In conjunction with the general aging of the population, many employees and volunteers are working for your church beyond traditional retirement benchmarks. Older people today are more active than in previous generations and have a desire to remain productive. Because they are remaining active, they also are staying healthier.
As we continue to see the number of older workers and volunteers increase as the Baby Boomers move into retirement, we encounter new challenges to keep them safe and free from injuries. Whether you have an aging custodial staff, elderly volunteers working in your daycare center or older workers volunteering on an urban renewal construction site, here are some tips to help for protect older employees and volunteers.
Utilizing the services of an occupational physician to evaluate the physical capabilities of job applicants serves two purposes. First, the screening identifies applicants who appear healthy but have a health condition or limitation that precludes them from performing the required job tasks, and more importantly, would otherwise be identified at the time of injury or accident. Second, the screening provides a baseline that may limit the level of restorative obligation at the time of injury. This can significantly reduce the cost of a workers’ compensation claim.
Implementation of additional safety measures for your older employees and volunteers will reduce potential for injury while improving the working conditions and their productivity.
General Safety Tips
- Heavy lifting and long reaches;
- Squatting, stooping and kneeling; and
- Tasks that require sudden movements, such as twisting.
Avoid over-the-shoulder work to reduce wear and tear on the shoulders, back and neck.
- With age, our ability to hear and see, as well as our sense of balance, diminishes. Older employees and volunteers should not be assigned work on ladders, roofs or elevated platforms.
- Encourage older employees and volunteers to address vision, hearing and other physical problems that you identify in the pre-placement health screening.
- Encourage employees and volunteers to work at a safe pace, and include frequent breaks.
- Perform hazard awareness training to advise employees and volunteers of workplace job risks. Be certain that safety rules are understood and implemented.
- Frequently monitor older workers to ensure they can handle assigned tasks. This is especially important if their job duties and tasks have changed.
- Maintain equipment, tools and facilities to ensure ease of use and safety.
- Provide proper personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses and gloves.
- Train workers to perform tasks and lifts close to the body to minimize reaching, overexertion and to the amount of force required.
- Ensure adequate training has been provided on climbing steps and ladders, including three points of contact.
One of the more popular job duties assigned to older staff members and volunteers is operating church vans and buses. This is a job task where experience and route familiarity is valuable. Unfortunately, the reality is that aging workers’ senses deteriorate. Make sure that your church leaders are on the lookout for reports of unsafe driving, dents and scrapes on fenders and bumpers, difficulty driving in reverse, getting lost in familiar locations and close calls.