Protecting the Aging Construction Workforce

by Geoffrey Wolfe | Leave a Comment

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) cost business in the United States more than $20 billion a year1, but many of these injuries may actually be preventable in nature.

When a workplace injury occurs, not only is the worker’s health impacted, but lost time, turnover, surgery, emergency medical record, insurance premiums, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable instances can also impact a business’s bottom line. However, by investing in the workforce now, businesses can support the health and wellness of their employees and set themselves up for financial savings in the long run.

A Reactive Workforce

protecting the aging construction workforceMost of us have heard someone say, “I’ve learned over the years not to do it that way” before. This statement is typically in reference to an injury from one’s younger, more “durable” years. As we get older, we get sore and stay sore longer, which leads many of us to focus attention on body mechanics, preparation, recovery and healthy lifestyle. This is a reactive approach. Is there a way to earn this wisdom without suffering an injury? Can we change into a prevention focused workforce?

The construction industry is one that could benefit from shifting its focus towards prevention. 6 Although construction jobs are once again growing in numbers nationally, young people simply aren’t signing up.7 Meaning that the industry will be seeing more veteran workers in physically demanding positions going forward. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that this is an industry that could be facing a growing amount of job-related injuries with an aging workforce.

A Strategic Solution

Over the last 50 years or so, there has been some incredible advancements in ergonomics, machine technology, material sciences and engineering practices, all of which have significantly eased physical demand on the worker. Yet despite these advancements, we still see an overwhelming number of injuries.1 This has led some businesses to test out comprehensive sports medicine and wellness programs. Leveraging this approach within the most physically demanding industries may reduce the prevalence and severity of avoidable career-ending injuries.

Proper education on nutrition and hydration, smoking cessation and stress management, material handling and biomechanics, overall physical wellness, accountability and self-preservation can go a long way. Although these are not overnight remedies or Band-Aid solutions, they can have a significant impact on the future of a business. It takes companywide dedication. When embraced by executives all the way down to the green laborer, these programs or “culture shifts,” have the potential to improve employee retention, job satisfaction and productivity, as well as reduce accidents, OSHA recordable instances, lost time, turn over, and injury rates.

The critical element to success is the method of delivery and upkeep of such a program. Basic PowerPoint presentation over a coffee and donut won’t cut it. You need a unique, comprehensive, consistent and effective approach. These “Industrial Wellness” programs are designed to:

  1. Work with leadership to identify areas of opportunity
  2. Use a variety of educational methods to provide in depth training to all involved in maintaining the safety of the worksite
  3. Drive and enforce accountability
  4. Ultimately initiate a cultural change through positive interaction with the workforce.

As our focus once again turns toward enhancing, repairing and rebuilding American infrastructure, we need a workforce that is healthy, durable and most of all, working. Bringing effective Industrial Wellness programs to our construction workforce will not only improve understanding of injury prevention techniques but also increase productivity, engagement, communication and overall job satisfaction. This may lead to reduced workers compensation costs, health insurance premiums, improved odds at winning project bids and, ultimately, improving the lives of those responsible for constructing the future of the American landscape. Pretty cool, right?

Let Athletico Work 4 U

Athletico can work with your company to develop a training protocol for the long-term success of your workforce. Athletico offers a variety of preventative and educational services and our Specialists are trained to assess the work environment and worker behaviors in order to customize intervention techniques and programs. Learn more by emailing Work4U@athletico.com or calling us at 888-8-WORK4U.

 Email Work4U@athletico.com

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:

  1. “Department of Labor United States.”  | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.
  2. “Keeping the Workplace Safe from Hazards and in Full Compliance with Laws and Regulations.” Occupational Health & Safety. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.
  3. Baumgarten, K. M., Gerlach, D., Galatz, L. M., Teefey, S. A., Middleton, W. D., Ditsios, K., & Yamaguchi, K. (2010). Cigarette Smoking Increases the Risk for Rotator Cuff Tears. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 468(6), 1534–1541. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11999-009-0781-2
  4. “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 July 2017. Web. 13 July 2017.
  5. Journal of Occupational Health. Jun 28: vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 98-107.
  6. Welch, Laura. “The Aging Worker in the U.S. Construction Industry.” Occupational Health & Safety. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.
  7. “Employed Persons by Detailed Industry and Age.” S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 27 July 2017.
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