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University of Colorado Denver


Aging Workforce

What do we still need to know to keep older workers safe and healthy as they age at work?


That said, are there things that will change for occupational safety and health managers who are managing an older workforce, on average?  You bet.  Some issues will become more important as our workforce’s demographics change.  Evidence-based slip, trip and fall prevention, universal design, worksite health promotion and flexible work options will all be important strategies to recruit and retain older workers in the years ahead. 

Research that we published in the Journal of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare indicates that the age-related risk of an occupational injury depends on the type of injury.  Among workers in US hospitals during 2011, slip, trip and fall injuries increased with age, but overexertion injuries due to handling patients and other strenuous work tended to decline with age.  Injuries due to contact with objects and equipment occurred most frequently among the youngest age group and workplace violence tended to become slightly less frequent as employees aged.

We are also working on a pilot research project with Children’s Hospital Colorado to assess what a healthcare organization can do to support healthy aging at work by sustaining workers’ abilities, maintaining quality of care and increasing employee engagement.

There are still many questions left to answer about the occupational safety and health implications of an aging workforce. How, for instance, does the cost-effectiveness of particular intervention strategies change with age? What will the changing nature of employment – with more contingent work, increasingly pervasive technology and more sedentary jobs  - have on older workers, relative to younger workers?

There’s only one way to find out: Research.​



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