SAFETY MANAGEMENT TOOLS TO SUPPORT OLDER WORKERS
There are several tools employers can use to support older workers in maintaining their health and in encouraging them to stay engaged and safe in the workplace.
Physicals can be conducted to help determine if an individual’s physical abilities match the essential functions of the specific job or task(s) and determine if any accommodations or role changes should be made. Physical exams with a musculoskeletal emphasis are recommended for this purpose. During the hiring process, physicals can only be conducted post-offer. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, union contracts, age discrimination laws, and other relevant state and federal laws are all highly relevant to this matter. Any business implementing a physical exam program is strongly advised to first consult a lawyer who specializes in employment law.
FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULES
Consider offering older employees schedule options that might include flexible shift hours, various task assignments, and part-time and work-share schedules.
Wellness programs actively encourage better health in all employees. Generally, better employee health relates to a lower risk of work-related injuries.
Build into the day microbreak stretches for highly repetitive work. Stretching for one minute every half hour can make a big difference in employees’ physical and mental health. Studies show that formal stretching breaks benefit any-aged employees in a variety of industries – from manufacturing or packaging lines to employees working at service counters and stationary desks.
TASK SELECTION OPTIONS
Refine your task selection options, steering older workers toward tasks or work assignments that they are best able to perform.
Proper ergonomics can play an important safety role for any employee in any work situation. For example, proper ergonomics can enable workers to work in a neutral, optimal posture and reduce manual material handling by using mechanical aids to lift heavy loads. No matter the job or industry, proper ergonomics can improve employees’ physical health, contributing to their ability to continue working at full capability.
SAFE WALKING SURFACES
You can improve the safety of walking and working surfaces by eliminating slip, trip and fall hazards. These hazards can impact anyone, but the chance of falling increases with age.
Enhance task lighting for detailed work to reduce eye strain and improve safety. Proper lighting helps every worker and especially those who may be dealing with loss of visual acuity.
Consider hiring contractors with specialty expertise or equipment to perform unusual projects or hazardous tasks.
Temporary workers hired from a temp agency or elsewhere can be helpful with intensive tasks, such as moving furniture.
SUBSEQUENT INJURY FUND
Workers who may have a qualifying condition, a medically certifiable impairment that impacts their ability to secure work or reenter the workforce, may be encouraged to register with the state Subsequent Injury Fund.