards on the job; the right to participate in health and safety initiatives; and, the right to refuse unsafe work.
  • Sets out penalties for non-compliance of legislative standards and provides WorkSafeNB’s health and safety officers the power to inspect workplaces, investigate workplace complaints, investigate workplace accidents and issue orders for non-compliance.

In addition, amendments to the Act in 2014 provide the requirement that a new employee must receive orientation to the position and place of employment before beginning work.

What is involved in orientation?

The two questions asked most often about orientation are: "How long should orientation take?" and "What should I cover during the orientation session(s)?"

The length of time required for orientation cannot be defined, as it will depend on the workplace, and the specific job and tasks. Orientation should not consist of a whirlwind of checklists and safety manuals handed to the new employee, but rather practical and hands-on, with a focus on developing the skills and comfort to perform the task(s) at hand.

Topics

The following seven topics are the minimum requirement for organizations to review with new employees before they begin work:

Contact Information: Names, phone numbers, fax numbers, pager number of employee’s supervisor and company personnel, including emergency contact information.

Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or Safety Representative: Introduce the employee to the committee members or the safety representative (along with their contact information) and outline the JHSC’s or safety rep’s role in helping management maintain a healthy and safe workplace.

Rights and Responsibilities: Explain both the employee and employer responsibilities as outlined in both the OHS Act and Workers’ Compensation (WC) Act. Specific information includes:

  • Reporting of accidents
  • Reporting unsafe working conditions
  • Process for exercising their right to refuse unsafe work

Procedures and Codes of Practice: Explain the company's procedures and codes of practice as it pertains to the employee’s job and department. Outline the expectations for the employee and the employee’s supervisor to adhere to all standards.

First Aid: Introduce first aid providers, indicate areas for first aid kits or room, explain to employees how to summon first aid for themselves or for a co-worker.

Accident/Injury Reporting Procedures: Explain the established company procedure and contact people for reporting any injuries sustained by the employee.

Emergency procedures and preparedness: Review the company's emergency personnel contact info; evacuation plan, including exit routes; evacuation signals and sirens; location of eyewash stations and showers, fire extinguishers, and alarm pull boxes; identify fire marshal(s).

Instructions: You can print out the applicable safety briefing to assist in training. Once completed forward the signature sheet to EHS&S for recording. Note: Access cannot be provided to individuals without proof of a safety briefing being provided.