Preventing injuries among older workers

Photo: "Baby Boomer with iPad" Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

Photo: “Baby Boomer with iPad” Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

While young workers are known for their higher injury rate, older workers’ injuries tend to be more serious.

UBC’s Partnership for Work, Health, and Safety reports that women between 55 and 64 are three times more likely to experience a severe fall than women 15 to 24 years old – and women working in health care are three to four times more likely to incur a serious injury as men in that industry.

They released these findings in a new report based on their analysis of WorkSafeBC data on serious injuries from 2002 and 2008.

“Serious injuries result in more severe medical diagnoses, longer periods of disability, and higher compensation claim costs, and thus are key targets for injury prevention initiatives,” reads the report.

Prevention initiatives for older workers are especially important because this group of workers is growing in proportion to other age groups. The UBC report notes that the 55 to 64-year-old segment of the Canadian workforce grew faster than any other age group between 2001 and 2006.

Older workers’ safety issues

Older workers take longer to heal and recover compared to their younger counterparts. They’re more prone to sprains and strains – and the exact same injury can hit an older person much harder.

“When the 18-year-old working at a fast-food restaurant, for example, slips on a greasy French fry, he’s likely to get right back up; his 60-year-old colleague might well suffer a broken hip,” said WorkSafeBC ergonomist Peter Goyert in this WorkSafe Magazine article from Jan/Feb 2011.

“On average, if you’re injured on the job and need time off, you’ll miss your age in days. A 20-year-old will miss 20 work days; a 60-year-old, 60 days, and so on.”

Solutions for this group of workers include ergonomic tools and set-ups, shift rotation, part-time employment, and pre-shift stretching – many of which are explored in the links below. It will be interesting to see what springs from the new study – and in the meantime, here’s more info.

Use Ergonomics to Keep Older Workers Healthy & Safe – from OHS Insider

A Guide to Managing an Aging Workforce from the Government of Alberta

Aging Workers from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Aging Workforce News

The Sloan Centre for Aging and Work from Boston College


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