The American workforce is getting older. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of workers aged 65 or older has grown by 117% between 1994 and 2014. Their projections anticipate growth in industries that affect older people, including health care and social assistance. Conversely, manufacturing is expected to reduce jobs as technology and overseas workers take the place of American employees.
So employees in every line of work need to take care of their bodies as they age. If they are injured, healing can take longer, and serious injuries can be more severe. Employers can help manage health risks with a few simple adjustments to training and the factory floor and/or office.
Encourage workers to take brief breaks to stretch and move around. It’s easy to pick up the phone and maybe even easier to send an email or text message to a co-worker, but what about having employees get up and walk to another person when it’s time to have a conversation? It can be encouraged in many situations.
Floor mats and specialized shoes can help reduce the chance of slip and fall or foot injury. Clearly identify stairs and ladders, and revise requirements to minimize moving to different heights in the workplace. Handrails and guards can also protect against a significant fall.
An ergonomic workstation, with a computer and chair at the right height, or a comfortable pad under where a worker stands to do their job, helps reduce repetitive strain.
Companies can offer wellness programs with support for healthy eating, exercise, and regular doctor visits.
Most of these guidelines are useful for everyone, whether they’re in their late 60s or just out of college. Research finds that older workers aren’t much more likely to suffer injuries than any other age group of workers. However, the injuries that older workers suffer are, on average, more severe.
Changing job requirements to make those injuries less likely and less intense can help prevent harm (and as an employer, lost time) overall. Older workers can probably do a lot of the same work they have always done, especially if it’s more mental than physical, like using a computer or managing staff.
For the work that’s more difficult, talk with your employee. They know their job best, and at the same time don’t want to hurt themselves again. That combination makes them the best person to help determine what they can still do themselves and what should be turned over to someone else.
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