Sunday, February 16, 2014

Temp workers and wily old veterans.

I was really struck by two news items in the February issue of Industrial Safety and Hygiene News.

The first item cites a ProPublica report that temp workers have a high fatality rate, especially on their first day on the job.  As you can imagine, they attribute this to lack of training and inexperience.  When companies are bringing in new people, they usually have some kind of onboarding process that includes safety training.  With temp workers, some companies take shortcuts because the costs of the training are harder to amortize over the shorter work period.  But when something is safety critical, this is really irresponsible.  When something is life-critical, a lack of adequate training should be criminal.

The second item cites a PruHealth report that workers in their 60s are often safer than workers in their 40s.  This might seem counterintuitive.  We know that pure capabilities like muscle strength and working memory start to decrease in our 20s and really start to dive in the 50s and 60s.  But reading this immediately after the previous one shows a good reason why this is the case.  What older people gain in wisdom and insight might be more than enough to compensate.  They aren’t compensating for their decreasing capabilities by taking shortcuts and delivering poor quality.  They are getting their jobs done with deep system knowledge and figuring out better, easier, streamlined ways of doing things.  They find workarounds for extreme physical or mental requirements.  I believe this is where the term “Wily Old Veteran” comes from.

 So train your new workers, whether they are temps, contractors, short timers, or might stick around for a while.  And give some love to your veterans.  Follow them around.  See what they are doing.  You might learn something.