Ask the Experts

Ask the experts: Hiring seasonal workers opens door to risks

vbridges@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2013 

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The National Retail Foundation predicts that retailers will hire between 720,000 and 780,000 seasonal workers this holiday season.

That’s great news for small businesses, said Nim Traeger, vice president of casualty services for Travelers Insurance.

“But with all those new hires also comes additional exposure,” Traeger said.

Owners can help mitigate risks by planning ahead for the hiring process, taking the time to train the new workforce, assigning duties that employees are capable of and qualified for, and ensuring individuals can meet expected physical demands, Traeger said.

Employers need to have a clear idea of when employees will be needed and introduce them to the workplace setting, and company policies and procedures once they are hired.

“We know that new hires and employees in general, no matter how much experience they have in that industry, are more prone to workers’ compensation injuries during the first six months that they are in a new place of employment,” Traeger said.

Also, small-business owners should train employees on issues that could put the business, its employees or customers at risk, such as ladder safety and how to properly store inventory and stock shelves.

“Ensure that they are hiring individuals that are properly matched and qualified for the tasks that are needed,” Traeger said. This includes understanding and considering whether there is an educational component, a physical component, or a driving component to the employees’ duties.

“Particularly with driving a vehicle,” Traeger said. Small-business owners should ensure that the employee has a valid license and consider running a motor vehicle history to make sure they have a good driving record.

“Otherwise that might not be the right task for that employee,” she said.

Owners and employees should also consider whether decorations are blocking a high-traffic area or exit, and keep the items away from light and heat sources, and make sure hanging decorations are secure and won’t fall on customers.

Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges

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