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Concerns about an aging workforce

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 [1], 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 [2]. 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 [1].”