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Onboarding Temps and Seasonal Employees

Seasonal employees are often the backbone of summer operations. For the special districts that employ lifeguards, pool supervisors, and concessionaires these positions represent your front lines when it comes to engaging with the public. Meanwhile, other organizations primarily utilize seasonal employees for maintenance.

Regardless of your need, now is the time to begin hiring and onboarding those temporary employees to make sure you have the operational support you need.

While some positions are easy to train and manage, seasonal employees perform jobs that can be dangerous and arrive at your organization with varying levels of experience and training. Even when the hiring process goes smoothly, these employees still need training on company policies and safety standards.

Dangerous Situations – Areas of Concern

Most of your seasonal employees will still be high school or college age, this fact alone comes with benefits and challenges. One major benefit is that your schedules align—you need extra help in the summer months, and they are excited to earn a little money while hanging out with their friends. Chances are your seasonal employees do not have much work experience, if any. This can be great for you as a district, because you can mold their work habits and they are often eager to learn. On the flipside, this may be their first real job, so you will have to be very clear what is expected of them. Therefore, a thorough new hire training program or orientation process is also necessary.

In the case of temporary and seasonal employees, since you may be their first experience with structured employment, expectations will need to be set and enforced.

For example, if you have a lifeguard on duty that does not know the importance of always attending to the pool, that employee may go on frequent breaks or leave the pool unsupervised. If you did not set these expectations with the employee during their onboarding the negligence and liability is on the district, not the employee.

One other reason seasonal employees need a robust onboarding program is the fact they are often in higher risk positions such as maintenance, groundskeeping, concessions, and lifeguarding. Each of these positions has their own list of hazards that needs to be addressed and we could spend an entire article on each, but for today we will just hit the high points.

Lifeguards are exposed to water related hazards such as drowning. When they are rescuing someone who is drowning, the victim can often become a hazard to the rescuer. Grounds, concessions, and maintenance are faced with numerous hazards but the most common one stems from the equipment they use. Power tools, mowers, and other equipment can cause serious injuries when not properly used. The equipment could not only be hazardous to the employee, but also the people around them if they are not properly using the equipment.

According to the Department of Labor, employees with less than one year on the job are five times more likely to be involved in a workplace injury. Since you will only have seasonal employees for a portion of the year, those employees all fall in this realm.

Seasonal employees may create an added wrinkle when dealing with injury or risk. First off, this may be the first time they have been injured in a workplace, so they may not know about proper injury reporting procedures.

More often than not, they will tell their parent first, which will often result in an emergency room visit. This could lead to a loss-time injury from a relatively small injury. Remember that if seasonal employees are off work due to an injury, you will have to keep track of the employee and monitor their injury, even after their seasonal time may have ended.

Training – Where to Begin and Best Practices

I have mentioned some of the challenges and hazards associated with seasonal employees, so the next question is how do we address them? The answer is simple: training.

It is so tempting to skim over training for seasonal employees because they will only be working for a few months. I assure you it is in your best interest to have a thorough training program. Properly trained employees will have less injuries and feel better about coming to work, because they know what is expected of them and how they can accomplish the task. While they may only be with you temporarily, they are still exposed to all of the hazards associated with the job and need to be prepared for those hazards through (you guessed it) training.

If we rewind for a moment and revisit the hazards covered at the beginning of the article, we can discuss how to mitigate the hazards through training.

For the lifeguard in an emergency situation, I would suggest a site-specific training on pool procedures during an emergency situation, then have them shadow another senior lifeguard for hands on training. Thinking back to the equipment used by concessions, maintenance, and grounds, it is a best practice to have a manufacturer-approved training program for each piece of equipment.

Beyond that, consider having hands-on training with an experienced employee to first show how to use the equipment, then have the trainee demonstrate their knowledge. I suggest as a best practice to make the training formal and include a sign-in sheet because in this world, if it isn’t documented, it did not happen.

Your obligation to your team does not end after training though, it is a best practice to have a retraining policy in place. Retraining should occur when an employee is observed doing a task, when using equipment incorrectly, or if an injury has occurred. Through trainings that occur during these opportune moments, you can be confident in your teams’ ability to SAFELY perform their job duties.

Preparing for Common Exposures

Generalized safety training should not be neglected for seasonal employees. Seasonal employees are typically exposed to all the hazards your full-time employees are.

One exposure that all seasonal employees are exposed to is slips, trips, and falls. A quick training on slips, trips, and falls should be apart of every new hired onboarding process regardless of the position. Regardless of the industry, slips, trips, and falls always have the highest injury occurrence. Thinking of typical seasonal positions, they are absolutely exposed to the hazard, if not at an elevated risk for it.

For example, grounds crews are always walking over the uneven surfaces at a district, concessions are exposed to small spaces with large amounts of cooking oil, and lifeguards are in/around the water all day. Some other trainings that you may want to consider are hazard recognition, company policies, emergency response, lifting techniques and drug/alcohol recognition. These trainings do not need to be lengthy or held over and over—they can be condensed into one training given during an employee’s first week.

Company Policies

Lastly, let’s cover training on company policies. Remember this is often an employee’s first job, so they may not know how to properly interact with coworkers or the public, report an injury, request a day off work, or who to contact when they have a question. Luckily this can and should be covered during onboarding training.

Training on interacting with the public is extremely vital for your organization because as lifeguards, concessions operators, and admissions they are the first employees the public will see and will be responsible for most of the interactions.

Being in the public eye leads to another important area of training, how to deal with an irate customer. Chances are that an employee who works closely with the public will eventually have to deal with an unhappy patron. Proper training in this situation could be the difference between a resolved conflict and a screaming match between an employee and a customer.

In conclusion, it may be tempting to overlook and rush through the onboarding process for seasonal employees. Just remember, they have a hazardous job and influence the public’s opinion of your district. Proper training will lead to enhanced performance, reduced injury, and improved morale.

Two other takeaways I want to leave you with…. If your seasonal employee feels that you are invested in them, they will put forth extra effort and most likely be back next summer. Also, your district can take pride in knowing that you are correctly introducing young workers to the workforce and developing safe habits they can use the rest of their lives.

Next Steps

Training and onboarding any employee, whether seasonal or full-time, is a detailed, time-intensive process. If you need help developing or reviewing your training, that’s what we’re here for. Members can check out the complimentary consulting we offer, or contact us at no-cost at safety@csdpool.com

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