Workers Health & Safety Centre

Study confirms higher injury risk for new workers persists over time

Study confirms higher injury risk for new workers persists over time

For nearly a century, studies have consistently shown that newly hired workers are more likely to be injured than those with longer job tenures. Recent research from the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) confirms this finding and shows that higher risk of work-related injury for new workers has persisted over the past ten years.

According to IWH scientist and lead author, Dr. Curtis Breslin, while lost-time claim (LTC) rates for work injury and illness in Ontario have been declining, workers new to a job remain at much higher risk of a lost-time injury than their more experienced co-workers.

Although not yet released, the research is currently under review by the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine (OEM). This new study is an extension of earlier work completed in 2006, by Breslin and his fellow IWH scientist Dr. Peter Smith titled, “Trial by fire: a multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries.

Examining the relationship between job tenure and work injuries, the original “Trial by fire study found that workers are four to six times more likely to be injured during the first month on the job, than workers with more than one year experience.

While the earlier work was a snapshot at one point in time, the current study describes the association between job tenure and work injuries over a 10-year period (1999 to 2008). Researchers used Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board LTC records, and calculated claim rates per 1,000 full-time equivalents.


The new research produced two main findings:

  1. Over a 10-year period, the risk of work-related injury for workers with shorter job tenure has consistently remained higher compared to those employed at a job for more than one year. Risk is particularly elevated among those in the first month on the job, with over three times the risk of a lost-time injury as workers with over a year’s job experience.
  2. The risk of work injuries among new workers is greatest among older workers, men and those in sectors like construction and manufacturing.

The age-based findings are striking,” says Breslin. “While all workers in their first month have elevated injury risk, the risk of a lost-time injury is highest among workers over 45 years of age compared to all other age groups. Indeed, youth injury rates have been converging with adult rates”. He continues, “The key risk factor is newness, not youth.”

New workers may be at greater risk on the job for a number of reasons including:  
  • lack of job experience
  • inadequate safety training
  • more temporary employment (a higher proportion of workers with shorter job tenure)
  • higher rates of job turnover.

Says Breslin: “If frequent job changing continually puts a worker at high risk, then job turnover becomes a potential health and safety issue.

In order to reduce the numbers of work injuries for new workers the researchers suggest that employers do the following:

  • develop effective safety management systems
  • promote policies and practices that reduce job turnover
  • encourage permanent employment
  • improve job security
  • ensure new workers receive proper training and supervision.

The Workers Health & Safety Centre offers a host of training programs to assist workplaces in meeting new worker training requirements. A good place to start is Health and Safety: A Worker’s Introduction. WHSC also recognizes the potential of schools to help reach a large number of new workers and as such, partners with many to bring potentially life-saving awareness to Ontario high school students.

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The new study is not yet released. Want to read the original IWH “Trial by fire” study by Dr. Curtis Breslin and Peter Smith in 2006?