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Got Young Workers? Here’s How KPA Customers Teach Them to Be Safe

Got Young Workers? Here’s How KPA Customers Teach Them to Be Safe

My daughter started her first internship yesterday. This was preceded by an entertaining conversation about how, as comfortable as they are, you can’t wear your pajamas to new-hire orientation. With the school doors closing for the summer, ‘tis the season for young workers to join the workforce.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (or NIOSH for short) statistics show that workers between the ages of 16 and 25 seem to generally be more risk-tolerant than their older workplace counterparts.

  • For instance, in 2020, there were close to 17.3 million workers under the age of 25, representing 12% of the total workforce.
  • That year, sadly, 352 of those workers died from work-related injuries.
  • Also, the incidence rate for non-fatal injuries for workers between the ages of 16 and 19 was 150 per 10,000 employees and 142 per 10,000 employees for workers between the ages of 20 and 24.
  • And, in 2020, the rate of work-related injuries treated in emergency departments for workers between the ages of 15 and 19 was 1.5 times greater than the rate for workers age 25 and older.

The data tells us that if you employ workers under the age of 25, it’s important to devise proactive strategies for addressing their risk tolerance.

So we asked our customers, how do you keep your young workers safe?

We put the question out to our KPA Connect community members. And as always, they had some great advice.

What are some considerations you think about when considering how to train younger staff?

“Using technology to train younger staff is very important. Also, using experienced people to train them is very valuable.”

David Finley, HSE Director, Dolese Brothers

“Good mentoring from the beginning. They don’t know what they don’t know, and if you do not start off with proper training and mentoring, it will leave them open to mistakes.”

“Using the Soon, Certain, Positive message.”

Travis Lane, Data Engineer, ExxonMobil

“We try to keep a generational view of our employees (it’s part of the employee data that we track) while also keeping the regional aspects in mind. For instance, younger workers typically are more tech-inclined, but in Wyoming, many don’t have a ton of tech experience. Things like apps and online trainings can be as intimidating for them as older generations. So we try to offer a lot of technical support, a unified approach for where to find things, and design for simplicity and usability.

We also try to factor in the fact that there are different motivating factors and expectations between generations (again, with regional factors). Our crews work long hours, and there isn’t a lot of flexibility in setting those hours, so we try to offer as much flexibility in other ways as possible. Going to online trainings has helped in the sense that rather than going to an hours-long meeting after a long day, they can do smaller, online trainings at home or even in the crew truck on the way home (obviously not the driver! 😁). This means that we have to focus more on mentoring as there still needs to be that personal, hands-on approach to address a lack of experience or unsafe approaches/shortcut methods. But so far, it seems to be working out well.”

Timothy Shaw, Information Success Coordinator, McCumber Well Service

Put yourself in a younger worker’s shoes. Start by considering the younger worker’s mindset and experiences generally. For instance, consider that they may:

  • Have limited or no prior work experience
  • Lack safety training
  • Get distracted easily
  • Be unable to understand consequences
  • Be afraid to ask questions
  • Make assumptions to their detriment
  • Have a lack of career ambition

Granted, these are generalizations, but they can shed light on what you’re likely up against when engaging younger workers and getting their buy-in on safety. By understanding where they’re coming from, you can start to develop a strategy for shifting their mindset to become less risk-tolerant.

What ideas have you used in the past that have proven to be helpful when teaching young employees safety policies and procedures?

“Need to make it interactive and personable.  Has to have some sort of connection and meaning.”

Bill Woods, Director of Safety, Quality and Regulatory Compliance, American Welding & Gas

“Ensuring their supervisors are clearly communicating their expectations of safety policies. I have seen that employees typically do what is important to their supervisor no matter what policies are in place.”

Travis Lane, Data Engineer, ExxonMobil

“The things that I think have had a good impact are our Good Catch program, which has a place in our Employee Portal app where anyone can see what has been submitted as well as yearly and all-time leaderboards for both submissions and the Good Catch of the Month, and the open communication that our leadership has tried to provide.

Some of the best input on how to really solve a safety issue has come from the crews being able to talk it out as a group and our leadership being able to help align that input to our desired outcomes. For younger employees, taking part in this process can be super valuable as they can hear from more seasoned employees but also offer their take, which can be insightful as well.”

Timothy Shaw, Information Success Coordinator, McCumber Well Service

Getting Younger Employees’ Buy-In

One of the most impactful ways to motivate younger workers to reduce their risk tolerance is to focus on technology. This generation grew up with mobile phones, apps, and social media, and their cell phones are likely attached at their hips.

Certainly, if distractions from a mobile phone or electronic tablet could result in safety hazards at work, consider implementing a ban on such usage in high-risk work areas. But, once you’ve identified those risks and implemented policies and practices to properly address those issues, consider the ways in which you can leverage technology to work to your advantage.

For instance, consider including your safety data sheets (SDSs) in a mobile application accessible 24/7 from a mobile phone or tablet. Embrace the fact that the days of exclusively relying on an old dusty binder that’s chock full of SDSs are generally gone and that it’s time to empower the workforce by placing the safety information they need at their fingertips. This can also be an opportunity to bring those younger workers into the process of selecting an app to use so they feel included and are proactively contributing to the process.

And, one more point about those SDSs

They can be a great tool for educating the workforce about potential workplace hazards to avoid. As a best practice, regularly review your SDSs to ensure they are up-to-date and available to the workforce. Consider questions like “Do we have an inventory for all the chemicals we keep onsite?” and “Have we inadvertently tossed any SDSs”? If the answer is yes, take note because those need to be maintained for 30 years (long after these younger workers have entered the workforce).

By putting yourself in the mindset of a younger worker, you’ll be better able to train them on how to avoid safety mishaps at work and hopefully reduce your incidence rates overall and maintain a healthy workforce.

KPA’s got the training, tools, and talent to help you keep your young workforce engaged. If you would like to discuss other ways to engage younger workers so they become less risk tolerant, contact KPA today.

And hey, KPA Connect Members – thanks a million for sharing your insights with us and your peers. Your perspectives are helping us all stay safe out there!

About The Author

Toby Graham

Toby manages the marketing communications team here at KPA. She's on a quest to help people tell clear, fun stories that their audience can relate to. She's a HUGE sugar junkie...and usually starts wandering the halls looking for cookies around 3pm daily.

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