The Aging Workforce: Boomers on the Job
Workers ages 55 and older are expected to compose one-quarter (25.6 percent) of the workforce in the United States by the year 2022, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. Today, there are more than 30 million working Baby Boomers, making that generation the largest in the labor force. According to the National Research Council, Boomers have fewer work-related lost time injuries than younger workers, in addition to lower incidences of short-term disability claims.
However, as the American workforce gets older, businesses today face additional workplace safety considerations that must be addressed. For example, older workers are more susceptible to rotator cuff and knee injuries as a result of lifting, carrying, slipping and falling. What should businesses do to help prevent work-related injuries? How should they plan to accommodate workers who may have physical restrictions?
Businesses that promote a culture of workplace safety recognize the critical nature of establishing policies and procedures that protect all employees. Consider the following strategies that can be implemented to address workforce safety issues and further protect both your business and your employees from injury or illness on-the-job.
Assess the job function of your workers. If the position involves heavy lifting, repetitive motions, or other ergonomic impacts, consider ways to prevent a potential injury. Collaborate with employees to develop solutions to prevent injuries. Rotate job tasks for manual labor jobs, consider the use of mechanical aids, or adjust processes to reduce fatigue and the potential for back or lumbar injuries.
If you haven’t implemented one yet, consider establishing a wellness program that encourages your workers to make healthy lifestyle choices. Start-of-shift stretching exercises and healthy snack options in vending machines can go a long way in preventing illness or injury.
Periodic moments of rest throughout a shift can help minimize fatigue and reduce distraction. If your workforce takes two 15-minute breaks, consider adjusting to three 10-minute breaks to increase the number of times employees are able to rest throughout the day.
Regularly re-evaluating your business’s safety plan and making sure every employee understands the importance of safe working practices will go a long way in preventing accidents. At least once a year, review all policies with employees. Update signage where needed to keep safety front-and-center. Examine safety gear for damage, wear and tear.
The boomer generation is a valuable demographic to American businesses, and as this generation ages, it’s more important than ever for business owners to take steps to help reduce the likelihood of work-related injuries. Take time to evaluate processes, job functions and programs that may impact the safety and wellness of your employees. Share of labor force projected to rise for people age 55 and over and fall for younger age groups. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.