Who knows what age determines when a person becomes a member of the “aging workforce”, or what is sometimes referred to as the “chronologically-gifted workforce?” Those “baby boomers” born after World War II should be getting ready to retire; however, times have changed. Americans are living longer and they are also working longer. Regardless of the reasons to continue working, older workers bring knowledge, experience, and wisdom to many aspects of business. Studies report that in general, there is lower turnover, more dedication to the workplace, more positive attitudes, and less absenteeism than from a younger workforce.
Employers must apply safety practices in the workplace to prevent significant injuries to all employees, not just the older workers. However, there are some reasons that extra care should be taken to ensure the safety of those whose hearing, vision, or balance may slow them down a little. Training may be different for older workers. New skills should be explained in a way that they understand. Simply put, justification and logic- why you are doing what you are doing is the easiest message to get across to workers of any age.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, these are some changes that happen as workers age:
- Balance – Injuries involving falls are more common to older workers. Slips and falls account for 14 to 40 percent of non-fatal occupational injuries to workers of all ages. Work should be matched up to a person’s abilities. The correct Personal Protective Equipment should be furnished to all workers.
- Muscular – Older workers may lose muscle mass, which means they lose strength. They may tire more easily, and need to exercise daily to be fit and flexible.
- Respiratory – Oxygen uptake declines after the age of 50, and physical activity is more difficult. If the worker is not able to do strenuous tasks, they should be assigned a less physically demanding job.
- Vision – Many folks in their forties sometimes begin to notice that they do not see as well as they did when they were younger. Workers should be encouraged to have their eyes checked regularly. Signs at workplaces should be easily seen and easy to read and follow.
- Circulatory – We all know that in the summer, outside workers need more breaks and water to cope with heat stress. These especially apply to the older worker. All workers should be allowed proper consideration to accommodate what their bodies can withstand in cold or hot weather conditions.
- Mental – Older persons are usually able to perform mental tasks just as well as their younger counterparts. They are still able to learn to do new things, it might just take them a little longer. Changes in mental ability and physical condition do not happen to everyone as they age.
- Hearing – Employers should be aware that some older workers may be less able to hear verbal instructions if the background is noisy, and be sure that they understand what is being requested of them.
The older generations didn’t have all the technology exists now. They did many things the old-fashioned way – the hard way! We also need to appreciate the fact that they are willing to go out into this busy, fast-paced world and do their jobs with the pride and work ethics they were taught. They can teach us all a thing or two! Let’s keep them safe.