Friday, June 27, 2008

Businesses Deal with New Safety Challenges as Workforce Ages

According to loss control experts from Chubb Group, as the number of employees over the age of 55 continues to rise, businesses are faced with the challenge of retaining these valuable workers while reducing health- and injury-related losses. Conducting a session on "The Aging Workforce-It's Not Just Ergonomics" at the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Professional Development Conference and Exposition ("Safety 2008"), Tina Minter and Russell Dronne noted that while Bureau of Labor Statistics studies show that injury rates among older workers are lower than those of their younger counterparts, other factors can contribute to increased health and safety exposures: age-related chronic disorders and diseases; loss of hearing; impaired vision; and physical and cognitive limitations.

Miner said that businesses can help mitigate their losses by improving policies and workplace design to allow employees to continue to work in a safe and healthy environment. Among other things, she provided examples of what businesses can do to address each of these risk factors, including:
  • allow for flexible work hours so that those with poor night vision can adjust their start and finish time to coincide with daylight hours;
  • encourage employees to use the health care system for preventative well visits;
  • eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches;
  • encourage employees working at a computer to take small breaks every 30 minutes;
  • don't rely on sound as the sole means of emergency communications, as employees with hearing loss may not hear announcements.
Source: Chubb Group Press Release (June 19, 2008)

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