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Health of Aging Workforce is an Asset Worth Protecting

By Naomi Millán Facilities Management

As the average age in the workforce continues to rise, facility managers should be aware of the impact of age on their team, in particular in terms of injury prevention.

In six years, the labor force is expected to include 41 million people aged 55 and older, about 25 percent of the total anticipated workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This increase in an older population has already been felt in facilities management teams as people push off retirement, for various reasons. One benefit of this is that institutional knowledge honed over many years remains available. Employees long on the job are invaluable assets to their FM organizations. Care should be taken to capture their knowledge before they do retire, through structured succession planning initiatives.

Care should also be taken to keep this older population among the FM team as healthy as possible. Seasoned employees have a lower risk of injury than their younger colleagues, but it's more difficult for older employees to recover from injuries, in part because of other health factors that come into play at age 55 and above, according to an article in Business Insurance.

Certain risk factors, such as force, repetition, and environmental factors can be detrimental to all employees, but are particularly problematic as one gets older, says David Damico, Atlanta-based vice president and senior ergonomics consultant with Marsh Risk Consulting.

In general, companies are starting to take action to proactively address the on-job health of their employees, encouraging everything from using the stairs more to providing ready access to water stations. Some companies, like Boeing, are also taking steps to promote injury prevention through job conditioning and symptom intervention programs. The job conditioning program is open to all employees and takes place twice a week for seven weeks. The program has led to "double-digit decreases in recordable injuries and lost work days, with 97 percent of employees remaining free of injury to the affected body part for one year after participating in the program," according to Business Insurance.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management.


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