Special Topics in Safety Management

6 Tips for Keeping an Aging Workforce Safe

Keep older workers safe on the job with these simple strategies.

By 2015, 1 in every 5 American workers will be over 65 and by 2020, 1 in 4 American workers will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To raise awareness of the health and safety issues affecting older workers, NIOSH recently released a new web page with information to help employers match the needs of an aging workforce.

According to NIOSH, older workers tend to experience fewer workplace injuries than their younger colleagues, perhaps as a result of greater experience or increased caution. However, the injuries they do experience tend to require more time to heal, and incidents affecting older workers are more likely to be fatal, with a dramatic jump in fatalities around age 60.

The following are some of NIOSH’s tips for keeping older workers safe:

  • Match tasks to abilities. Everyone benefits when workers are able to perform their jobs well. If older workers have physical limitations, assign them to tasks that do not require them to strain beyond their ability.
  • Manage hazards. When assessing hazards in the workplace, make sure to consider whether conditions that might not be hazardous for younger employees could pose a problem for older workers. For example, a noisy work environment might not bother a 25-year-old employee (though you should still assess noise levels and provide hearing protection if necessary), but an older worker in the same environment might have difficulty hearing co-workers to communicate about important safety issues.

OSHA has launched an agency-wide concerted effort that uses enforcement, outreach, and training to ensure that temporary workers are protected in their workplaces. BLR’s upcoming live webinar will tell you how to ensure compliance and keep temps safe in your workplace. Click here for details.

  • Consider ergonomics. Provide and design work environments that take address ergonomic concerns. Examples include better illumination where needed, screens and surfaces with a minimum amount of glare, ergonomic workstations and tools, and adjustable seating.
  • Invest in training and building worker skills at all age levels. Older and younger workers can learn from each other, with older workers serving as mentors and sharing their experience, and younger workers helping older workers adapt to new technologies.
  • Proactively manage reasonable accommodations and the return-to-work process after injury or illness absences.
  • Train supervisors on the issues associated with an aging workforce and the best ways to address them.

Meet the Challenge

Continued economic challenges and other factors such as the Affordable Care Act have many employers rethinking how to build their workforce using temporary or “contingent” workers, who are often older workers or young workers.

These workers may be hired directly or retained through a third party such as a temporary agency or an independent contractor. Whatever the initial relationship, employers need to understand that they have both implicit and explicit safety- and health-related responsibilities for these workers.

Addressing safety and health issues for temporary workers in a comprehensive manner at the initial stage is critical to ensure a high level of safety performance down the road.

Join us on June 16 for an in-depth live webinar on temporary worker safety and learn proven strategies for how to minimize risks and liabilities by ensuring that all temporary worker agreements, expectations, training, and performance requirements are in place before work begins. Learn More

Last year, OSHA launched its Temporary Worker Initiative—an agency-wide concerted effort that uses enforcement, outreach, and training to ensure that temporary workers are protected in their workplaces. In recent months, OSHA has received and investigated many reports of temporary workers suffering serious or fatal injuries, many of which occurred within their first week on the job.

OSHA’s initiative was launched to raise awareness and compliance with requirements that temporary workers receive the same training and protection that existing workers receive.

OSHA also recently released a memo reminding regional administrators that direct field inspectors assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Inspectors will use a newly created code in their information system to denote when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations. Additionally, they will assess whether temporary workers received required training in a language and vocabulary they could understand. This memo underscores the duty of employers to protect all workers, including temporary ones, from hazards.

Join us on June 16 when our presenter, a seasoned safety and employment lawyer, will provide an overview of the potential safety risks and liability associated with hiring temporary workers. She will also provide proven strategies on how to minimize these risks and liabilities by ensuring that all temporary worker agreements, expectations, training, and performance requirements are in place before work begins.

You and your colleagues will learn:

  • An overview of contract law as it applies to temporary hiring agreements and safety responsibilities
  • What OSHA requires for companies that hire temporary workers
  • A review of the OSHA initiative designed to protect temporary employees from workplace hazards
  • Whether and how your responsibility and obligations may change if you are hiring temporary workers directly or through a third party
  • What to include in your agreement or contract for safety expectations when hiring temporary workers through a third party
  • Who’s responsible for first aid and medical care, OSHA illness and injury recordkeeping, safety-related supervision, safety training, and workers’ comp coverage for temporary workers retained directly as well as those retained through a third party
  • How to identify and evaluate external resources that can help you develop and implement an effective and comprehensive process for addressing safety for temporary workers

About Your Speaker

Adele Abrams, Esq., CMSP, is an attorney and safety professional who is recognized as a national expert on occupational safety and health. She heads a 10-attorney firm that represents employers and contractors nationwide in OSHA and MSHA litigation, and provides safety and health training, auditing, and consultation services. She is a certified mine safety professional (CMSP), and a Department of Labor-approved trainer.

Abrams is on the adjunct faculty of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where she teaches employment and labor law. She is also a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, and is coauthor of several safety-related textbooks. She is chair of the National Safety Council’s Business & Industry Division committee on regulatory and legal affairs. She is admitted to the bars of MD, DC, and PA, as well as multiple federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

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