Work Smart. Work Safe.
Keep your "Heads Up" and work safe!

Can workers who come from different generations learn from each other? Absolutely!

By Calissa Reid

When I was younger, if I mentioned to my father that I’d had a particularly rough day at school or work he’d jokingly reply “You should’ve been raised in the ‘70s. I had to walk 10km —uphill both ways— to get to school when I was a kid!” Of course, none of what he said was true, but it got me thinking about different generations and what they might consider a “rough day”. For me, that might involve receiving a poor grade on a test or my hair not curling the way I like it. For my dad, it could be the stress of managing employees or his lawn mower breaking down.

One thing I think all generations agree on is that a workplace injury definitely means it’s a “rough day”.  And while Heads Up is focused on young worker safety, it’s everybody’s responsibility to ensure that the work environment is safe. Most workplaces across Alberta are diverse, and chances are you’ll be working with people of all ages. So let’s take a look at why an age diverse workplace is good for all workers – young and old.

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Young and old(er) working together. Just perfect.

Older workers are experienced.  Young workers, you may not think that old guy standing next to you has much in common with you, but the truth is that man has spent years in his field of work and is an excellent resource for questions. You should look at the senior staff at your job as mentors, they’ve likely experienced the exact situation you’re in and they may have some really solid advice to offer. Older workers can give you the guidance to do your job correctly and safely, and you may even learn a bit more about the disco decade too.

Young workers offer a new perspective. I spoke to my coworkers about what they liked about having us young summer students on the job and I was told that we are enthusiastic, inquisitive and open to trying new things. How can these attributes be used in a safety context? We’re the future of our workplaces, we can use these traits to examine our safety practices and improve them. Younger workers will learn a lot from senior staff, but we can teach stuff to the older generation as well – and not just how to turn on an iPod.

Sure we may have grown up indifferent decades, but we’re both here to work and get home safely at the end of the day.  Communication is key.  Senior workers must communicate the critical behaviours and safety practices they need to see us practicing on the job. What may seem like common sense to an experienced worker may not be good judgment to a young worker who may not even recognize a potentially dangerous situation.  Young workers must feel confident enough to ask questions and speak up about safety. Communication builds stronger relationships and a close knit workplace, where coworkers can look out for one another and stay safe at work.

It may seem strange to talk to the person who is 30 years older or younger than you, but you may learn things about your job and make a new friend. Try it, I promise it’ll be worth it.

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