6 Tips for Keeping Older Workers Injury-Free

RetireesRemember when the milkman delivered and Gilligan was a jazz-loving teen named Maynard G. Krebs? Some of your employees might.

The lingering effects of the recession are forcing more Americans to work into their twilight years. Conventional wisdom points to mixed news in that trend.

On one hand, older workers tend to be more experienced, dependable, loyal, punctual and stable than their younger counterparts.

On the other hand, experts have traditionally thought older workers presented challenges for businesses looking to control their workers’ compensation costs. A study published in 2007 by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) noted two trends:
1. The younger a worker is, the more often he or she gets injured.
2. The older a worker is, the higher the cost of the claim.

A new NCCI study, “Workers Compensation and the Aging Workforce: Is 35 the New ‘Older’ Worker?” challenges the 2007 study.

Older workers still suffer more costly injuries, such as rotator cuff and knee injuries. The data suggests, however, that those injuries are increasingly common among younger workers, as well. Furthermore, injury frequency among the generations is evening out.

Simply put, age has less effect on workers’ compensation costs than experts previously thought.

The new study also notes that more employers are making accommodations for older workers. If you are one of them, read this article from the Wall Street Journal titled, “Keeping Boomers Fit for Work.” You should also consider these tips, courtesy of Texas Mutual’s safety professionals:

1. Provide the right tools. If older workers cannot do all of the required tasks, make adjustments. For example, extra lighting and larger computer monitors may make up for failing vision. Hand trucks and dollies make it easier to lift heavy loads.
2. Be flexible. Look at your policies and procedures for ways to reduce the intensity on older workers. Use flexible schedules to let their bodies recover. If possible, allow older employees to work from home in a more comfortable, familiar environment. Rotate tasks regularly to reduce the strain of repetitive motions. Encourage employees to leave their workstations periodically to stretch, take their eyes off the computer screen and refocus their energy.
3. Be approachable. Be open to discussing alternative tasks with your aging employees, and listen to their concerns. The more you know about their limits, the better equipped you will be to keep them safe on the job.
4. Encourage healthy lifestyles. Healthy lifestyles can prepare the body for the work day and keep employees in better physical shape to ward off illness. You can partner with local gyms to offer employee discounts. Some employers also offer discounts on medical benefits for employees who participate in annual health screenings.
5. Launch a return-to-work program. The longer an employee is away from the job due to an injury, the less likely they become of returning to full employment. A return-to-work program helps ease the employee back into the workforce.
6. Set up a mentoring system. Ask younger workers to shadow older workers so they can learn the most effective and efficient way to do the job. A good mentoring system can improve your productivity and make older workers feel useful and appreciated.

One Response to 6 Tips for Keeping Older Workers Injury-Free

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