Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Aging Workforce - Physical Changes Require Ergonomic Intervention

Getting ready for an aging workforce ...

"The definition of an aging worker varies greatly depending upon the source. Legally, an elderly worker is considered to be 40 or older (The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967). Other agencies consider an aging employee to be 45 years or older (The Committee for Economic Development’s New Opportunities for Older Workers). As consumers, a senior is often considered to be 55 years or older. And a survey of human resource professionals revealed that management varies greatly in their opinion with the age ranging being between 40 and 70 years (Society for Human Resource Management, June 2003).

Contrary to popular belief, changes in memory, logical thinking and ability to perform a task are only slightly affected by the normal aging process. Any significant loss should be evaluated medically. The perception that older workers are a drain on a company’s resources is erroneous and may cost a company one of their most valuable assets. Elderly workers have experience-based knowledge, show better judgment and increased accuracy in performance, and are better able to handle familiar tasks than younger persons (Utah State University, AginginPlace.org). The perception that an elderly worker is less able to perform an activity may be due more to the slowing down of physical functions and sensory processing rather than by any actual decline in intellectual functioning.

Not too surprisingly, the legal definition of aging corresponds with the time-frame at which normal physical changes begin to occur. As the number of aging employees in our workforce continues to increase, these changes need to be addressed in order to ensure productivity, safety, and comfort in the work environment. Knowledge of these physical impairments and how they affect work function is essential so that they can be accommodated for with simple, ergonomic solutions. The corporate benefit is the retention of a healthy, dependable, knowledgeable and skilled employee."    (Continued via Bella Online)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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