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Workplace Safety For Older Employees

January 31, 2001
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Safety and Workplace Violence, Featured Article
Preventing injury is critical to maintaining a healthy workforce - and a healthycorporate bottom line. Michael Weinper, M.P.H., P.T., is a physical therapist andcofounder of PTPN, the nation’s largest network of outpatient rehabilitation services. He notes that there are proactive steps that HR professionals can take to make the workplace safer and healthier for older workers. They’ll also benefit employees of any age:

  1. Adapt job duties to accommodate age-related conditions such as reducedmuscle strength and motion. Older workers may have to avoid heavy lifting or share jobs that require strength and flexibility. A job-rotation schedule will prevent overworking body parts, especially for older workers, who may fatigue faster and take longer to recover.

  2. Make sure that employees have ergonomically designed work environments and equipment. An ergonomically correct work area keeps the body in a comfortableposition that enhances efficiency while avoiding injuries caused by awkward,prolonged movements.

  3. Implement diagnostic and training programs (including post-offer, pre-placement exams for new hires) to prevent specific conditions such as carpal tunnelsyndrome and tendinitis. Some companies, for example, require employees to attenda “back school” as part of their injury-prevention programs.

  4. Invite health-care providers to lecture on wellness and age-related topics such as arthritis, hearing loss, nutrition, weight control, cessation of smoking, and drinking. Instituting stretch/walk breaks in addition to the lectures will teach employees simple yet effective ways of reducing long-term physical and psychological stresses that can lead to injury.

  5. Choose health plans that permit employees to see practitioners from differentdisciplines, including physical and occupational therapists. Complementary therapies give workers alternatives to drugs and treatments that may have significant side effects. Older workers can have stronger reactions to medications that can cause drowsiness, confusion, and slowed response time, affecting how they perform their jobs.

Workforce, February 2001, Vol 80, No 2, p. 62 Subscribe Now!

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