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Workplace safety programs need to reflect aging workforce

One key challenge companies face involves dealing with an aging workforce, which can create a higher risk of injury.

As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, this is encouraging businesses to alter how they manage their workers. One key challenge companies face involves dealing with the rising cost of worker compensation claims that result from an aging workforce.

People are living longer, which is forcing some individuals to continue working past the typical retirement age. A study by Lockton notes that the percentage of workers expected to retire before the age of 65 declined from 50 percent in 1991 to 24 percent in 2012. By 2030, one in four employees will be over the age of 55, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Older workers bring new challenges when it comes to workers' compensation, including an increased risk of injury.

As individuals age, their performance is affected. The Lockton study notes that older people have difficulty switching tasks quickly and handling multiple assignments simultaneously. In general, older workers experience more strains and sprains in manual labor jobs and take longer to recover, driving up the cost of each claim. The average cost per claim for workers over the age of 45 is $19,000, compared to $9,500 for employees under the age of 45.

"The aging workforce is a valuable asset for companies, provided they take measures to protect the safety of these employees," said Bill Spiers, the study's author.

Employee incentive programs can help create a safety-first environment that protects staff members of all ages. By ensuring that all workers know and understand proper operating procedures, businesses could help reduce the number of claims they see.

Added benefits of safety
Focusing on safety also has the added benefit of increasing employee engagement. A study by the National Safety Council found that efforts to reduce workplace accidents improved worker satisfaction. Empowering staff members to be proactive in making improvements to the work environment and reinforcing these values with safety training help companies create supportive cultures that boost worker confidence. The study found that companies with good safety records saw higher customer satisfaction as well. Companies that took steps to improve working conditions simultaneously encouraged employees to deliver better services to customers.

Developing reward and recognition programs is an effective way to show a commitment to safety. Workers who have made contributions to building a safer work environment should be recognized for their efforts. Similarly, teams can be rewarded when they reach performance milestones without an accident. These initiatives send a consistent message to all employees to help minimize worker compensation claims.

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