Wednesday, October 30, 2013

9 Keys to Creating a Safe Multigenerational Workplace

Earlier this month, at the National Safety Congress & Expo, Robert Pater, the managing director of SSA/MoveSMART, presented “Sustaining Safety: Both Older and Younger Workers” to provide tips on how safety professionals can meet the needs of workers of all ages.

According to Pater, there are 9 keys to sustaining safety for both older and younger workers:

  1. Plan beyond sustaining. Rather than simply training younger workers to ultimately replace older workers and continue operations at a consistent level of efficiency, managers should encourage continued growth among workers of all ages.
  2. Know that what’s good for older workers can also be good for younger workers. While older workers may have physical conditions that require them to conserve energy and maintain balance, if younger workers use the same techniques, they may prevent cumulative trauma and keep them working safely at older ages than previous generations.
  3. Adapt and modify what you can. Workers of any age may be able to perform tasks more safely by using the right equipment.
  4. Strengthen strengths and reduce weaknesses. Employees of various ages can work together to strengthen the workforce as a whole. A common weakness of younger workers is lack of experience, which can be reduced by having older workers mentor younger workers. Likewise, a common weakness of older workers is that they know little about emerging technology, an area about which they can learn from younger workers.
  5. Boost control. Rather than merely giving workers tools to improve their safety on the job, safety professionals should teach workers how they can improve their own safety at work.
  6. Self-monitor. Acknowledging and monitoring your own weaknesses can bring about a reduction in those weaknesses.
  7. Relationship between home and work. Everyone, regardless of age, can recognize that there is life beyond work. To get people to pay attention to warnings and guidance, safety professionals should demonstrate that there is a strong off-work safety component to all approaches to safety.
  8. Train everyone about strengths and weaknesses. All age groups have certain strengths and weaknesses. Young workers are ambitious, but at the same time may be over-confident. Older workers may have a more realistic view of what the organization needs, yet they may be resistant to the changes their company needs in order to grow. By identifying these strengths and weaknesses, workers can better self-monitor and can also gain an awareness of what other workers may be experiencing.
  9. There’s a lot everyone can do. Responsibility for safety should not be placed solely on workers of a certain age or on workers of certain positions. Instead, group dialogue on safety should be promoted so that workers of all ages, positions and departments can share concerns and state their needs.
An earlier blog post discusses Pater's ideas about skill sets that affect workers of all ages.