Maintaining Workplace Safety with Seasonal Workers

Author: Rene Garcia


Seasonal workers are a challenge for any organization that needs temporary employees to meet the predictable spike in demand every year. They present unique risks that must be addressed to prevent safety incidents and avoid supply chain disruption due to a safety incident. Every industry, from agriculture to construction, has its own season. As such, every industry also has unique challenges in protecting its temporary workforce. However, there are some general tips that every organization can follow to ensure a safest work environment for everyone.

Seasonal Worker Challenges

Most seasonal work occurs in the summer when it’s warm enough for construction or tending to agriculture, but the end of the year can also see a spike in temporary workers as the shopping season takes place. Retail locations and shipping carriers will typically staff up to manage the increased burden on their supply chains. Different weather conditions and different work environments should be factored into safety responses for temporary employees.

It’s also important to remember that seasonal workers are either new to the job or haven’t used their skills since the same season last year. Many temporary workers may not even have much work experience, depending on the industry. Therefore, temporary workers need to be treated like brand new employees.

1. Make Safety a Priority

Safety should be top of mind for all employees, but especially so for seasonal workers who will be the most at-risk for an injury. Stress safety from the beginning at the interview and carry the topic over into staff meetings, and training sessions. When safety is part of the workplace culture, the temporary worker will be more likely to remember and follow health and safety procedures. However, it’s important to ensure that the safety is not contradicted by unreasonable efforts to meet the seasonal demands, like ordering the temporary worker to cut corners or work longer than is safe.

2. Safety Training and Monitoring

An organization may be tempted to give cursory training to temporary employees, but that will only increase the likelihood of an accident or injury on the jobsite. Instead, the appropriate amount of time should always be invested in training new workers or providing refresher courses for returning seasonal workers. In return, the company can expect procedures to be followed and reduced risk of a disruption.

Safety procedures don’t stop at training. Temporary employees should be receive the same amount of supervision as regular contractors. This may require more supervisors to be scheduled during the season, but the precaution is necessary.

3. Highlight Specific Hazards and Have Protective Equipment Ready

Every jobsite is unique, and addressing the hazards specific to the jobsite should be a key part of induction training for seasonal workers. If the job involves working in extreme temperatures, then extra training should involve temperature management. If the job involves specific machinery, then extra training should be devoted for those machines. Even if the worker has used the equipment before, they may not have used it in a year, so refresher training is a good practice to follow.

Also make sure that enough protective equipment is available for the new staff. This may result in equipment remaining unused during other parts of the year, but those can serve as backups. Finally, make sure that seasonal workers are trained to know which protective equipment to choose and how to effectively use them.

4. Buddy System

Pairing seasonal workers with skilled experienced workers is a good practice to get new employees up to speed. It will also ease some of the burden on supervisors since the skilled worker can monitor the safety behavior of the seasonal employee and correct it where necessary.

5. Avoid Devaluing Seasonal Workers

OSHA has strong concerns about how organizations value and treat temporary workers. These employees are often given the most hazardous jobs, not provided adequate safety training or safety equipment, and not given a complete explanation of their job duties. Organizations must have a strong commitment to the wellbeing of the entire workforce, including seasonal workers.

In addition to the above, organizations need to look for employee fatigue. During the high demand season, it’s natural for companies to want to squeeze extra effort out of the staff to meet goals, but temporary workers who are not accustomed to the jobsite or the job may not have the same resilience as a regular employee. Increased fatigue will increase the chances of an injury. Organizations should be vigilant in monitoring this safety issue.

Seasonal workers make up a large percentage of the workforce in a number of organizations in varying industries. Under-trained and under-valued seasonal workers not only puts the company and jobsite at risk, but it also raises the risk profile of the supply chain. As such these temporary employees should receive the training and supervision they need to work safely.

Avetta works with our clients to evaluate and qualify seasonal suppliers, and our EmployeeGUARD solution extends checks ands verification down to the employee level - a critical step when reviewing temporary suppliers.

Learn more about Avetta's Employee Level Qualification and Training solution.

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