Employee Safety: Dealing with an Aging Workforce

Aging Workforce

Aging Workforce
The worldwide financial turmoil of the past few years has dramatically, and often negatively, impacted employee retirement accounts. Emerging trends indicate that many workers feel a corresponding need to work longer and delay retirement. Indeed, Bureau of Labor Statistics studies reveal that the U.S. workforce’s median age, which has trended upward since the late 1970’s, has significantly risen in recent years. Workers over age 55 currently make up 40% of the workforce in the US, a 12% jump since the current recession began.

Chart: Median Labor Force Age

"The median age of the labor force is rising. It will approach 41 years by 2008 -- a very high level by historical standards."

As employers embrace an increasingly aging workforce, it can be helpful to periodically re-examine work facilities to ensure that employees have the tools and resources necessary to promote efficient and safe work performance.

Communication is Key

As it is not feasible to anticipate every possible need of a changing workforce, it is important that employers and employees have open lines of communication on the topic. Employees should be made to feel free to discuss work environment concerns with management. To this end, it is important for employers to let employees know who they should contact  with questions and requests regarding their work-related needs.

Changing Workplace Needs

Responding to employee requests may often entail simple things like providing enhanced reading light, larger computer monitors or increased font of labels.

To help identify less obvious work environment issues, employers may find it helpful to generally observe day-to-day work activities and actively seek employee input regarding potential work environment or process improvements that may better help to fit the job to the worker.

Where appropriate and feasible, proactive steps might also include permitting modified  work schedules and introducing “stretch/flex” programs to help employees of all ages prepare for daily work activities.

With the median age of workers on the rise, it is perhaps more important than ever that employers comprehensively asses their workplace and adopt plans to meet evolving workforce needs.


About David Barry

David Barry is the national technical director for Casualty Risk Control, where he provides risk control consulting…
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