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Day Zero Training & Mitigating Risk

Day Zero Training: A Safety Program to Mitigate Risk among New Hires

By Manny Rodriguez, National Safety Director

On the first day a new hire sets foot on a construction site, they enter a high-risk group. Over 60% of job site injuries are sustained by those with less than one year of tenure (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The frequency of injuries and incidents among new hires is a risk moment that you can’t ignore.  If these individuals are more susceptible to incidents on day one, your safety plan needs to start before they set foot on site.

Day Zero is a strategic initiative that builds safety awareness, culture and buy-in beyond orientation. In the traditional sense, everyone expects orientation on the first day of a new job. This typically includes paperwork, introductions and perhaps a brief video.  However, there is a big difference between orientation processes and an onboarding experience.

Beyond the paperwork, safety onboarding includes education, culture and personal connections that equip new hires to step confidently onto job sites on day one. Here are three important components of a meaningful Day Zero experience.

Safety Orientation 

Safety orientation should be a structured process that starts with an introduction to local safety team members. The safety team should give all new hires their contact information. Beyond serving as a safety resource, they have an opportunity to begin building personal relationships with new team members.

Safety orientation should include the mission, values and culture of the organization. Emphasizing safety as the ultimate priority and the first message of the day establishes a strong foundation for all other processes. Safety orientation must also include your organization’s safety policies and procedures, as well as the tools, methods and hazards related to their role.

Stop Work Authority

Stop Work Authority empowers everyone to halt work if they perceive any aspect of a task isn’t safe. This message is critical to the Day Zero experience. New hires must understand that their leaders and peers want them to speak up, ask questions and seek guidance before taking on a task they are unsure of. Help new hires understand that Stop Work Authority comes in many forms. It can be as simple as pausing 30 seconds to clarify a task and outline hazards before the activity begins.

Expanding the Experience

Beyond orientation, Day Zero training should be immersive. Consider how your organization can expand the experience beyond a traditional classroom setting. Your Day Zero may include tool training and instruction, particularly for those who are new to construction or to your specialty. Consider bringing back recent retirees to teach on a part-time basis. These tenured experts have lifelong experience in the tools of the trade and how your team delivers work. They value the opportunity to give back by sharing their experience with others.

Once new hires are assigned to a specific site and crew, don’t lose sight of them. Schedule check-ins at 30, 60 and 90 days to ensure they feel competent in their role and confident in safe operations.

Finally, the most impactful safety programs make safety personal. That’s exactly what Day Zero should accomplish with your new hires. What’s your why? What motivates you to work safely, and who do you want to return home to each night? Encourage your new team members to share the same. Day Zero should be an experience that resonates at home and on the job.


About the Author: 

Manny Rodriguez is the National Safety Director for Kent Companies. With 20+ years of construction safety experience, he oversees a national safety team of two dozen professionals across seven regional offices.


This article originally appeared in the June 2024 edition of the Contractor's Compass.

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