Nearly one of four people aged 64 to 75 are still at work – and the number is skyrocketing, with more Baby Boomers who reach retirement age staying in the workplace. The good news: Older workers have a lower injury rate. The bad news: Their injuries tend to be more serious and require more time away from work.
Senior workers have specific safety issues. Their retention is often shorter, they’re more easily distracted, have slower reaction time, declining vision and hearing, and a poorer sense of balance. These physical limitations lead to specific types of injuries for older workers, ranging from falls to accumulated injuries after years of doing the same task What’s more, they sometimes deny their deteriorating abilities, which can lead to them to trying to work past their new limits.
Indicators that older workers might need accommodations can be physical (fatigue or tripping), psychological/emotional (loss of patience or irritability), numbers and patterns of sick days, or more frequent minor injuries or near misses.
You can help protect your senior workers by:
- finding ways for them to work smarter, not harder
- decreasing activities that require exertion, such as working in heat or cold or climbing ladders
- adjusting work areas with better lighting, reduced noise, fewer obstacles, and less need to bend or stoop
- redefining standards of productivity
- learning the limitations of older workers, perhaps by conducting annual hearing or vision tests
Make sure that safety culture becomes an institutional value for all employees. For example, when on-the-job feedback indicates that an older worker is having trouble, don’t fire the person. This will discourage honest input from employees who might feel responsible for their co-worker’s loss of employment.
For more information on making your workplace safer for older employees, feel free to get in touch with us.