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Q&A: The future of workplace safety, OSHA and the multigenerational workforce

Posted On: Oct. 4, 2017 7:00 AM CST

SafeStart CEO and author Larry Wilson and senior safety consultant Tim Page-Bottorff recently spoke to Business Insurance reporter Joyce Famakinwa at the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Indianapolis about the future of workplace safety, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and workplace safety within a multigenerational workforce. SafeStart provides human error prevention training and safety consultation to employers and organizations. Edited excerpts follow.

Business Insurance: What questions should employers be asking about the future of workplace safety?

Larry Wilson: The first is, will it be more regulated? The second question is, is it going to remain within risk management, that kind of silo, or is it going to become integrated into operations like quality did in the 80s and 90s? Then the last question is, is it going to remain in the workplace or is it going to be 24/7?

Tim Page-Bottorff: The third one was workplace safety versus 24/7 focus, so do we do around-the-clock safety or do we focus just strictly at the workplace?

BI: How will OSHA affect the future of workplace safety? Moving forward will there be more regulations and are we seeing any kind of changes with the current administration?

Mr. Page-Bottorff: As a matter of fact, they probably won't be able to get to as many workplaces as they have in the past. The current administration does have the one-for-two (executive order), so for any new regulations they want you to remove two. The current administration is probably not going to increase regulations. It'll probably be less.

BI: How does a multigenerational workforce play a role in the future of workplace safety?

Mr. Page-Bottorff: One of the biggest challenges we see is that the retirement level right now is pretty high. The turnover for a lot of organizations is higher than normal. When you look at the people coming in, one thing that we can't do is just throw them into a category like millennials. If the millennials are coming in, that doesn't mean that every single millennial coming in is going to have the same behavior. So, no judging, look at everybody as individuals, but then if you want that company to move forward then we have to give the individuals the tools to move forward.

Mr. Wilson: One of the things when you have a multigenerational workforce is that because of old school thinking we're going to manage and motivate people with rules. Well, that's now very difficult because regardless of who you are, you can't have different rules for young people than you have for old people. You have to have the same rules for everybody. But if you looked at motivating people with positive reinforcement, which is a much more effective motivational tool, you can target your positive reinforcement to the age group very specifically.