Keeping Your Aging Workforce Healthy

Manufacturing is facing a labor shortage, in common with many other fields. But manufacturing is also facing an aging workforce population. The average machinist in America right now is in his mid-fifties. As your workers get older, how can you avoid injuries and help them stay healthy?

Personal responsibility

A lot of the difference between healthy workers and unhealthy ones is up to the workers themselves. You should do your best to provide a healthy environment for your team, but your good choices won’t make up for their poor choices. Encourage employees to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

The truth is, most of your workers probably don’t do either one of those things. A new report from the national Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health tells us that a typical American gets 58 out of 100 on a test of healthy eating habits, and just under one quarter of Americans get as much exercise as experts recommend.

Here are some things you can do to encourage healthy choices:

  • Offer wellness programs that focus on health and fitness.
  • Set up health insurance plans to reward workers who attend a gym, stop smoking, and make other good choices.
  • Make sure there are healthy options in the cafeteria and as snacks at company events. Man does not live on chili cheese fries alone.
  • Provide walking trails or other easy ways to get in some stretching or cardio during breaks.
  • Partner with local gyms or other fitness opportunities to provide low-cost options.
  • Provide standing or sit-stand workstations.

Adjust the environment

Promote a culture of safety in the workplace. Older workers may need to have some accommodation for vision and hearing issues or to deal with diminishing stability and balance. Make sure slip and fall hazards are death with quickly and that there are safe ways to navigate all parts of the building. Hallways should be well-lit and clear of clutter, cords and cables, and boxes.

Ergonomic chairs and workstations are important for all workers, but older workers are even more likely to have trouble with their back or neck if they are forced to work in uncomfortable positions. Older workers may also have issues with their knees that make the height of their workstations important.

Directly asking people if they need changes because they’re getting older can be a delicate situation. It’s better to work through HR or to make changes that will be good for the aging worker and also for the younger worker.

Support for employees with chronic health conditions

As your workers age, more of them will have diabetes, heart conditions, pacemakers or arthritis. Educate yourself and your management team on these conditions and make sure your workplace doesn’t interfere with normal medical requirements.

For example, diabetic workers may need to have time and privacy to check their blood sugar or administer insulin, and they may have to eat on a regular schedule. Someone with arthritis may need to walk around occasionally rather than sitting or standing in one place.

Normalize requests of this kind so your employees will feel comfortable expressing these needs.

Older workers have more experience, take fewer days off, and are often more productive. Pay some attention to their changing physical needs and you can keep them safely on the payroll longer.

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