Keeping Older Workers Safe on the Job
A recent Associated Press analysis of government data showed that on-the-job fatalities among older workers are occurring at a higher rate than among the workforce as a whole.
According to the AP study workplace deaths overall declined by 22% between 2006 and 2015.
During the same span, however, the on-the-job death rate among workers 55 and older was 50% to 65% higher (depending on the year) than for the workforce generally.
Study authors Maria Ines Zamudio and Michelle Minkoff point out that during the nine-year period covered by their analysis, the number of workers 55 and older rose by 37%, while the population of all other workers increased by only 6%.
Ten Tips for Keeping Older Workers Safe
Noting that today, one in every five American workers is over 65, and in 2020, one in four will be over 55, the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that employers take the following steps to ensure that older workers stay safe on the job:
- Prioritize workplace flexibility. Workers prefer jobs that provide more flexibility over those that offer more vacation days. To the extent possible, give workers a say in their schedule, work conditions, work organization, work location, and work tasks.
- Match tasks to abilities. Use self-paced work, self-directed rest breaks, and less repetitive tasks.
- Avoid prolonged, sedentary work. Prolonged, sedentary work is bad for workers at every age. Consider sit/stand workstations and walking workstations for workers who traditionally sit all day. Provide onsite physical activity opportunities or connections to low-cost community options.
- Manage hazards, including noise, slip/trip hazards, and physical hazards—conditions that can challenge an aging workforce more.
- Provide and design ergo-friendly work environments. Workstations, tools, floor surfaces, adjustable seating, better illumination where needed, and screens and surfaces with less glare.
- Utilize teams and teamwork strategies for aging-associated problem solving. Workers closest to the problem are often best equipped to find the fix.
- Provide health promotion and lifestyle interventions, including physical activity, healthy meal options, tobacco cessation assistance, risk factor reduction and screenings, coaching, and onsite medical care. Accommodate medical self-care in the workplace and time away for health visits.
- Invest in training and building worker skills and competencies at all age levels. Help older employees adapt to new technologies, often a concern for employers and older workers.
- Proactively manage reasonable accommodations and the return-to-work process after illness or injury absences.
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