First-year employees at higher risk of workplace injury

Record hiring in UK health & care sectors calls for careful risk management

First-year employees at higher risk of workplace injury

Life & Health


This article was provided by Travelers Europe.

More than one-third of workplace injuries occur during an employee’s first year on the job, regardless of the person’s age or industry experience. That’s what Travelers discovered after analysing more than 1.5 million claims – findings the company included in its 2022 Injury Impact Report.

The results reflect patterns that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also discovered; job tenure has a significant impact on workplace injury rates, with employees who are new to their jobs having a greater risk of injury. Other factors include the employee’s age (with younger workers at greater risk) and hours of work. 

“When we understand what drives workplace injuries and who is experiencing them, we’re in a stronger position to advise organisations about post-injury management and even help them prevent these incidents altogether,” said Ruth Reaney (pictured), head of health & care at Travelers Europe.

Navigating a new world of risk in health & care

In February 2022, the UK Government made care workers eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa and added the occupation to the Shortage Occupation List. This has led to an increase in the number of people arriving in the UK to take up social care jobs, enabling a reduction in vacancies as more posts were filled in 2022/23. Skills for Care estimates the turnover rate of directly employed staff working in adult social care was 28% in 2022/23, the equivalent of approximately 390,000 leavers over the year.

“When there is higher turnover in an organisation and people are changing jobs more frequently, the workplace risks only grow,” said Reaney. “Our research underlines how important it is to provide comprehensive onboarding and training programs for employees, especially when there has been considerable movement in the labour market.”

The Travelers Injury Impact Report found that the most common causes of first-year injuries were overexertion (27% of claims) and slips, trips and falls (22%) – risks that people working in health & care professions encounter every day. Further, Travelers found that first-year employees working in health and care account for 43% of “lost-time claims”, which are workplace injuries that result in time away from the job.

So how can health and care organisations best manage these risks? Here are several areas where it can help to assess existing risks and take steps to mitigate them:

  1. Implement an accident analysis program

This can help employers identify the root causes of accidents and develop corrective actions to reduce the likelihood of similar injuries caused by repetitive motions, awkward body posture and overexertion. Employers should maintain records that document details about each workplace injury, including a description of the accident, where it occurred, the tenure of the employee(s) involved and how often the accident could happen if improvements are not made. This data can be used to better understand employee injury risks in the organisation and to inform training programs and mitigation plans.

  1. Integrate safety into the hiring process

While the hiring process typically focuses on evaluating candidates based on experience and qualifications, health & care employers can also use it as an opportunity to identify safety-minded employees. The job description should also convey the safety culture and expectations of the organisation, so potential hires understand the importance of safety from their first interactions with the company. Conducting behavioural interviews and background checks can help identify candidates who will support the organisation’s safety culture.

  1. Onboard and continuously train employees

Employers shouldn’t assume that employees who are new to their role (even if they are experienced) know the appropriate procedures or the optimal way to minimise risk of injury and overall exposure to loss. On-the-job safety training and orientation should include both skills-based and awareness-based training to give employees tactical knowledge and cultural awareness of why safety practices are important. Skills-based training demonstrates the actual hands-on procedures necessary to perform a specific task. Awareness-based training includes general policies, hazard recognition and awareness, and the company’s expectations for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.

  1. Support employees throughout their careers

Even after the first year of employment, health & care employees are still at risk of on-the-job injuries. But when employers create a safety and wellness culture, they can reduce workplace injuries. It can help to develop injury and illness prevention programs and provide general safety trainings. Be prepared before an employee is injured and have a plan in place that helps employees return to work as soon as medically appropriate. Travelers’ clients benefit from their Proactive Rehabilitation Service, which helps injured employees receive support at an early stage. This intervention is key to helping employees recover and getting them back to work.

Health & care employers can lay the foundation for a stronger safety and wellness culture by proactively assessing risks – not waiting until a new employee joins the organisation to do so.

“Before an employee even starts a new job, employers need to consider the things they expect the person to do and how to remove risks so they can perform their tasks safely,” said Reaney. “When you make employees safer, you can deliver better and more consistent care for their patients. It’s about setting the stage for success.”

The information provided is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice nor a recommendation to any individual or business of any product or service. Insurance coverage is governed by the actual terms and conditions of insurance as set out in the policy documentation and not by any of the information in this document. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome.

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