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As an organisational psychologist I worked for a client whose workplace health and safety record was declining partly because of the demographic who worked there: adolescent men. It turns out that young people, especially young men, are less risk averse than older age groups because their brains aren’t fully formed until their mid-twenties. Who’d have thought? Actually, the research supports what many of us already reckon we already know.
Before the mid-twenties, people’s ability to fully judge risks, properly plan and accurately perceive hazards isn’t typically matured. I conducted a survey that showed that employees aged from 15 to 25 struggled to properly identify risks. This did two things: proved there was a problem and presented it, irrefutably, in hard data.
Then came the real challenge, how to bring about safer behaviour change.
Working with management, I created an interactive psychological training program that explained brain development and consciously equipped younger workers with skills to counteract their age-related risk misjudgements.
We called the program YOLO (You Only Live Once, for oldies) because it evoked both risk taking and life protection. The YOLO plan was rolled out across sites throughout this particular state, empowering workers with psychological intelligence that could transform outcomes and keep teams safe.
Let’s talk bang for buck that this psychological expertise brought about: a 75 per cent decrease in workplace accidents and rave reviews from the workers themselves. We’d used psychological insights to give them more mature, lower risk taking brains.