Com­pa­nies make ef­fort to keep older work­ers safe

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Maria Ines Za­mu­dio

When man­agers at Bon Se­cours Vir­ginia Health Sys­tem started an­a­lyz­ing worker’s com­pen­sa­tion cases, they no­ticed a bad com­bi­na­tion: Lift­ing heavy and sicker pa­tients was tak­ing a toll on older nurses.

“We saw an in­crease in back in­juries and older work­ers were more likely to suf­fer from those in­juries,” said Jim God­win, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources. “Not only that but we thought if we can keep work­ers from sus­tain­ing (back) in­juries when they are younger, they can con­tinue work­ing longer.”

The com­pany put into place a new pro­to­col for mov­ing pa­tients.

Nurses can now call in a “pa­tient mo­bil­ity team” to help.

Jac­que­lyn James, co-di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on Ag­ing & Work at Bos­ton Col­lege, said there’s a recog­ni­tion among em­ploy­ers such as Rich­mond­based Bon Se­cours Vir­ginia Health Sys­tem that the work­force is ag­ing.

“That’s what’s driv­ing the change right now,” she said. “Changes are needed. These work­ers are stay­ing in their jobs.”

The U.S. gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates that by 2024, older work­ers will ac­count for a quar­ter of the la­bor mar­ket.

So com­pa­nies such as Bon Se­cours Rich­mond Health Sys­tem, a faith­based non­profit health care sys­tem that man­ages sev­eral hos­pi­tals, are tak­ing steps to make their work­place safer for older work­ers. About one-quar­ter of Bon Se­cours’ 13,000 work­ers are 50 or older, God­win said.

“There is a chronic shortage of health care pro­fes­sion­als and that’s been true for the last 30 years since I’ve been work­ing,” he said. “We had to get in­no­va­tive with ways to keep our po­si­tions filled.”

The Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health said there are a va­ri­ety of ac­com­mo­da­tions that em­ploy­ers can make to cre­ate a safer and more con­ducive work en­vi­ron­ment for older em­ploy­ees. Among its rec­om­men­da­tions:

• Flex­i­bil­ity on the job. NIOSH says this in­cludes sched­ules, lo­ca­tion and tasks, among other things.

• Cre­at­ing a work en­vi­ron­ment that lets peo­ple move rather than stay seden­tary all day. That can in­clude pro­vid­ing sit/ stand work sta­tions or on­site phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

• Man­age noise, slip or trip and other phys­i­cal haz­ards.

• En­sure that the work en­vi­ron­ment is er­gonom­i­cally friendly. That could in­clude work­sta­tions, seat­ing, floor­ing and light­ing.

•Use teams and team work to prob­lem solve.

• Pro­mote healthy life­styles and “ac­com­mo­date med­i­cal self-care in the work­place and time away for health vis­its.”

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