Naturally, an employer’s duty to take steps to ensure the health and safety of workers applies equally to all workers. But some types of workers have special needs. For example, young workers may need additional safety training and pregnant workers may be especially vulnerable to certain chemicals and other hazards.
Older workers also raise special safety issues. As we age, we change physically—and some of those changes have health and safety implications. For example, at age 50 or older, workers may start to experience:
- Decreased maximum muscular strength: In general, people lose about 15%-20% of their muscular strength between the ages of 20-60. So lifting heavy equipment or materials may be more challenging as workers get older.
- Reduced range of movement: Older workers typically lose “range of motion” and flexibility, making it difficult for them to reach tools and equipment effectively and quickly. To compensate, they often work in awkward positions, making them more vulnerable to musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs).
- Slower regulation of posture and balance: Work that requires lifting and carrying and walking on slippery or uneven surfaces exposes older workers to a greater risk of slipping, tripping and falling.
Click here for more information on some of the health and safety issues raised by older workers and tips for protecting them.
Many of the challenges older workers face in the workplace can be addressed through proper ergonomics. For example, redesigning an older worker’s workstation can prevent the development of MSIs.
For more information on using ergonomics to protect older workers, attend our 90-minute webinar, Ergonomic Design for the Aging Workforce, on May 30, 2012. Some of the topics the speaker, Blake McGowan of Humantech Ergonomic Systems, Inc., will cover include:
- The truth about physiological changes that occur in aging workers—what happens, when and how it may affect job performance
- A point-by-point summary of how to accommodate each change
- How good ergonomics can solve a myriad of problems for older workers
- Improvements that cost next-to-nothing but have a big payoff
- Solutions to slower-production issues
- The often-overlooked benefits of an older talent pool
- How to avoid workspace design blunders other companies have made
- Effective accommodations for different kinds of worksites.