Return to Work: New Compliance Tools and Training

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Seasonal Temp Worker

Seasonal Temp Worker

Fill out the form to watch this Supervisor Safety Tip video.

Hi. I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA Inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards.

For this series, we're at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in the heart of the Upper Midwest, to show you no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.

On any given day in the United States, there are about three million people working as seasonal or temporary workers. Seasonal or temporary workers are about 50% more likely to be seriously hurt or killed at work. When it comes to providing safety training to seasonal or temporary workers, some employers fall short. The reason for falling short spans safety cliches for those of us who are safety professionals. Sometimes it's a belief that they really aren't the controlling employers employee. Or that training is the job of a temporary agency or that there isn't enough time to train. Or that if the workers just used common sense, they'd be fine. But really, those are just excuses. The fact is, all people who work have the right to safety training and as the controlling employer, you have the duty to train and care for your people.

Here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative, they take training seriously, including their seasonal workers.

Today I'm joined by Mary Jo from the HR department, here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative. Thanks for being with us.

Thank you.

Could you maybe start out by sharing with our audience, who is a seasonal worker? What are they made up of? How many do you have? Kind of, what is your season?

We're located in Minnesota, an agricultural community and our company harvests beets for processing into sugar.

Okay.

In Minnesota our harvest season is the fall of the year, so we hire about 450 employees...

Wow.

... that will help with the harvest.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

They work 12 hour shifts, it could be up to seven days a week, depending on the weather.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

It's just very important that we provide training to these employees.

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's pretty intense. Seven days a week, all of these people to bring them in. What does training look like? How do you go about tackling that for all these seasonal workers?

We start out with an orientation. It's about four hours that all employees are required to attend. It would be for our new employees and returners.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

There's always something that a returning employee could learn or be refreshed at.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

We bring them in and it would be learning some of the HR policy, some of the expectations from our agriculturalists. They also receive information regarding our quality, environmental and safety programs.

Sure, right. How does the training take place? Is it many people? Is it lecture? Is it computer? How does that work?

[inaudible 00:03:04] everyone would go through this orientation and we do have employees from each of the departments; quality, environmental and safety that do a lecture and videos.

Okay. How do you decide who gets what after that? 'Cause that's kind of the orientation for everyone. Is there more training after that then?

We have 13 receiving stations, where the beets are brought in to these stations and depending on what type of position the person would have there and there would be definitely additional training at the site to learn about equipment, about the safety hazards, a variety of things that they will learn right at the station.

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's a lot of hours of training, which is fabulous.

When you're trying to set that up, as an HR department, you're working with your safety department for the safety training as well. How do you orchestrate that? What does that relationship look like? Why did you choose to do it that way?

Here at the cooperative, safety is upmost importance. One of our goals is zero lost time workplace.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

With that, it's just intrical as part of our cooperative goals.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

We want people to be safe. We want them to learn the position that they will be doing.

Sure.

We want them to learn how to operate the equipment safely.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Also important is that employees are valuable to us.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

We couldn't do the harvest without them. We want them to be safe, we want them to be able to go home at night and return to their family.

Yeah. Right. Exactly.

Maybe people who are listening to this are thinking, gosh we have seasonal workers, we have temporary workers, and we have this fast paced industry and we need to get people in jobs and get to work right away, we don't have time to do that kind of stuff. It seems like if you can do it in an environment like this, I think anybody could do that kind of training. What would you say to people who are like, I don't think we have time for this. What's the value in that? 'Cause they're going to be gone. What would you say to that kind of challenge.

As I mentioned, employees are so important to us. It just seems to me, common sense that you want to provide the proper training for them. Not only to learn their job, but you want them to learn about the cooperative too. We want them to be returning employees.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Spend a little time with them and show them that they are valuable and it's just a win-win for them and for us.

Right. You said, you have 70% of your temporary or seasonal workers come back every year as well.

Yes.

That speaks volumes to the information that you're sharing and the care that they are feeling that they are getting as well.

Yes it is.

When we think about common sense application to safety, which is a word that safety professionals don't like to use very often. The common sense piece here is, it's common sense to train people and to invest in them so that they can return home to their families at the end of every day.

Absolutely.

Wonderful. Mary Jo, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it.

Thank you.

If you need guidance on training temporary and seasonal workers, check out OSHA's website, OSHA.gov and search temporary workers. They have an entire section dedicated to this subject.

I hope you gained a safety training skill today. If you know someone who needs this, go ahead and pass it on. Safety is everyone's business.

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