Question Of The Week: How Can I Address Safety Concerns For Older Workers?

How Can I Address Safety Concerns For Older Workers?

We have quite a few older workers at my facility. What steps do I need to take to address their specific concerns?

By the year 2020, a quarter of the workforce will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established the National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW), including a detailed Web page with information and resources on this timely topic.

Older Worker.
Credit: Valueline

Older workers actually experience fewer workplace injuries than their younger colleagues, according to NIOSH. This may be due to accumulated workplace experience, or increased caution and awareness of physical limitations. However, older workers often require more time to heal, and may experience more absenteeism when they feel ill and more presenteeism when they are feeling ill but come to work nonetheless.

Creating An Age-Friendly Workplace

NIOSH recommends strategies including the following for creating a safer, healthier, more age-friendly workplace:

  • Prioritize flexibility. To the extent possible, give workers a say in their schedule, work conditions, organization, location, and tasks.
  • Match tasks to abilities. Offer self-paced work, self-restricted rest breaks, and less repetitive tasks.
  • Avoid prolonged, sedentary work. Consider providing sit/stand and walking workstations for employees who typically sit all day. Provide on-site physical activity opportunities.
  • Manage hazards like noise, slip/trip hazards, and physical hazards that can challenge an aging workforce.
  • Proactively manage reasonable accommodations after absences due to illness or injury.
  • Get supervisors on board. Train supervisors in aging workforce management skills, with a focus on effective ways to manage a multigenerational workforce.

How does your organization accommodate older employees in the workplace? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.