Ohio BWC Notes Initiative to Help Make Workplace Safer for Older Workers

September 7, 2004

As the youngest of the baby boomers turns 40 at the end of 2004, folks are once again reminded the U.S. population is growing older. The greatest percentage of population growth among age groups is in the 50-and-older age group. According to the most recent census report, Ohio’s 50-and-older age group represents approximately 28.6 percent of the population, an estimated 3.25 million people.

This trend is echoed in the work force as the age of available workers increases. A December 2002 report produced by the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services estimated three-fifths of the oldest baby boomers in the 55 to 64 age group are expected to still be working in 2010.

Armed with this data, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is reportedly proactively stepping up its efforts to ensure aging Ohioans who wish to continue to work may do so – safely.

“Both in Ohio and across the nation, more people are remaining active in the work force,” James Conrad, BWC administrator and CEO, said. “In our role as a workplace safety resource, BWC offers courses and consulting services to employers to help them identify improvements they can make to their workplace that benefit all their employees, including older workers.”

In response to this trend toward an older work force, BWC has launched the “Protecting Older Workers” initiative. The goal is to raise awareness of the need for workplace safety accommodations for older workers.

According to BWC’s Chief of Injury Management, Joel Donchess, because of physical changes, older workers are at a greater risk for injuries and may require a longer recovery time. The longer an injured worker is away from work, the greater the cost of the workers’ compensation claim.

“When someone is injured, the pain is felt by more than just the worker; it affects that worker’s family and friends, and often times, it hurts the entire community,” Donchess said. “By recommending measures to reduce the likelihood of injury, we hope to prevent not just an injury to the worker but also to reduce the adverse impact a claim has on a business’ bottom line as well.”

To help increase awareness about workplace safety and the aging work force, BWC has partnered with the Ohio Department of Aging. “Experienced workers are an increasingly important part of the nation’s work force, and employers are looking for ways to recruit and retain them,” Ohio Department of Aging Director Joan Lawrence said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to learn how relatively minor workplace adjustments can prevent injury, and increase worker longevity and productivity.”

To support the initiative, BWC has created a Protecting Older Workers Web page. Access the page by selecting the banner ad at the top of the ohiobwc.com Web site. This site includes safety tips and links to resources such as BWC’s lifting guidelines, research papers and the Ohio Department of Aging. While on ohiobwc.com, employers also can browse the Safety services section for information about safety consultations and the variety of workplace safety training courses available at BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene.

BWC’s focus on safety for older workers also will be visible during its fifth annual Workers’ Compensation University (WCU). The agency’s free workers’ comp conference tours the state this September.

During the conference, attendees can go to a special session dedicated to instructing employers on the safety needs of older workers. More information on WCU is available on ohiobwc.com.

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