With more than 53.5 millennials in the workforce, the 20- to 35-year-old age bracket is now far exceeding baby boomers in the workplace and reshaping how employers are approaching occupational safety training.
Studies show millennials have different views on workplace safety education and training than their parents and grandparents. Millennials grew up in turbulent times, with major national tragedies such as 9/11 and mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School shaping their perceptions of safety. They are also the first generation with a ubiquitous technology and social media influence.
Unlike the Gen Xers before them or the iGens (post-millennials, Gen Zers, selfie gens) after them, millennials view personal safety as a top workplace issue, an American Psychological Association (APA) survey found.
“As young professionals, they look for processes, documentation, and recruitment language as evidence of a commitment to workplace safety,” the risk management group Thomas McGee said.
When designing occupational safety training programs, safety specialists should keep the distinct needs of millennials in mind. The bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety program at Eastern Kentucky University offers coursework in safety training strategies, safety health and program management, and human factors in occupational safety as foundational work to become effective safety specialists.
Safety specialists must be ready to bring new concepts to an old topic to implement effective safety education and training for millennials.
New Ways Of Learning
Unlike the generations before them, millennials were introduced at an early age to the computer as a different method for learning. In the past, textbooks and in-person learning were the primary modes of education. Today’s workforce expects learning to be connected to technology and quick bits of information. With that understanding in mind, safety professionals look to several methods to engage millennials in education and training:
Microlearning provides information in nuggets with specific objectives. Although microlearning can be offered in any format, it is best when accessible via smartphone, desktop computer, or tablet. Sessions running longer than five minutes defeat the concept of microlearning.
Occupational Health & Safety Magazine said part of the appeal of microlearning is it can be used to meet specific needs. For example, if part of the daily activities for a team of workers was to use a ladder, a manager could set up a microlearning session about ladder safety. The session would be short and to the point, causing little interruption in the daily workflow.
Walmart recently used its version of microlearning for warehouse training with great results. The company’s app for warehouse employees featured three-minute videos about how to do routine tasks. In the six months of using the microtraining sessions, the number of injuries deemed reportable to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fell by about half.
“Boring, long-winded lectures just don’t cut it with workers raised on the short, staccato pace of Twitter and Facebook,” Heather Clancy of Fortune said in “Corporate Training Gets an Upgrade for the Facebook Generation.”
Gamification, or the integration of game mechanics and elements into non-game contexts, has been found to engage employees and make safety training fun and memorable. It takes all of the personalized principles of gaming (such as points, leaderboards, badges, and levels) and applies it to non-gaming applications.
In the millennial world, gaming is synonymous with video games. However, to meet OSHA compliance regulations that mandate in-person safety and compliance training, many companies have turned to old-school gaming techniques. Resourceful companies including Bottom-Line Performance (BLP) and The Mosaic Company have found ways to meld gamification with occupational safety training.
When The Mosaic Company, a worldwide phosphate mining firm with about 9,000 employees in six countries, partnered with the Indiana-based BLP, the result was a gamification-based training system that met regulatory requirements and engaged workers.
BLP created Phosphate Foundations, a training product that used hands-on and digital gamification. For part of the program, employees use tabletop sandboxes and mining equipment cutouts to practice safe equipment positioning. In other parts, trainees use learning maps, flash cards, and puzzles to illustrate important points and information.
“Rather than just chugging through an agenda, gamification made things a little more interesting for the learners,” BLP marketing director Steven Boller said to Learning Solutions, a publication that focuses on electronic learning.
For years, virtual reality (VR) has been used in all forms of training, including law enforcement and military exercises. VR is a safe way for employees to engage risky situations without all of the accompanying dangers. Now VR is moving into other safety venues, from construction to professional driving.
Recently, the global construction firm Bechtel partnered with the technology research developer Human Condition Safety (HCS) to create a VR safety-training program called SafeScan. For the training, employees wear a VR headset and practice risky work situations, such as unloading a beam from a crane 20 stories in the air on a foggy morning, in the safety of a training room. As the entire workforce completes the VR training, the data is collected and blended with the company’s safety history, OSHA regulatory requirements and other information for risk mitigation.
UPS drivers are also using VR headsets for safety training. The package delivery company has its drivers practicing avoiding road hazards while on simulated city streets. The VR training modules replaced the touchscreen devices UPS had used for years.
“VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games,” said Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer.
Keeping Millennials Safe In The Workplace
Because millennials now account for the largest share of the labor market, baby boomer and Gen X employers are changing to meet their needs. Millennials expect their workplaces to demonstrate an emphasis on keeping them out of harm. Occupational safety training sessions can help workers feel more secure on the job.
Safety experts who have a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety have the education, preparation, and knowhow to ensure that employees feel safe at work. Students at Eastern Kentucky University’s online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety program learn about employee safety education planning, identifying workplace risks, and new ways to keep workers safe. The program prepares graduates to be leaders in the field of safety.
About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Bachelor Of Science In Occupational Safety Program
Students enrolled in the EKU online Bachelor of Science In Occupational Safety learn advanced-level occupational safety skills that prepare them for careers in the public and private sector. The university’s faculty members, who are experts in the safety field themselves, are committed to preparing the next generation of leaders.
The program’s online format allows students to graduate in as few as 2.5 years with a flexible online format. Students and faculty experts remain in constant contact through the interactive course through discussion boards, email, and telephone. For more information, contact EKU now.
Millennials workforce: Pew Research
Millennial age bracket: Pew Research
Millennials and safety: Thomas McGee, Safety Matters newsletter
Microlearning: Occupational Health and Safety Online
Corporate training: Fortune
Gamification: Learning Solutions
VR safety: Bechtel press release
Attracting millennials: Deloitte Review