How does workforce diversity impact workplace safety in the crane and specialized transport sector?

By Joel Dandrea12 September 2022

There’s one thing about a modern workforce. In a word: diversity. In the case of most industry-related businesses at this point, it’s a merger of both culture and generational dynamics – which present challenges and opportunities.

Applying it to safety, the question emerges: how can we create an effective safety culture in the workplace within a diverse employee base?

Construction workers Different generations have different approached to workplace safety. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

It’s an important question for any construction, transport or manufacturing company to both ask and answer. Ultimately, it requires a willingness to understand what “culture” is actually referring to and how it impacts organisational goals and priorities.

How does culture shape workplace safety?

At the end of the day, culture is the character and personality of your organisation. It’s what makes your business unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes. At its best, positive workplace culture attracts talent, drives engagement, impacts happiness and satisfaction and affects performance.

To that end, the personality of your business is influenced by everything. Leadership, management, workplace practices, policies, people and more have significant impact on culture. Ultimately, the biggest mistake organisations make is letting their workplace culture form naturally without first defining what they want it to be.

That is culture in the macro sense – as it hovers above your company. On the micro level, your workforce comprises its own sense of culture – from what they’ve each learned from their own people, their own groups, their own families and friends. It tells them what’s going on in their world(s), how they should feel, how they should react and what they should react to – and, essentially, how to operate.

So, within a workplace, people are moving around within all types of cultures – nationality, gender, race, religion – beneath an overall organisational culture designed to uphold the safe and productive forward movement of the company.

The workplace safety generational gap

Not to be overlooked within any workplace culture is age. The wider the age ranges, the deeper the impact on the development and refinement of all workplace culture, especially safety culture.

There are four active generations in the modern workforce – and quite likely within your company: Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. At one time, the Boomers (57 to 75 years old) represented the bulk of your workforce. Now they’re aging out at an increasingly rapid pace. Indeed, they’re taking with them a wealth of knowledge, skills and wisdom that only comes from significant experience.

It is important for a couple of reasons. That wellspring of knowledge they possess also translates to some of the most effective on-the-job training you can hope to deliver within your organisation – again, especially in regards to safety. If and when it’s gone, it’s gone. In addition, different generations have different ways of implementing, understanding and complying with safety culture.

Basically, with multiple generations under the same roof – all of them expected to adhere to one overarching company culture, while personally operating within very different individual cultures – things can get a little complicated.

All the more reason to treat that company culture as the glue that holds everyone and everything together. Also, to articulate that message early and often to the entire workforce.

Managing the evolving workforce

On a fundamental level, employers must be able to determine exactly what will make workers choose to act safely and productively, while also working together and committing to the power of the collective – while keeping in mind that culture is always a work in progress.

It can and will change and it’s too significant to ignore. Shaping it is one of your most important responsibilities as a leader – especially as your workplace continues to evolve.

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