Optimizing Safety For Older Workers

Optimizing Safety For Older Workers

An older workforce is beneficial to employers as they’re more experienced and knowledgeable. However, it’s also important that organizations understand the needs of aging workers in order to ensure their safety and boost productivity.

Nearly 24 percent of the total U.S. workforce is now age 55 or older, compared to just 18 percent in 2008, the CDC estimates. An older workforce is beneficial to employers as they’re more experienced and knowledgeable. However, it’s also important that organizations understand the needs of aging workers in order to ensure their safety and boost productivity. 

Match tasks to abilities

Almost half of the workforce over the age of 55 has arthritis and/or hypertension, the CDC notes. It’s therefore important for employees to perform tasks that match their physical abilities to avoid injury, strain, and exacerbating chronic conditions. Employees should be permitted to work at their own pace and take breaks when needed. This shouldn’t give employers cause for concern, however. In one survey, 71 percent of hiring managers identified maturity and professionalism as the top benefit of hiring older workers, while 70 percent also cited stronger work ethic. Moreover, employers should expect the number of older workers to increase into the future. Seniors are choosing to work past retirement age for its many benefits. For example, older workers can earn more money and increase their savings for when they do retire. It also helps them keep a sharp mind and fit, healthy body.

Improve ergonomics

Improving ergonomics in the workplace reduces strain on the body and creates healthier, pain-free employees. In particular, prolonged sitting increases the risk of chronic health problems. Consider investing in sit/stand workstations, which allow workers to easily switch between working from a seated position to a standing position — this is healthier for the musculoskeletal system. In one 7-week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue compared to those who spent the work day seated. Eighty-seven percent of participants using standing desks also experienced increased vigor and energy at work.

Eliminate noise hazards

Take extra caution when assessing noise hazards in your workplace. Something that may seem like no issue for a younger worker may be a potential hazard for an older one. For example, older workers may be more sensitive to higher levels of noise than younger ones (although hearing protection should always be provided if the sound level exceeds 85 decibels). Either eliminate the source of the noise or move older workers, so they can comfortably hear and communicate with co-workers without damaging their hearing. 

Caring for an aging workforce doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming. It’s a chance to ensure your employees remain engaged, active, and healthy. Making sure older employees only perform tasks suitable for their physical abilities, improving ergonomics, and eliminating safety hazards will keep your workforce both safe and productive. 

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  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January February 2021

    January February 2021

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