Responses to the EHS Generation Gap

ISHN's annual White Paper research has indicated some differences in how younger and older safety and health professionals approach their jobs. Readers respond on how age differences affect their choice of tools, tactics, attitudes, and philosophies.

I believe the older safety professionals are the final say/do it this way/ I know safety therefore I know IH-type of managers. I have found it difficult to persuade my safety manager that health, safety, IAQ or ergonomics are really issues that need to be addressed.

As an IH, I think employees need the "warm and fuzzy" approach to break a negative culture and look at things in a kinder, gentler way.

Name and company withheld

Newer professionals that I've had contact with tend to be more proactive problem-solvers rather than enforcement officials. Accountability on the employee's part for following safety rules and regulations is also more effective than "safety watch-dogs." The philosophy today is more team-oriented and less hierarchical. I also think that an educated and informed workforce is much more cooperative than an intimidated one.

R.B. Friske, Quality Manager
Tru-line Manufacturing

Younger safety and health professionals seem to have more environmental concerns than their older counterparts. On the other side, they may not always have the experience needed to make practical decisions. They also don't have the personal experience of how bad things were in industry 25 years ago. We have surely come a long way, but still have more ground to cover. It never really ends.

Frank Jackson, Craft Manager
Rohm and Haas

As a newer pro, it would be really difficult for me to come out and say, "those older pros really don't know what they are doing." There are tools and tactics, as ISHN calls them, that are very well seasoned. Newer pros entering the field can learn some interesting ways to lower accidents, workers' compensation costs, etc., as well as how to manage a successful system of safety. How a newer pro integrates the older information to fit into his/her abilities and beliefs is what makes a newer pro successful -- very successful. Let's think about how we were taught about the field of EHS. It was by the older EHS pros, wasn't it? I really don't believe there is a big generation gap in this field. The small differences of our own personal philosophies integrated with other views are what make us all unique.

Michael D. Wilson, Risk Manager/ Safety Officer City of Murray, Ky