Workplace Inductions: Minimising Human Risks

justlawBy Dr Tony Zalewski.

Relevant and timely induction processes for new staff are an essential component within any system of work. It is vital part of minimising operational risk whilst also ensuring new staff are productive in meeting business objectives as soon as possible.

Security leaders have long identified this important area within engagement of new staff, but not always in a consistent way. Having investigated induction processes across a number of security organisations, there are many lessons to be learned.

This article discusses strategic induction methods for security providers. Induction is discussed in the context of operational security risk management in making new staff inductions both a valuable and effective process.

Induction Types

Regulators have long supported a formal approach to induction of new staff. Within its Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, Safe Work Australia and also the Fair Work Ombudsman recommend that a formal induction process occurs for new staff. The Fair Work Ombudsman has developed a checklist for employers that is freely available on its website.

Similarly, industry associations and unions such as United Voice also support the induction process as an essential entry requirement for work. However, like many processes in business, there is no one-size-fits-all induction process. Some induction programs are provided over days and others in a matter of hours.

In larger organisations the induction process is usually formalised, the responsibility of a human resource team and conducted in a predictable and consistent way. In smaller organisations the process can be quite different, with a level of inconsistency depending on organisational or client needs and the level of staff turnover, and it is often informal and not well documented.

Security Industry Inductions

Leading security industry associations ASIS International and Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL) both recognise the importance of induction for security industry personnel. A number of resources are available on their websites to support the induction process.

Formal inductions are also supported in various standards and industry guides. For example, ISO31000:2009 Risk Management – Principles and Guidelines recommends, “… roles, accountabilities and responsibilities should be part of all the organisation’s induction programmes” (p22). AS4421:2011 Guards and Patrols provides, “Induction training shall be provided for all personnel engaged for security duties, whether full or part-time (seasonal and casual categories included) and shall be given prior to their first operational duties” (p14).

AS4421 provides information on the minimum requirements for employee engagement, many of which can be elaborated upon during a formal induction process, such as:

  • the organisation’s structure and key positions
  • protocols that include policies, plans, site orders and procedures (administrative and operational)
  • issuing materials and confirming conditions associated with organisational identification, corporate confidentiality and work-related equipment
  • roles and responsibilities associated with the employee’s security employment in a position description or similar
  • confirmation of key terms and conditions of employment that should have already been provided in writing as part of initial engagement
  • types and lines of communication and accountability, including urgent and routine telephone calls, radio transmissions and the like
  • relevant supervisory and management staff and their points of contact
  • incident reporting and debriefing processes
  • situational or client-specific issues where there are multiple workplaces, such as work health and safety issues, work times and breaks, emergency preparedness, personal protective equipment, personal phone/email/internet usage, workplace surveillance, incident response and the like
  • skills practices associated with operations such as using radio communication, internal radio codes, working as part of a response team, site specific tasks and so on.

Practicalities are Important

Often inductions focus on corporate policies such as equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, safety and the like. These policies are important; however, a good induction program should also build practical competence such as:

  • demonstrating how to access and then move around the workplace after being shown
  • completing an incident report after being shown an incident on video
  • having the new employee writing the steps they might take on detecting a suspicious person near the workplace
  • demonstrating how to use a portable radio or other equipment.

Completion of practical tasks during induction confirms competence, builds confidence of new employees and makes induction to the workplace real and enjoyable.

Common Problems

Most planned inductions proceed without incident and staff enter the workforce and perform their work effectively over many years without problems. However, the author’s experience discloses that problems arise when:

  • there was no formal induction or the induction was conducted over a very short period of time on the assumption the new employee ‘knows what has to be done’
  • the content for induction sessions was not documented
  • dates, times, locations and information provided during the induction were not recorded in writing
  • staff conducting induction sessions were not qualified, competent or experienced in the role; this is especially important in specialist roles such as advanced first aid, management of chemical hazards or other high-risk work activities
  • the new employee was not provided with documents that supported content of the induction program; that is, no induction manual or the materials provided were deficient
  • new employees did not demonstrate competence, and/or there was no documented evidence that the new employees were competent, against their induction training.

Conclusion

Induction sessions do not need to be drawn out, they just need to address the important features of work and retain a level of practicality. Good inductions introduce new employees to the workplace culture as they are ‘shaped’ into their new environment.

New staff that are correctly inducted will better understand their new workplace, its structure, culture and, most importantly, key people in the organisation. Some organisations are able to provide workplace mentors or ‘buddies’ to further enhance new employee competence and minimise operational risks.

Finally, an induction program will continue to evolve as a business grows and new markets are entered. Employers should ensure new employees are able to evaluate the program in addition to senior staff. These two diverse perspectives in evaluation will assist to enhance induction processes and therefore drive a quality business forward.

For over 20 years Dr Tony Zalewski has provided expert security reports to courts in all Australian jurisdictions. He has four degrees, including a law degree, from Australian universities and has worked on over 500 cases, including some of Australia’s leading security-related civil actions. He also provides advice about security across industry sectors and is a security adviser to governments locally and abroad.

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