Your Skilled and Experienced Staff - Ergonomics for the Aging Workforce

Keywords: aging, musculoskeletal disorders, ergonomics, physical demands assessment, cognitive demands assessment, ergonomic risk assessment, employee training

By 2021, nearly 24% of the labour force will be 55 years of age or over, the highest proportion on record according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Veteran employees have years of acquired expertise that makes them experts at what they do however there are some challenges that go along with the aging workforce: (1) greater percentages of older workers means a detrimental loss of experiential and practical knowledge when older works retire; (2) older workers are more likely to get injured as physical and cognitive ability decreases with age and (3) musculoskeletal disorder injuries to older workers tend to be more severe and require more days away from work for recovery.

Age-related physical changes can affect:

  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle endurance
  • Joint stiffness affecting range of motion
  • Flexibility, Dexterity, Posture, Balance
  • Changes in vision clarity (i.e. becoming near-sighted)
  • Hearing (losses)

Age-related cognitive changes can affect:

  • Decreased reaction time
  • Short term memory
  • Focus and Fluid intelligence (reasoning, attention, processing)
  • Emotional well-being, perceptions of self-worth
  • Ability to cope with stress

As an employer, itís time to step up and start addressing this issue before it negatively affects your bottom line by taking into consideration the ergonomics of your workplace and how it can benefit both older and younger worker generations alike.

As a responsible employer, how can you help your older workers adapt?

  • Review workstation design to ensure it optimizes movement and minimizes injury risk
  • Implement sound ergonomic hazard controls
  • Consider job rotation to decrease the duration of exposure to certain tasks
  • Educate on the best work methods to ensure staff are working safely
  • Be prepared with potential accommodations for injuries in this age group

Still need help pin-pointing where to start? Our experts at PROergonomics can conduct a variety of services such as objective ergonomic risk assessments and provide specialized staff training sessions that will address the needs of your the fastest growing segment of your employees, those older than 55.

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