Employee Orientation & Training

Most businesses must hire the occasional new employee. If you have a larger workforce, you likely hire new people several times a year, either in waves or individually. It’s crucial to include an employee orientation as part of your onboarding process. While there are some things that are standard HR functions like tax paperwork, payroll information, and scheduling, it’s also essential that you provide the correct safety training to each new employee and each current employee who moves into a new or different job function.


There are three specific instances in which an employee orientation is necessary. You must provide orientation when an employee is:


1. Transferred to a new function or work area where s/he has not worked in the past;

2. Returning from an extended period of time away (for example: disability leave, parental leave, etc.); or

3. New to your company, even if that person has performed similar job functions at previous places of employment.


The key to a meaningful employee orientation is to put yourself in the employee’s shoes. Remember, it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure that each person in your workforce has the information, tools, guidance, and training needed to be safe on the job. It’s not reasonable to expect an employee to follow a safety protocol if you don’t explain to him or her what it is ahead of time. Any orientation or safety training must be taught in a language that the employee can understand and must be demonstrated – not just spoken – so that the person has a complete comprehension of what is being expressed. If there is a language barrier, it’s on you, as the employer, to find an interpreter or other staffer who is able to communicate in a way that nothing is lost in translation.


You can approach any training situation by starting with, “Here, we do things like this…” and then educate the new (or current) employees about any company-specific policies and procedures that you would like them to follow. That way, there is no doubt about the expectations and you can be confident that everyone has the guidance needed to succeed.



To ensure that the employee fully understands the company expectations for doing the job safely, you should have the employee re-enact the demonstrations of specific safety techniques. This removes all doubt and allows you to confirm that the person is able to perform the proper technique.


Below is a sample checklist of employee orientation tasks that should be completed before the person begins work:

  • Safety rules and regulations: Explain all rules and procedures that you expect employees to follow.
  • Company policies: Anything that is specific to your company, outside of or in addition to commonly used best practices, should be explained in detail.
  • Refresh previous training: If the employee has been in a similar position, use the orientation as an opportunity to refresh and remind about safety procedures.
    • Training: At the crux of the safety orientation should be any kind of education and training that would be required for the employee to work within the environmental, compliance, or policy guidelines required by the specific job.
    • Safe Lifting Techniques (just about everyone will lift something at some point)
  • Slip/Trip/Fall Hazards and Controls (just about everyone will walk on working surfaces)
  • Health and safety: Any wellness protocols, incentives, and safety procedures should be fully explained and demonstrated.
  • Workplace hazards: Each employee should be shown any potential hazards and the necessary controls to avoid them.
  • Machinery: Train each affected employee on the machines they may use or encounter. They must understand all hazards if they are to become operators of those machines. Provide “affected level” training for lockout/tagout.
  • Emergency procedures: Regardless of the type of workplace, employees should know where to find items like fire extinguishers, first aid kits, fire exits, and fire alarm pull boxes. They should be made aware of how to access every possible exit from the building. If relevant, each person should be shown where to find eyewash kits and showers, or other safety equipment.Your company should already have an emergency evacuation plan, and it should be explained to any new hire. It’s also a great opportunity to review emergency and evacuation procedures with everyone on your team. If you have an emergency “captain”, a designated meeting spot, or other method for communication to ensure that everyone is accounted for, be sure that all employees are familiar with who that person is and how they should communicate in an emergency. Let your employees know that the protocol should be followed, regardless of whether it’s a fire, natural disaster, or any other emergency. As well, if your business includes members of the public on-site (restaurants, health care, etc.), be sure that staff is trained for how to evacuate customers in an emergency. Those people won’t know where emergency exits are located or what routes to take, and staff must be able to guide them.
  • Personal protective equipment: If your workplace involves personal protective equipment (gloves, safety goggles, etc.), train your employees on proper use, cleaning, maintenance and storage.
  • Reporting: Be sure that every employee knows how to report an injury and illness if one occurs. Be sure that new employees know where to locate contact information for individuals who need to be made aware if a safety situation takes place.
  • Hazardous materials: If there are hazardous materials (this includes cleaners, lubricants, fuels, paints, etc.) in the workplace, be sure that the employee knows how to properly handle and store them. Be sure to educate all employees on Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and all other requirements of the OSHA Hazard Communication standard.

Finally, once your training is complete, it’s important to maintain documentation. Your new (or current) employee should sign a form that outlines the type of training that was administered. In addition to the training description, the form should include the employee’s signature and the date. This should become part of that person’s personnel record in your HR files. If there were to ever be a claim based on illness or injury, that document will be important for showing that you carried out the necessary practices in order to keep the premises safe.