Statistics Canada has predicted that by 2021, nearly one out of four in the labour force (roughly 24%) could be 55 years of age or over. While older workers tend to be better at recognizing hazards, they incur more severe consequences and longer recovery times when they do get injured. Repetitive motion issues like musculoskeletal injuries are especially common among older workers. Recent reports have shown that many aging workers are putting off retirement and staying in the work force longer, which could present some of the following health & safety concerns:
- Strength, range of motion, respiratory, and cardiovascular limitations: Older workers tend to have decreased capacity in these areas, which may restrict physical capabilities or contribute to injury and illness if limitations are not recognized.
- Slips, trips & falls: Accidents related to loss of balance and posture tend to occur more often with age. Tasks involving the following should be reserved for younger workers: joint movements at extreme angles, slippery or unstable surfaces, unexpected bumps or shocks.
- Sleep & body temperature regulation: The body’s decreased ability to regulate sleep and internal temperatures can present safety risks if older workers are scheduled to work at night or in extreme temperatures.
- Vision & hearing changes: Older workers face higher risk of injury due to difficulty seeing and hearing in certain conditions.
- Cognitive functioning: As mental capacity decreases with age, so do learning, thinking, and reaction speeds. However, what older workers lack in speed, they make up for in experience and expertise!
To learn more about specific health and safety needs for an aging workforce, take a look at this article from IHSA Magazine.
When baby boomers do begin to retire, replacing them with new workers comes with a whole different set of challenges. Construction, trucking, and electricity & renewable energy industries are expected to grow significantly in Canada in coming years, which could present as many setbacks as opportunities. The cost of training new workers can be high, and statistics show that their lack of experience and discretion leads to frequent hand and eye injuries.
Whether your facility is facing one or both of these scenarios, remember to make safety and compliance the priority. Ensure that each and every worker, regardless of age, is properly trained and suited for his or her position, and make adjustments where necessary.