Scott Burrows

Scott Burrows, Motivational Safety and Team Engagement Speaker

Engaging the Younger Workforce about Safety is a Life Changer

As a motivational safety and team engagement speaker with a passion for speaking to the younger workforce, I have always admired the following quote by Coach Tony Dungy:

“I enjoy talking to young people, and talking to people about helping young people. That part is not a chore. It’s pretty fun, and something I like to do because I think it’s important.”

When speaking to safety teams, I have never forgotten the costly mistake I made when I was younger. The accident was a careless slip-up that would result in my quadriplegia. It is why I am so passionate when speaking on the topic of safety and how to engage younger employees in a way that is meaningful to reduce accidents.

OSHA Statistics

Reporting on workplace injuries among younger employees in Safety + Health magazine, some startling statistics were related by OSHA:

“People younger than 25 are 2 times as likely as older workers to be injured on the job. In 2012 (alone) more than 170,000 young workers were injured and 361 were killed at work…”

According to OSHA, the most common ways that younger workers get injured are: Insufficient safety training, working with unsafe equipment; Poor supervision, performing work that is illegal for young workers, such as operating certain types of equipment; and being pressured to work quickly.

The OSHA findings are interesting in that all of the reasons for injuries are either wholly or in-part related to a lack of training and supervision. Safety training for younger people (whether they are full-time or temporary workers) will save lives.

As we approach the New Year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting that “those professions that will experience the fastest growth next year are healthcare, personal care, social assistance and construction.”

Each one of those areas is fraught with the danger to younger workers from injury whether from improper lifting, slips and falls, travel and transport, improper use of machinery, exposure to chemicals or disease or combinations of several factors.

However, I am also aware that engaging younger employees – especially in today’s workplace, is far different than a few decades ago. What has changed?

The Young Employee

To reach younger employees, it is essential to meet them where they are, and to not assume the younger employee who works in construction is that fundamentally different than an office worker. Younger workers are overwhelmed with information and may even be addicted to the digital devices that carry that information, but that’s not the point.

Today’s younger workers will challenge safety officers. They will want to know why they may or may not be given sufficient safety training.  If the equipment they are working with is safe (they even have access to equipment ratings), why they aren’t given closer supervision if safety instruction is lacking or why they are being pressured to perform?

Younger workers are coming from a place of greater inter-dependency, teamwork and greater access to online resources, podcasts, seminars and occasionally conflicting pieces of information.

Younger workers, in turn, can educate. For those in any aspect of the construction or the healthcare trades, chances are they have been through some intensive aspect of vocational studies. The messages of safety have been drilled into everything they do. They are serious and so should be your organization.

It will come down to every employer having the vision of creating a safe workplace and the determination to reinforce zero tolerance for injuries. It is important to talk and to listen. The real winners will be those safety officers who can do both.


Hire Scott Burrows, Motivational Safety and Team Engagement Speaker for your next meeting through this website or by calling: (520) 548-1169

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