According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 330 baby boomers turn 60 every day! There are almost 78 million persons who are considered baby boomers – those born from 1946 to 1964. Estimates are that all but the youngest ones will reach retirement age by the year 2018. With the state of our economy, however, older workers are still going strong, well past retirement age.
Manufacturing companies and other industries may have trouble filling the jobs held by many types of skilled workers due to the fact that younger workers are looking for white-collar (non-manufacturing) positions. It is imperative that companies look ahead and support their current base as well as attract new workers. Companies that can meld all ages into their work- force will be successful with productivity, competitiveness, and safety. Knowledge that can be passed on from older workers to younger ones in ample time is very important.
Although older workers normally don’t sustain injuries as often as less-experienced ones, recovery time may take longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers 65 and older may experience an absence time of 16 days, compared to 6 days for workers ages 25-34. Of course, this depends on the extent of the injury. An older worker may fracture a bone, rather than experience a sprain or strain, at an earlier age.
Companies must be mindful that as bodies change, accommodations to their jobs can be made. Cross-departmental risk assessments can be beneficial, as different groups working together can furnish fresh pairs of eyes that are able to spot safety issues in new ways. The training process of new workers is of the utmost importance. Including the experienced workers into that training process will afford the new employee a “first-hand view” of the job involved. If it is felt that the older worker has some physical problems, the company can offer him/her alternate tasks, especially those that require repetitive movements during a full shift. Another option is to ask older workers if they are interested in part-time shifts or job-sharing.
Annual health screenings are very important, both to companies and employees alike. Those companies who strive for 100% participation in these screenings will benefit from them. Especially if they are held during work time, employees will be more likely to participate. On-site exercise equipment is also a great way to encourage workers (young and old) to stay in shape.
We all know the importance of wearing the right Personal Protective Equipment. Experienced workers could be asked to demonstrate to new employees the types of equipment that are required in their particular job, and stress the importance of wearing and maintaining their PPE. They can explain that they wear it every day – whether it’s goggles, earplugs, OSHA safety glasses, gloves, or any other type of PPE, in order to protect themselves. They, along with safety leaders, can give details of the hazards that exist. Sometimes, hearing it from someone who has seen incidents or been involved in accidents, can make a greater impact on a new employee.
As mentioned earlier, we see more and more of the “chronologically-gifted workforce,” and are thankful for it. There are many folks well past the baby boomers that get up and go to work every day. There are many reasons – some simply enjoy staying active and others work because they can use the extra money, or both! Older workers bring knowledge and experience to businesses. They are dedicated to their work, and have positive attitudes toward their work and coworkers. They set a good example to keep the “youngsters” going! We must keep them and all workers safe!