Back-to-office ergonomic recommendations for an aging workforce | woodruff sawyer

Workplace ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace with consideration for the worker’s physical abilities and limitations. Poor design can lead to tired, frustrated, and even injured employees. Better ergonomics can provide a better work experience for your employees and more productivity for your business. This article offers an overview of recommendations you can follow for older workers and those of all ages.

How the pandemic has affected older workers

Although a significant number of older people have left the workforce during the pandemic, there are signs that the trend is picking up.

A recent study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research (CRR) found that about 15% of workers age 55 and older had left the workforce in any given year before the pandemic. This percentage rose sharply – and quickly – to 31.5% in April 2020. However, the figures indicate that many older workers were planning to re-enter the workforce. And that’s exactly what they do. According to March 2022 data from the Census Bureau, 3.2% of workers who had “retired” in the previous year were back on the job.

Older workers are returning to the labor market

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four American workers will be 55 or older by the end of it. As the nation’s workforce ages, employers need to focus on how they can deal with the physical changes that come with aging.

The importance of ergonomics

Whether employees are returning to a physical office space, retail or manufacturing site, or working from home, an aging workforce cannot meet production demands without an increased risk of injury musculoskeletal and the effects of the body’s natural degeneration.

Older workers are particularly prone to lower back stiffness. Employees who must manually lift objects must be trained to keep the object close to their body, eliminate obstacles between the object and the body, and avoid bending and leaning while lifting. To reduce cumulative trauma and worsen pre-existing conditions common to older workers, such as arthritis and diabetes, encourage stretch breaks. For example, employees can take five-minute breaks for every forty-five minutes of repetitive activity.

There is also a higher risk of falls in older workers due to the balance and balance and changes in vision and depth perception that come with aging. To reduce slips and falls, keep walkways in good repair and provide adequate lighting for high-traffic areas. Also, encourage appropriate shoes with low heels and non-slip soles.

Some of the major ergonomic risk factors for all workers include repetitive motions, reaching, bending, bending, and awkward postures such as wrist deflection.

Employers must proactively address these issues to prevent injuries and accidents and increase productivity by reducing employee fatigue and discomfort. The three categories that employers need to consider in terms of ergonomics are pre-hire, in-progress, and post-injury.

We offer the following recommendations for each area.

1. Steps for pre-hiring: Involve ergonomists in the design of any new workspace and in the layout of remote workstations. Include them in pre-construction meetings if you are planning a new building. Your insurance company’s risk control specialists are a valuable resource for ergonomic information.

Apply functional employment tests, also known as work aptitude tests, during the hiring process to ensure candidates are physically capable of performing the job. This type of test will check a candidate’s ability to lift, stand, reach, and perform other physical activities.

Essential to injury prevention, functional employment testing is usually performed after an offer of employment has been made. Check with your legal counsel to ensure you are compliant.

2. Current strategies: Prepare formal job descriptions that include a detailed explanation of the body mechanics and physical requirements needed for each position. If you need help getting started, your WC Claims Administrator or Woodruff Sawyer representative can provide sample job descriptions. Educate employees on how to handle objects with minimal impact on areas of the body most vulnerable to injury. Supervisors should monitor employee behavior and provide feedback that addresses any areas of concern.

Pay particular attention to footwear, especially the risks associated with walking, standing or climbing work surfaces. Work shoes should be non-slip and designed to stand on all hard surfaces in the work environment. When used with appropriate footwear, anti-fatigue mats help reduce compressive forces on the lower back, knees and ankles.

For occupations that require continuous physical activity, establish a schedule that includes regular stretching, flexing, and strengthening of muscles associated with sprains, strains, and other workplace injuries.

Your staff must accept ergonomic interventions for them to be effective. Establishing an ergonomics steering committee can help establish a culture of safety.

3. Post-traumatic guidelines: Consider offering on-the-job rehabilitation, which allows an injured employee to perform exercises and strengthening activities recommended by their doctor during their shift without missing work. It’s a proactive way to help employees recover and heal faster from injuries.

To eliminate or reduce the compensation costs (lost time) of the claim, the best practice is to offer modified or alternative return to work (transition work) to help keep the injured employee physically active, engaged and motivated. This practice can also significantly reduce litigation rates.

Encourage routine visits to the primary care physician for any non-work related health issues. When a
work injury occurs, other medical issues may make the work injury worse and interfere with the healing process.

Keep careful track of all injury trends

Finally, periodically review your workers’ compensation loss experience to identify loss trends regarding injury causes and most commonly injured body parts to identify specific loss control and safety measures.

Consult with your broker and insurance company professionals to develop a strategy that prioritizes specific work areas that have ergonomic issues. Solutions may include an overhaul of engineering works, administrative changes, changes to work practices and equipment controls.

Michael A. Bynum