Only a fifth of young employees speak up…
A study analyzing the attitudes of 21,000 young workers (ages 15-25) towards workplace safety found that 21% of respondents had experienced a lost-time injury at their current employer. That’s a shockingly high statistic but what’s even more alarming is that half of those workers didn’t even tell anyone about their injury. Despite having an injury severe enough to halt work for an extended period, they never reported it to a safety professional or their employer.
Part of this issue can be attributed to the small-job environment that many teenagers experience growing up. Most teens’ early job experience is from spending summers working for family friends in backyards or babysitting. Jobs where there obviously are no posted safety procedures, safety professionals or formal management. It’s low risk work and usually only causes micro-accidents, which are injuries like bruises and burns that are not serious or even noteworthy. However, this creates a habit of not telling anyone about their injuries that can carry over into future jobs.
Once young workers do reach the real working world, they have no experience in safety procedures and while they may have been trained on what is expected, there can often still be a fear or anxiety around safety reporting. Think about when you were the new guy or gal at your fist real job, you didn’t want to jeopardize your supervisor’s or team members’ opinion of you. Therefore, you might have hidden an injury that you felt wasn’t a big deal or you simply didn’t tell anyone.
Respondents who avoided reporting their injury cited a concern about their self-identity as a main reason. Young employees can be nervous and afraid to admit they made a mistake and they do not realize that this is not productive for the company, or themselves. Furthermore, many employees don’t realize what is considered “work-related.” While it may be obvious to the older generation, the young folks haven’t experienced it before.
Change your approach
Finding a solution for this underreporting starts with cultural awareness. Remind your crews that it is not just OK to report, but expected that you will do so. Also, making sure that reporting is easy to do and can be done a by any single employee. Changing the mindset of employees in the field is not an easy task and neither is removing the perceived stigma around reporting incidents. However, the best way to promote employee engagement and reporting is by making the process quick and immediately accessible without the need to contact a supervisor first.
Simplifying the process of safety makes reporting less
daunting which will promote awareness and action.
By putting reporting software on every employee’s mobile device, you allow employees to report from the safety and privacy of their own device. Doing so will both send the message that they should use the tool and allow them to report injuries or near-misses remotely, at any time and anonymously. This means that a young employee who is afraid of directly telling their crew about their injury can pull out their phone and notify the safety professional in minutes without feeling like they are causing a scene.