A report of conference presentations and discussions among participants from the National Academies of Science, universities and research institutions, and representatives of professional associations, industry and labor, recommends attention to workplace environments to maintain “work ability” as workers age, along with legislative fixes and research to fill in knowledge gaps for keeping workers healthy and productive.
According to researchers using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, older workers are more severely injured and die with greater frequency from work-related injuries than younger workers. Older workers also have longer recovery periods than younger workers. These findings raise health care delivery and economic issues for the nation, as more workers are choosing to delay retirement due to collapsed 401(k) plans and savings. BLS uses workers age 55 and older in its calculations, although the rates rise sharply for those workers over age 65. Other agencies and organizations define the term as age 50 or 55 and up. The department of Labor uses age 40 as a starting point for “older worker.”
The issue of healthy aging is critically important as the U.S. economy is revitalized. As we go forward in time, the demand for workers will grow but fewer workers will be entering the workforce and a larger proportion of the workforce will be older. This is a simple reality of demographics, said National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Director John Howard, “Having a healthy, productive workforce will help sustain economic growth in the decades ahead. We must take steps now to help all workers stay safe and healthy at work as they age, We must also take steps to address the special needs of older workers who, more and more, will be staying on the job past traditional retirement age.”
The full conference report and presentations from national and international researchers on occupational health and safety issues can be found on the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health’s Web site, www.soeh.org.
The full article from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-1201-09.html.