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