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

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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