Concerns about an aging workforce

By: April 23rd, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Although it’s easy to point to the recession as the culprit for many of our problems, in the healthcare system or otherwise, there is one direct link to that may not become fully evident for a few more years.

Concerns over an aging workforce have been voiced before, especially in relation to workplace injuries. With injuries in the healthcare profession already rampant, employers need to be mindful of ways to accommodate the older workforce in the coming years.

This month, Liberty Mutual, released a free webinar addressing this issue. Drawing from numerous case studies, the webinar states that 35% of today’s workforce is over the age of 55 and estimates that the number of workers in that age range will grow from 26.1 million in 2008 to 38.2 million in 2016.

The main reason for this expected increase is workers are retiring later, particularly after many have experienced dramatic decreases in their retirement investments. Some might even find themselves coming out of retirement and back to work. The webinar also attributes an increased life expectancy to the growing number of older workers.

Not only are these workers more susceptible to workplace injuries, they usually take longer to get back on the job. On average, workers 55 and older are out ten days, compared to six days in a younger worker.

In the webinar, Liberty Mutual offers suggestions to prevent workplace injuries such as doing a worker assessment to customize jobs for older employees, modifying the workplace so it is more older-worker friendly, and promoting wellness among employees. Things like decreasing heavy loads or lifting repetition and improving visual components such as illumination and glare.

Lighting is a big issue, especially in the lab. As the eyes age, they need more light to see what was once an easy read. A 50-year-old person needs two to three times the amount of light in their work space compared to someone half his or her age. Eliminating glare helps, as does providing consistent, even light levels. Also, older workers find pastel colors difficult to see, especially in print.

For more pointers, read our prior post “Accommodating and aging workforce.”


By Viviane Pentz on April 23rd, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Yay for the older work force! We need them to teach generation X & Y many things that the older work force already knows all about like good work ethics, dedication, taking initiative and to teach the younger work force that an ipod is not considered office equipment! I have been a medical office manager for 35 years and I have found through the years that the older work force is actually out less days, have less outside issues, have less entitlement issues and understand what is expected during the work shift. Older workers are a gift to many businesses and a wonderful example for the younger work force who will eventually take over.

By Pam Sheirer on April 23rd, 2009 at 5:08 pm

great article!

With the increase in the older workforce, there has been a notable increase in soft muscular injuries. Strains and sprains number among the highest incident rate, and costliest injuries in the workplace.

The older worker is not a fad that will disappear as the economy recovers. Given that, adjusting processes and procedures to accommodate the aging workforce may well save a company in the long run by cutting workers compensation costs, and increasing production.



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