Get Ready for Older Workforces, ASSE Urges

Warnings that retirements of the Baby Boomer generation will hit U.S. employers hard are nothing new. The American Society of Safety Engineers urged a further step Oct. 30, however: Act now, it advised, so the older employees who will work for you are productive and as safe as possible.

"To accommodate the aging workforce and to work to reduce fatality rates, businesses should design a safe workplace for this large aging and valuable workforce," said Joel Haight, Ph.D, P.E., CSP, CIH, an ASSE member and associate professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State University. "If not they could be faced with a negative economic impact."

ASSE cited DOL statistics for 2004 that show workers 64 and older had the lowest number of occupational injuries among all age groups, yet the fatality rate for those 55 and older rose by 10 percent. Workers 65 and older had a fatality rate three times higher than the fatality rate for workers ages 25-34, with most of the deaths in the older group resulting from falls, struck-by-object, and workplace homicides, DOL said. Employers can take steps such as improving lighting, eliminating heavy lifts and work from ladders, reducing noise levels, and increasing task rotation, ASSE said.

The society will host a "Designing for an Aging Workforce" webinar today from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central time with Haight discussing how physical and cognitive capacity losses affect productivity and injury rates in the aging workforce and whether designing a workspace to accommodate age-related capacity losses truly help to minimize age-induced error rates. To sign up for the webinar, call ASSE Customer Service at 847-699-2929.

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