Thursday, November 01, 2007

Safety Engineers Urge Businesses To Design Workplaces for an Aging Workforce

According to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), businesses should begin designing systems and processes that enable older workers to maximize productivity and minimize potential error rates. To avoid negative economic consequences and "[t]o accommodate the aging workforce and to work to reduce fatality rates, businesses should design a safe workplace for this large aging and valuable workforce," ASSE member Joel Haight, Ph.D, P.E., CSP, CIH, and associate professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State University, said.

Dr. Haight was the presenter at a webinar on "Designing for an Aging Workforce" sponsored aby ASSE at which he discussed how physical and cognitive capacity losses affect productivity and injury rates in the aging workforce and the question as to whether designing a work space to accommodate age-related capacity losses in older workers actually help minimize age-induced error rates and increase productivity.

Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, ASSE members suggested, among other things, the following means for increasing workplace safety for an aging workforce:
  • Improve illumination, add color contrast;
  • Eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches;
  • Design work floors and platforms with smooth and solid decking while still allowing some cushioning;
  • Reduce static standing time;
  • Remove clutter from control panels and computer screens and use large video displays;
  • Reduce noise levels;
  • Utilize hands free volume adjustable telephone equipment;
  • Increase task rotation which will reduce the strain of repetitive motion;
  • Increase the time allowed for making decisions; and
  • Provide opportunities for practice and time to develop task familiarity.
Source: American Society of Safety Engineers News Release (October 30, 2007)

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