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ASSE: Start prepping now as U.S. workforce ages (10/30)

October 30, 2007
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The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has a word of advice for employers: start designing your workplaces now to accommodate “baby boomers.”

ASSE suggests businesses design their workplaces for an aging workforce, as those born between 1946 and 1964 — the baby boomer generation — ages and continues to swell while the labor pool shrinks. ASSE says businesses should begin designing systems and processes that enable older workers to maximize productivity and minimize potential error rates.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) workplace statistics for 2004 show that those 64 and older had the lowest number of workplace injuries, but the fatality rate for those 55 and older rose by 10 percent. In 2003, workers 65 and older “continued to record the highest fatality rate of any other age group, more than three times the rate of fatalities for those aged 25-34,” according to the DOL.

Most of these fatalities were transportation-related and from falls, from being struck by an object and from workplace homicides.

As baby boomers begin to retire over the next few years, the DOL notes the workforce will shrink as those born from 1965 to 1985, a time with a declining birthrate, enter the workforce.

Addressing this issue, ASSE will be host to a “Designing for an Aging Workforce” Webinar Wednesday, October 31, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. CST. ASSE member Joel Haight, Ph.D., P.E., CSP, CIH, associate professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State University, will be the presenter and will discuss how physical and cognitive capacity losses affect productivity and injury rates in the aging workforce.

Dr. Haight will also address the question as to whether designing a work space to accommodate age-related capacity losses in older workers actually helps minimize age-induced error rates and increases productivity.

Go to www.asse.org for more information and to sign up for the Webinar.

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