An estimated 25% of the US workforce is expected to be older than 55 years of age by 2026 according to the statistics published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An increasing number of aging workers are now choosing to work beyond the traditional retirement age for a number of reasons, including social contact, inadequate retirement savings, and workplace stimulation.
While older workers get injured less frequently as compared to the younger workforce, they often suffer more severe injuries and have longer recovery times. Clearly, employers should take necessary measures for preventing injuries among the older workforce.
Aging Effects can Increase the Risk of Workplace Injuries
Aging may contribute to a wide array of physical and cognitive impairments. It may impact an individual’s ability to perform physically demanding jobs safely. Older adults are at a greater risk of sustaining debilitating and severe injuries that takes longer to recover from. A few factors increasing the risk of workplace injuries and accidents among older adults include:
- Vision and hearing loss
- Loss of muscle strength
- Slow response time
- Balance issues
- Trouble remembering things
- Limited range of motion
- Health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and hypertension
A primary reason why older workers are at a higher risk of suffering fatal injuries is that they already live with pre-existing medical conditions. These can get inflamed by work.
Arthritis and hypertension are two common health problems as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Arthritis may increase the likelihood of injury while performing physical labor and hypertension may increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Ways to Prevent Workplace Injuries Among Older Workforce
- Improve ergonomics
Aging workers don’t just need protection from one-time accidents, but they should be protected from stress-related injuries as well. Stress injuries tend to occur because of repetitive work tasks. Aging workers are at significant risk of damaging their wrists, backs, and necks.
Employers can make the workplace more ergonomic by ensuring the workers have access to ergonomic equipment, such as chairs, keyboards, mouse, and computers. Requiring or providing supportive footwear can go a long way in preventing stress injuries as well.
- Identify risky and problem areas
Employers should identify the types of injuries that are more common among their aging employees by looking through work accident reports. This information can be used for implementing safeguards. Same-level falls are highly common among older employees. Same-level falls are more dangerous in aging workers as compared to younger employees. This can occur because of poorly maintained floors, spills, bad weather, and improper footwear.
- Remove the need for manual lifts
Lifting is a common injury cause among all employees. The risk only increases with age. Employers should consider eliminating manual lifting completely for their aging workforce, if possible. Mechanical lifts can be employed for bringing items from the floor to a reasonable height. This can be used by the older employees during stocking duties.
Proper form is necessary when lifting items that are heavy. Moreover, it can be difficult to train and enforce proper posture. Managers can eliminate the guesswork by using mechanical lifts. Consider rotating lifting tasks among the staff members if manual lifting is required as part of the job role. This will ensure that the same people are not stuck with lifting tasks every time.
- Don’t expect the same level of performance
Everyone should not be expected to perform at the exact same level. Managers should look at the individual needs of every worker. Some employees may not be able to perform as well as other younger workers. Instead of putting pressure or penalizing them to work faster, the management should set goal slabs. This will ensure that each worker has the responsibility to complete tasks as per their capabilities. It will reduce the risk of injuries.
- Shift from individual productivity to team productivity
By focusing on team productivity rather than individual productivity, pressure on aging workers can be reduced. Each member of the team should have the freedom to decide which tasks to be done. This can help towards equitable distribution of work.
Older workers may not be pressured into performing actions that are unhealthy or dangerous for them. This requires a healthy environment where coworkers are interested in fostering a safe work environment and protecting each other instead of slacking. Try rotating tasks if this setup is not possible.
- Speak with your employees
Employers should have an open-door policy where their workers get the chance to talk about their concerns. Aging employees should be made to feel safe while giving their input regarding pressure in the workplace or performing any dangerous tasks. Setting up a focus group or a workplace safety committee can help in making the place safer for everyone.
Get Legal Help from Committed and Compassionate Pensacola, FL Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
The seasoned workers’ comp lawyers at Whibbs, Stone & Barnett will work hard to help you obtain maximum compensation for the injuries you may have suffered on the job. You can schedule a free consultation with our legal team to discuss your workers’ compensation claim. Call us at 850-493-7819 or reach us online.