Preparing for an Aging Workforce

By 2020, over 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will be over the age of 55, a national phenomenon with rippling effects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent among those 55-and-older — four times the rate of the overall labor force. Retirement paradigms are shifting as well. Whether for financial reasons or a desire to remain engaged, the majority of Americans now say they will retire after the traditional age of 65.

Recognizing the importance of aging in the framework of worker safety, NIOSH recently established the National Center for Productive Aging & Work (NCPAW). Hosted by the Office of Total Worker Health, the Center “advances lifelong well-being for workers of all ages,” offering the latest research and resources for organizations striving to prepare for an aging employee base.

Funded by NIOSH, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) launched a new project focused on the health and safety needs of aging workers. In November 2015, LOHP invited stakeholders from unions, community-based organizations, businesses, and employer associations to share their experiences at a Roundtable. Participants focused on promising strategies, best practices, and potential interventions related to policy, regulation, enforcement, and outreach and education.

They noted that older workers tend to experience fewer work injuries than younger workers, but although rates are lower, the injuries they experience tend to be more severe. Older women tend to have higher rates of injury than older men. The Roundtable supported the move toward age-friendly workplaces that promote worker health and safety through a “universal design” approach, emphasizing safe and reasonable workloads and work-life balance.

In October 2015, COEH’s Continuing Education Program hosted an industrial hygiene forum focused on ergonomic solutions to problems associated with aging workers, with an emphasis on sedentary employees. The forum, attended by 44 participants, became a springboard for COEH’s upcoming Summer Institute. In addition to ergonomics, presenters will explore topics relevant to the aging worker. The Summer Institute will be held at the Elihu Harris State Office Building in Oakland from July 25-29, 2016.

For information, visit COEH’s Continuing Education Program: https://www.coehce.org.

Learn about LOHP’s Aging Workers Health and Safety Project: http://lohp.org/aging-workers-health-and-safety.

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