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Aging workforce creates new challenges in workplace safety

Oklahomans who have just turned 65 may not be as inclined to retire as their counterparts from previous generations. Financial pressure or the desire to work has prompted people to stay on the job through their 60s and even 70s. According to the Pew Research Center, 18.8 percent of people age 65 and above held full or part-time jobs in 2016. The physical effects of aging and different communication styles across generations have created challenges for workplace safety managers and trainers.

A research scientist who studies workplace health and safety said managers should speak directly with older workers to get feedback about any challenges that they might be experiencing. Physical jobs require particular attention, and safety managers should shape duties to fit the current abilities of older employees.

The communication of safety information is important for workers of all ages. However, older workers tend to respond best to lectures and videos whereas younger employees want short and interactive computer lessons. To overcome variations in generational learning styles, trainers should deploy a mix of communications strategies. This could give older workers, who grew up with one-directional rote learning, access to information in a familiar style while also engaging younger workers.

Employers have a legal obligation to train workers in safety procedures and provide safety equipment. Although safety training often prevents workplace injuries, they still happen. Someone hurt on the job should report the injury right away to initiate a workers' compensation claim. An attorney could also support the person's effort to access benefits, especially if an employer or insurance company withholds coverage information. With legal support, a worker might access funds to recover lost wages and pay for medical care.

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