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Many safety managers experience a workplace where safety declines with each new generation of workers. At first, everyone was taught the proper procedures, given training, and set loose to perform the job. Over time, those workers began skipping steps and incorporating shortcuts. When new hires came on board, they were mentored by experienced workers who told them to forget their training and showed them the “real way” to get the job done. Each new generation of workers would be mentored in the “real” work until safety procedures weren’t followed at all.

To help avoid this fate, select mentors for new hires carefully, and remember that experience does not necessarily make a good mentor. In fact, some of your most experienced workers might be the worst possible mentors if, for example, their high levels of productivity result from taking safety shortcuts.

Once you’ve posted a job opening, start thinking about who would be the best person to serve as a mentor for a new hire. Consider factors such as patience, participation in safety meetings or committees, and whether the person has reported or corrected hazardous working conditions. Even if those individuals are not the most experienced, they could make excellent mentors for new hires.

Connect with your newer workforce and provide them tips to engage with reliable and safety-conscious employees at your facility. For example:

  1. Have newer employees connect with veterans that value safety over quicker product or process turnaround.
  2. Check in on newer employees weekly and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them feel comfortable on the job.
  3. Introduce new employees to your safety director. Have them prepare for meetings by thinking about safety questions most important to them.