Safely onboarding new Amazon DSP employees

The delivery industry is responsible for transporting billions of dollars’ worth of products into and out of Colorado each year. Meanwhile, delivery drivers encounter a variety of unique hazards. As you know, motor vehicle accidents are a serious risk in the delivery industry, but Amazon Delivery Service Providers experience other types of injuries that might surprise you. 

Slips, trips and falls, strains, dog bites, and striking objects pose unique risks as these drivers are fulfilling customer orders. After a long day of deliveries, routine movements such as getting out of the van can become dangerous. In inclement weather, loading and unloading is even trickier. 

This industry naturally exposes even experienced drivers to risks on a daily basis, so it’s especially important to understand the various risks your drivers face.

New-hire safety measures

Every new hire deserves the opportunity to be successful and perform his or her job safely. Did you know that in 2020, claims filed for new-hire drivers cost Colorado businesses $1,318,626? New drivers experience work-related injuries at a higher frequency than experienced drivers. Injury prevention protects your newest and most vulnerable employees and positively impacts the financial stability of your business. Any new employee coming into your organization will require an introduction to the way your organization values safety and conducts business. 

Onboarding essentials

An onboarding process is essential to protecting new employees and preventing them from becoming statistics. Delivery organizations should design an onboarding process that involves orientation, management buy-in, effective communication, safety training and screening.

Since there are many factors that impact new-hire safety, it’s essential that you take the time to recognize driver skill levels to prepare new employees for risks on and off the road.

Your process should include an orientation that continues beyond day one. It should include a standardized, subsequent verbal check-in at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months and 12 months after employees’ start dates. Checking in monthly helps ensure that your employees have the appropriate training they need to drive safely. This approach encourages safe attitudes and safe work behaviors and helps prevent injuries on the road. (See the sample check-in checklist at the end of this article).

Management commitment is critical to safety success

Leadership should demonstrate a commitment to safety and take an active role to provide adequate time, resources, personnel and financial support to create a work environment that’s as safe as possible. Safety measures should be incorporated into the business model to demonstrate that the organization values safety and believes it is as important as your operations and production are. 

Effective communication in action

Whether delivered in person, in writing or by video, communication from leadership to new employees strengthens your safety message.  Consider creating a written safety policy statement from the owner/president that welcomes new hires and expresses the importance of workplace safety. If you’re feeling creative, you can even use your mobile device to create a 30-second video from the owner/president. However you choose to communicate, tell your new employees (even those with years of experience) about your commitment to safety and your expectations so they understand that safety is a priority at your organization. This effort has shown to positively influence worker attitudes and behaviors. 

Safety training can prevent new-hire injuries

Training is vital for employees who face occupational hazards on the road and at your facility. It also may be required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT) or other regulatory organizations. 

Safety training for new employees should teach your employees to recognize job hazards and how to control or eliminate those hazards. OSHA standards also require training on specific topics including emergency preparedness, hazard communication, ladders, and personal protective equipment. Review OSHA’s Compliance Assistant Quick Start for more information. Pinnacol also offers complimentary and low-cost in-person and online training to every policyholder. 

Selective screening tools

Now that we’ve gone over how to begin developing an onboarding process, don’t forget that managing new-hire risk begins before you actually hire your employee. In addition to your onboarding process development, selective screening tools can minimize the chances of hiring someone who is not a good fit for the organization. These screening tools go beyond the requirements that may be conducted during the pre-employment or post-offer application process. Note that you should always check with your employment law representative prior to implementing screening options. Some pre-employment screening options include:

  • References.
  • Credit scores.
  • Criminal records.
  • Drug and alcohol screens.
  • Education verifications.
  • Re-employment verifications.
  • E-Verify.
  • Integrity testing.
  • Motor vehicle records.
  • Name and address verifications.
  • Professional certification verifications.
  • Sex offender registries.
  • Social Security validations.
  • Fit-for-duty evaluations. 

Elements to your onboarding process

Implement a driver mentorship program

Another essential part of your onboarding process is a driver mentorship program. Mentorship programs are an excellent way to mitigate risk to employees and equipment, helping your employees:

  • Hone new-hire driving skills.
  • Demonstrate proper care of loads and equipment.
  • Improve customer experience — package handling, placement, etc.
  • Share knowledge and lessons learned, broadly.
  • Improve the safety of your employees and the safety culture of your operation. 

A mentorship program improves the skill set of your new hires while recognizing your most tenured and valued employees. Selecting the right mentor for the job is a crucial piece of the puzzle. 

The ideal mentorship

Your organization should establish a process to determine the best mentor candidates. For example, you can select mentors by asking your employees for volunteers or nominees. When selecting an employee to fill this role, it is important for that individual to fully embody the standards of the organization’s safety program and cultural expectations. The mentor is there to set the example for the new employee while helping them develop the skills and techniques necessary to get the job done safely. 

Who should act as a mentor?

The mentors should be experienced, skilled drivers with excellent safety records and strong interpersonal skills. Remember, a high-performing employee may be excellent at their job, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will make a good mentor. The mentor must be willing to devote time and energy to the new employee and should possess solid communication and listening skills. Think of your mentors as your organization’s coaches who are the positive and encouraging force driving your new hires toward success. 

Mentors should not be the employee’s manager, and the mentor’s and the driver’s expectations should be set accordingly. Drivers and mentors may have different relationship styles. They may get along well and form more personal bonds or they may limit the mentorship to a professional level. When drivers and mentors are able to forge a more casual relationship, that can help improve the new driver’s comfort level and enhance their ability to learn and ask questions. 

Sometimes a new driver is reluctant to listen and take instructions from a mentor who isn’t a member of management. In this case, the mentor must be someone who has the skills to convey their experience and knowledge effectively even though they aren’t managing people. The mentor should be skilled in encouraging positive behaviors and providing constructive criticism to the new driver, who may be struggling with a portion of their training. 

Evaluating your mentorship program

Monitoring the results of your mentorship program is crucial to its effectiveness. The mentorship program should be monitored carefully by the safety coordinator or a member of management. They should evaluate whether the mentors and drivers are creating beneficial relationships and whether the program is reaching its desired outcomes. Is this program bringing value to the organization? Is there any return on investment? One of the best ways to evaluate a mentorship program is with employee surveys. These can provide insight into the mentor and driver relationship and the new employee’s  progression in their training program. We’ve included a sample Mentee Evaluation Form as part of this resource to get you started.

Injury profile for Amazon DSPs

Pinnacol estimates Amazon DSP drivers experience slip-and-fall and animal-related injuries more commonly than other delivery drivers in Colorado. 

Pinnacol’s occupational safety experts attribute this to the industry’s relative newness and increased demand due to the pandemic. They also noticed a high incidence of strain injuries, which is expected among employees who handle so many packages per day. All of these injuries can be minimized or prevented with appropriate awareness and training programs.  

Pinnacol safety experts stress the importance of a rigorous onboarding program that also includes specific safety training such as lifting techniques, exiting and entering the vehicle safely, and safe driving. Employees should be expected to perform regular vehicle inspections, pre-work stretching routines and use winter traction cleats. 

Read Pinnacol’s analysis of Amazon DSP workforce claims.

View full Amazon DSP injury profile here.

2019-20: Injuries experienced by Amazon DSP employees

Take a look at the snapshot of the claims reported by Amazon Delivery Service Providers in Colorado for workers employed zero to 12 months. Since 2019, the Amazon DSPs have seen a concerning upward trend in claims experienced by workers with fewer than 12 months on the job. 

How does your organization look compared to the rest of the transportation industry in Colorado?

Claims experienced by workers on the job fewer than 12 months

Of all Pinnacol Amazon DSP claims, 92% of injuries occurred in the first year of employment for a total claims cost of $2,619,298.