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Managing Aging Staff Members

Jun 21, 2016 09:00AM ● By MED Magazine

By Kelly Marshall


According to the Bureau of Labor, it is predicted that by 2020, one in every four American workers will be over the age of 55.


The impact of an aging Baby Boomer population, combined with the Great Recession, has left a higher percentage of older workers with no choice but to continue to work well into their retirement years. It is vital that employers consider the impact of this aging workforce when managing their workplaces, as well as developing and enhancing their injury prevention and management programs.


What Should You Know?

1.  Older workers contribute a wealth of knowledge and experience to the workplace.

2.  Overall, older workers are actually less likely to be injured at work. However, roadway crashes are the leading cause of occupational fatalities for older workers and the incidence rate of slips, trips, and falls for older workers is nearly double the rate of that for younger workers.

3.  Older workers are likely to have more severe injuries and take longer than their younger counterparts to recover and return to work.

4.  As people age, a natural decline tends to occur in hearing, vision, balance, and respiration.


What Should You Do?

1.  Assess the age demographic of your workplace. Do you have a lot of employees approaching retirement? How will you make up for the loss of this skill and expertise?

2.  Embrace older workers for their knowledge, skills, and expertise.

3.  Assess your jobs in order to best determine what accommodations may be made available to ALL employees, in order to reduce any stigma of needing assistance and the likelihood of age-related disability litigation.

a.  Assess lighting conditions and provide additional lighting, contrast, or high-visibility tape where needed.

b.  Provide driver training and refresher courses; consider driver safety policies.

4.  Embrace the concepts of Universal Design, which allows for accessibility to people of all ages and abilities. These concepts include:

a.  Simple and intuitive use -  The system allows for understanding for a wide range of reading and writing skills and abilities.

b.   Flexibility in use - The system allows for choice in the methods of use to accommodate for individual preferences and abilities.

c.   Tolerance for error - The system continues working, even when errors are made.

5.  Integrate wellness and health promotion for all workers (diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, etc.)

6.  Provide ongoing training.

a.  Tailor products and techniques to their needs

b.  Renew and reinforce critical skills for the job

c.  Offer new challenges

7.  Consider additional workplace or career flexibility. Ideas include:

a.  Reduced hours, job sharing, remote work, consulting, projects, or temporary work

b.  Shift into different positions (for example, older workers may provide training for new employees).

c.  Phased or delayed retirement, in order to avoid mass exodus of experienced employees



Kelly Marshall is an occupational therapist and a member of the South Dakota Occupational Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association. She is a Job Analysis and Ergonomics Specialist with RAS.



Safety and Health Magazine: 2016 State of Safety: Changing demographics by Kyle Morrison, December 19, 2015

Center for Disease Control, NIOSH: Productive Aging and work: September 11, 2015

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