MRO Magazine

Properly identify and train new employees


December 18, 2009
By PEM Magazine

In the last issue of PEM, I spent some time talking about how worker competency was just as important to an employer’s safety performance as creating a safe working environment. We identified that competency wasn’t only an issue that affected young workers, but mature workers as well. We also defined a competent worker as someone who was "adequately qualified, suitably trained and with enough experience to work with minimal or no supervision."

So how can companies go about developing and maintaining a competent workforce on the plant floor? The establishment and retaining of worker competency begins long before the worker steps foot onto the plant floor. What this means is that, before even hiring a candidate, you must ensure that the potential worker is adequately qualified for the job, which he/she had applied for. Before beginning this process, however, you need to establish the entry-level qualifications for each position.

Establishing entry-level qualifications for new employees should be, at a minimum, based on the type of position you’re hiring for. For an example, if you were hiring a forklift operator, you wouldn’t require that person to possess a journeyman welder’s ticket. In these instances, it would be beneficial to consult with your company’s human resources and health and safety professionals, as well as operations staff to determine what those qualifications should be.

What level of education should these new employees have? What kind of safety training should they possess? How much work experience should the candidates have? Should first-year apprentices have to successfully complete a pre-trade technical course through a trade school? The answers to these questions can help establish what each applicant should bring to the table as a minimum before they can be hired.


Once you’ve established what those qualifications should be, the onus should be placed on each candidate to demonstrate that he/she meets those minimum standards. As part of the application process, each applicant should be required to provide the company with proof, which demonstrates that he/she has the qualifications set out for the position applied for.

In most cases, this would involve providing copies of degrees, diplomas or certificates, apprenticeship and safety training tickets and employment references. Copies of these documents, including the completed application form or resume, should be kept and placed in the candidate’s employment file. If the person is ultimately a successful hire, this may help to demonstrate that the employee was adequately qualified.

Even though a candidate has provided the above-mentioned documentation copies, care should be taken to determine if he/she has truthfully represented themselves and their qualifications. Fraud relating to education, trade certifications and safety training tickets has become a big problem for organizations. So much so that a former colleague of mine now works for the Alberta government, investigating fraud that pertains to trade certifications.

The same is true about statements made with reported work experience. All too often, people may exaggerate or over inflate their qualifications. They do this in order to gain employment, especially since the downturn in the economy. To avoid these problems, it’s important to work with your local human resources professionals to verify a potential new employee’s credentials. This will ensure that they’re adequately qualified for the job they applied for.

Ensuring that an employee is adequately qualified before he/she is hired is an important first step in developing a competent workforce. It’s crucial to ensure that you start off with the right foundation of skill sets, and then build on those with training and mentorship to develop employees that can work with a significantly lowered risk of injury. By enabling this competency with a safe workplace, you create an organization where safety is integrated into all aspects of the organization.

Fred Matthews, CRM, CRSP, is regional health and safety advisor (west) for Maxxam Analytics Inc. You can contact him by tel: (780) 468-3579 or email: