Successful organizations pay attention to safety. Even more so, they manage safety and consider changes in operations, equipment, workforce, and adjust their safety strategies and efforts accordingly.
The makeup of the working population is changing. This change includes more aging workers remain on the job longer, while younger workers are joining the workforce. The change is influenced from many areas including recent economic conditions. Much has been written about the value of older workers including increased loyalty, application of life, work experience to an organization, and their ability to mentor younger workers.
Aging workers tend to have a lower injury frequency rate. At the same time, resulting injuries can be more serious and recovery times are often longer. Potential safety concerns with older workers include shorter memory, slower reaction time, balance issues, hearing and vision limitation, and a various number of other limitations. Susceptible injuries include falls, strains, and repetitive motion injuries.
Knowing these statistics, how should an organization’s safety management program respond to this workforce trend? Companies can begin by evaluating their workforce and becoming proactive using our tips:
- Evaluate physical demands of the job and adjust according to the workers ability. A job safety analysis can be a great tool to identify potential hazards and identify how to minimize risk.
- Rotate job tasks in order to manage physical demands. This can limit repetitive motions, vary the muscle groups needed to perform tasks during the day, and can improve attention span.
- Minimize heavy lifting requirements or provide improved ergonomic assistance such as adjustable height worktables for loading of boxes, etc. Workers using heavier tools can often be improved by weight limiters and other devices.
- Focus on slip, trip, and fall issues in the workplace as these accidents represent a high percentage of injuries to older workers. Eliminate or provide warning for change in elevations in walking and working surfaces. Add slip resistant coatings to ramps and stairs. Provide handrails along walking ramps and aisles.
- Provide a high level of illumination in work and walking areas.
- Establish a wellness program that promotes appropriate warm up, stretching, nutrition throughout the workday.
And let us not overlook the obvious – Regular communication with your workforce of all ages is critical in order to understand their needs, challenges, and ideas for continuous safety improvement at your workplace.
Contact an MMA advisor for more information.