Workplace Safety Trends

Millennials Are Better at Safety Than You

Younger business owners were raised on technology. Now they’re using it to their advantage, including how they keep their people safe at work.
By: | July 16, 2018 • 4 min read

Millennials grew up immersed in technology. So it makes sense that as they’ve taken their place in the workforce and launched businesses of their own, technology is embedded in every aspect of their workplaces — including how they keep their employees safe on the job.


According to Nationwide’s fourth annual Business Owner Survey, millennial business owners are twice as likely to be using connected technologies as part of their safety efforts.

Of the 1,000 small- to mid-sized U.S. business owners surveyed, almost one-third of business owners rely on technologies like telematics, drones, wearables and building sensors to support workplace safety. Among millennials, that number is 71 percent.

The results, said Tony Fenton, vice president of commercial lines product & underwriting, Nationwide, are a validation that technology is placing an increasing role in the operations of small and mid-sized business owners.

Tony Fenton, vice president of commercial lines product & underwriting, Nationwide

“It’s amazing the evolution we’ve seen in the industry and the tools that are available to business owners,” he said. “Ultimately [these] tools allow companies to advance their risk management profile and tactics.”

The most common connected technologies millennial-aged business owners use for their workplace safety efforts are:

  • Building sensors, such as those that can detect humidity, temperature, water leaks and equipment failure, among other conditions. At least 36 percent of millennial business owners are using sensors, compared to 16 percent of all business owners.
  • Personal wearables, such as wristbands or watches, belts and other personal sensors, are being used by 32 percent of millennial business owners to detect physical strain. This technology is in use across 13 percent of all businesses surveyed.
  • Drones are used by 21 percent of millennials to reach or inspect areas that could be dangerous for their workers. Around 7 percent of all business owners are using drones this way.
  • Vehicle telematics are commonly used to help reduce distracted driving. Eleven percent of all business owners employ telematics, while 20 percent of millennial business owners are using it.

According to the survey, 51 percent of businesses do not employ a dedicated safety professional. That job may fall to an executive or manager who wears a wide variety of hats.

Those companies don’t have the resources to deploy safety staff throughout the company and monitor safety every hour of the day. That’s why the use of technology has become an integral part of the safety mission.

“Technology enables a stronger vantage point into the operation,” said Fenton. “A small business owner can’t be there at every single step of the process or the business operation but can use technology to mitigate risk and mitigate workplace injuries.”

“A small business owner can’t be there at every single step of the process or the business operation but can use technology to mitigate risk and mitigate workplace injuries.” — Tony Fenton, vice president of commercial lines product & underwriting, Nationwide

Advanced technologies enable business owners to better understand risk “and allow for [adoption of] some upmarket safety management tactics,” he said.

“A technology solution such as telematics allows you to know how your drivers are actually performing and behaving in the market. To have that information at your fingertips as a fleet owner is a pretty amazing tool.”

Invest Wisely, Like Millennials Do

Smaller operations may not have the capital to dive headfirst into a technology-driven safety environment. But even small investments can have a major impact on safety performance.

“You don’t have to employ all of the different technologies at once,” said Fenton. “[Ask yourself] what issue you are trying to solve, where is the greatest opportunity within your business, and take a purposeful step in that direction.”


Having the advice of an agent or broker could be beneficial for most business owners, no matter how savvy their understanding of newer technologies.

Fenton said that’s why one of the key takeaways of this year’s survey is a “call to action for carriers to think about how they can better support their members and customers in this journey … to have professionals that are versed in the technology and can be a guidepost or consult as the technology is enabled within a customer’s operation.”

While the “zero injury” workplace has long been considered a pipe dream by some, recent technological developments are quickly bringing that ideal closer to reality.

“I hope that, ultimately, we get to zero workplace injuries,” said Fenton, “and I see technology as an enabler of that.” &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.


R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.


R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]