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Ensuring Safety Through Short Service Employee Programs

For those working within high-risk disciplines, short service employee (SSE) programs are a common segment found in safety manuals. Their purpose is to address onboarding and care applied to newcoming working personnel. As proactive as the process might sound, it is often met with challenges.
Several unexpected issues can manifest that result in problematic interpretation. The interpretation itself can be one of the biggest factors that can either assist or flaw the program’s compliance. Selecting and implementing SSE program points is important, but actually living up to the expectation created can be daunting. As a result, companies should implement a program that ensures the safety of SSEs, but it must be realistic so that companies can live in compliance.
Two Popular Types
Safety programs can be authored in a variety of capacities, but they must meet the standards of applicable regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In gaining compliance, SSE programs tend to be based upon two different schools of thought.
Some SSE programs stipulate that employees must work for a company for a period of six months before they are fully released from a probationary status. This usually means that SSE employees cannot work alone in the workplace. This means they cannot be sent to a job location as a lone worker. While in the workplace, SSE’s must be assigned a mentor. Mentors serve as a personal coach and guide the SSE to success while offering advice and insight for that period of six months.
Another common interpretation or version of the SSE program is utilizing a six-month probationary period, but only for those individuals who change their craft. So if an equipment operator has worked for one company for 20 years and then hires on with another in the same occupation, he is not considered SSE and can work without restriction. On the other hand, individuals working in the electrical field for ten years that move over to the plumbing field would be considered SSE. A mentor would be required, and that person would work with limited responsibility for that six-month period.
Selecting the Best Option
The world of compliance can be tricky, and the waters are often murky if not downright muddy. Interpretation and company scope are wonderful tools in policy development; however, they must be used responsibly. It is important to devise an SSE program that the company can live by and support, but it must be applicable and maintain the standards of safety. After all, employee safety is paramount and the main focus of why the program is being implemented in the first place.
When making the decision, program authors should not stress about it. Group collaboration with company leaders is often a valuable route in determining what works and what does not. A combination of industry practices can provide a happy medium, making implementation a much easier process.
Companies often experience heartburn with the six-month experience in the craft factor. This is often difficult to follow, especially if the company is experiencing a high turnover rate. Here is where a blending can be instituted to alleviate unrealistic expectations.
Companies can follow the six-month rule regarding experience in job occupation but institute additional restrictions to further enhance safety. For example, a rigger with 20 years of experience working for company A can leave and go to company B and work in the same occupation without restriction. Company B can still implement conditions to add an additional layer of safety.
That individual could go through a personal evaluation, and the determination could be made indicating he or she is not SSE; however, they cannot work on a job site alone. They could be without a mentor, but another company representative must be present.
Conditions and restrictions can vary. As long as the minimum standard is maintained, additional safeguards can be implemented to serve as a safety insurance policy. Providing simplicity, additional standards can be implemented on an as-needed basis. It does not have to be one size fits all.
Trump Card
So the company has cleared the hurdles and met the standards with a fully functional SSE program. Right about the time a sigh of relief is exhaled, one important question is voiced. What do we do if our client has instituted an SSE program that is more strict than our own?
As painful as it might be, the client’s program takes precedence. This is not the case because the client is always right but because the more strict policy overrides the lesser. Companies must be prepared to make exceptions to meet customer needs. No better example can be cited for the value of a contingency plan.
The best way to prepare for the day that your company’s SSE program might be pushed to the side by the big dog is to have a clear understanding of your customer’s business plan. Pre-job planning and doing your homework to know client expectations allows for a planned deviation instead of a panicked bait and switch.

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 Nick@shalemag.com