Older Workers and Falls
Older workers are less likely than younger workers to be injured seriously enough to lose time from work. But when they are injured, the cause is usually a fall, according to Occupational and Health Safety, an industry trade journal.
By 2005, 15 percent of the workforce will be age 55 and older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Older workers bring a lifetime of experience, expertise and skills to the workplace and are one-third less likely than their younger colleagues to be injured severely enough to stay home from work. But they are more likely than younger workers to experience falls; they are more likely to sustain fractures and other serious injuries when they do fall; and they require twice the recuperation time.
Efforts to prevent falls in the workplace are increasingly important, the report stressed, as older workers constitute the work force in growing numbers. To prevent these falls, employers need to:
- identify specific hazards for slipping and tripping
- incorporate engineering and administrative initiatives to reduce hazards, such as flooring and matting designed to deter slips, trips and falls
- seek help immediately after falls; treat musculoskeletal disorders promptly and effectively
- provide adequate lighting. Older persons have trouble adapting from a light environment to a darker one, have problems with glare and have an increased need for contrast between a target and its background, especially in dim light.
- conduct periodic vision and hearing screening at the works
- iteraise awareness of medication side effects that may contribute to drowsiness
- refer any worker who feels faint or dizzy to a doctor.
Occupational health teams can help employers to plan, develop, implement and evaluate fall injury prevention strategies to make the workplace safer for older–and for all—employees
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