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Propane retailers: How different generations approach workplace safety

September 7, 2018 By    
Propane 1075 placard. Photo by Joe McCarthy

Photo by Joe McCarthy

Today you can’t turn on the news or go online without seeing something about baby boomers retiring at an alarming rate.

It is also reported there are not enough millennials to replace the retiring workforce and employers will have to address what is important to millennials in order to bring this group into the workforce.

Are there different mindsets between the generations when it comes to safety? I believe the answer lies in the experiences and environment to which the generations were exposed.

Baby boomers entered their careers when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency were being formed.

That environment placed heavy emphasis on regulatory compliance for safety program management. When baby boomers entered the workforce, 30-year retirements were expected. They often blended work with life activities and valued helping fellow coworkers and purchasing products they made.

Millennials are more likely to job hop for income or career growth. They grew up with the internet to answer questions, obtain information and identify safety practices. Millennials separate work from their personal life, value having a global impact and flexible work schedules, and purchase products based on quality and price.

If you stop and look at the values and attributes of these two generations, you can start to understand the differences. That is not to say that one is better than the other, but rather there are different approaches to work and safety.

Millennials may place a higher value on safety – especially personal safety – than any other generation. This generation grew up in what continues to be turbulent times. Tragedies like the Oklahoma City bombing; World Trade Center attacks; school and institutional shootings; the increasing number of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, volcano eruptions and earthquakes; as well as conflicts across the globe have ingrained in millennials the importance of overall personal safety.

Millennials are indeed unique when compared to prior generations, and that’s a good thing as it relates to safety.

When it comes to education, there are numerous and exciting media options today. Traditional safety training classes, training videos or PowerPoint presentations can be as interesting as watching paint dry.

Millennials are often blamed for having short attention spans, but in today’s environment, everyone can agree. Texting and social media have shortened our communications, while YouTube has forever changed the way we think of videos.

With education, we continue to find ways to tailor programs to the needs of the individual while reducing the time spent delivering educational materials. This doesn’t eliminate the need for classroom training, but allows employees the flexibility to learn at their own pace.

Online learning has adapted to these changes by breaking courses up into short, interactive modules. Mentoring, apprenticeships and job shadowing are replacing traditional classroom instruction in the workplace, as great value is placed on employees being able to interact with a mentor or coworker while being able to perform tasks in real-life situations.

As employers, we must be aware that one size does not fit all – especially across different generations – and that employees differ in how they absorb, access and retain information. For example, dividing safety training into several sessions versus hours-long marathons might better address learning and comprehension of the training information.

Cross-generational teams can bring out the best in all employees. They allow many views to be heard and can generate unique conversations and approaches to workplace safety. Collaboration across generations is critical to a successful business culture in which safety is a core value for all employees.

Randy Warner is the owner of Warner C3H8 Consulting LLC.

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed herein are solely the author’s and should in no way be interpreted as those of LP Gas magazine or any of its staff members.

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