A Safe Workplace Includes Safe Employees — In Other Words; HIRING MATTERS


You all know the difference between a good employee and a… less good employee. I don’t need to spell out for you what makes someone responsible, capable and safe. Many supermarkets are in the tenuous position right now of being in the midst of a large staff turnover. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that many were forced to let some employees go early in the pandemic, and now we’re in a position to hire some back.


No matter what the job market is like at a given time, finding an employee who is a great fit for your business can be a challenge.


Why are we seeing fewer workers’ compensation claims right now than we have over the past few years?


The Association Benefits Workers’ Compensation Trust saw a 66% reduction as of November 2021 in the cost of claims from a year earlier. The percentage is higher when compared to 2019, pre-pandemic.


The reasons for this are that businesses laid off employees in 2020, closed entirely, or lost employees who left voluntarily out of concern for their own health – perhaps they retired sooner than expected or looked for work-from-home jobs to stay safe and have less interaction with the public.


Today, as we continue to face uncertainty moving into 2022, many employers feel like this rate of employee turnover is their “reset” button, or a fresh start with a new group of people. Certainly, there are some loyal and skilled employees who’ve stuck around and are very much appreciated for weathering the storm as they have. But as much as our businesses suffered during the pandemic, the opportunity to start with a clean slate is appealing and appreciated by many business owners.


But we’re still not in a good place.


The current labor pool is very low. Many businesses are looking to hire, which means you’re competing for good talent. Lots of people have left the supermarket workforce for early retirements, to stay home with young children, or for the “safety” of work at home jobs. We’re in the position now of needing to hire and the well is nearly dry.


Even so, you can’t “settle” for just anyone who has a smile and an application.


You’ve worked hard to build and maintain a culture of safety in your workplace (I hope). That means that anyone you hire needs to be able to work within that culture, respect it, and strive to maintain it. As you interview prospective employees, ask direct questions about their prior workplaces and the types of safety cultures they were expected to maintain. Try to get an impression of whether they follow rules just to follow rules (which is sometimes fine) or whether they truly understand why safety is important.


And, yes, some of it will come with training. But you can’t change who someone is or how they think. That’s why you must do your due diligence for each prospective hire.


When you call an applicant’s references (and you should always call references), they won’t say anything negative. But they often will offer positive information, and share things that would suggest that the applicant is motivated to be safe and to learn and follow your safety and health protocols. If the previous employer will provide no information other than the dates the employee worked for them, that’s a red flag that they have nothing positive to say – and that means perhaps this person isn’t a great choice.


You need to know that a new hire is willing to learn, follow rules, and embrace your best practices. As the young people say, read their vibe. You can often tell from their responses whether they will take rules and training seriously. If they don’t, they are a liability. It’s better to run short-staffed until you can find someone who will follow your safety rules than to hire someone who won’t.


You can also lose good employees if they feel unsafe around a bad employee… and then you’re in even worse shape than you were before you hired the person.


Protect your business. Protect your workplace. Add great people to an already great environment.


Thank you and be safe!

John Hazzard
Senior Health & Safety Consultant
Cove Risk Services, LLC