Q&A: When do we need to start training new team members?


Train early and often to help new team members learn procedures and stay safe. Here's what your program should cover.

Q: I know we're supposed to train new employees soon after they're hired, but how soon is soon enough? And how in-depth does our training program need to be?

Initial safety training should focus on making new team members aware of potential hazards in the workplace and giving them a basic ability to perform required tasks. This preliminary training won't make new team members experts on safety hazards, but it will give them a solid base for understanding the issues. You'll want to offer more in-depth instruction on potentially hazardous tasks when team members are ready to actually perform them as part of their duties.

As a general rule, team members must be trained on workplace hazards before they're exposed to these dangers. Untrained team members can observe a potentially dangerous procedure, but they shouldn't be responsible for performing the procedure alone until they understand safety protocols.

To get new team members up to speed, focus on general hazards and safety precautions you've established. Here are a few areas to address:

> The location of safety materials, including your hospital safety manual (click here for a detailed look at what to include in your practice's manual) and material safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals.

> Fire prevention and response protocols, including evacuation and assembly areas

> Security and violence prevention

> Appropriate areas for eating and drinking

> Patient and material handling, including proper lifting techniques.

You can cover these topics in one training session or spread them out over several sessions, but be sure to finish the training during the team member's first week of employment.

For medical-specific hazards in your practice, try to cover safety information when you're actually teaching team members how to perform the procedures. For example, when you explain to new team members how to perform a leak check on an anesthetic machine, they'll be more likely to retain the information if you show them how while you perform an actual procedure.

Some of the medical procedures you should consider including in your safety training program for new team members are your practice's:

> Inhalation anesthetic program

> Radiology program

> Nursing duties, including animal restraint and husbandry

> Infection control procedures (needle safety and zoonotic disease prevention)

> Chemotherapy program

> Laboratory procedures (disease prevention and exposure to sharps and reagents).

Using checklists will help ensure you've covered all of these safety issues. Head to the library section of safetyvet.com to find a sample new employee orientation checklist, then use it in your practice to make sure your new team members are safe and well-trained.

Phil Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com.

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