Safety Considerations for Older Warehouse Workers

When it comes to the employees in your warehouse, age is everything. The amount of diversity and job knowledge held within the minds of older employees is staggering and essential to the success of your material handling business, and they should not be taken for granted. To keep your older workers happy and productive, you must create a safe atmosphere within your warehouse so they can feel satisfied at work and leave every day in the same condition that they arrived. 

Doing so will require following the safety guidelines provided by OSHA in addition to a few extra considerations. Since the average warehouse employee is 39 years old, the chances are that your warehouse may have some older workers, so consider the tips discussed here and create a safe environment for all.

Avoid Overexertion

As we get older, it is only natural that we will not be as strong and durable as we were in our younger years, so warehouse management must ensure that older employees aren’t becoming injured via overexertion. Whether it is by lifting boxes incorrectly or completing repetitive movements day in and day out, overexertion can lead to strains, sprains, and fractures that could permanently derail an older worker. In many cases, improper movement of objects can lead to back strain, so if an employee complains about their back, recommend a chiropractor. If a worker is eligible for Medicare, then some of the costs of chiropractic care may be covered.

As mentioned, repetitive work can also lead to overexertion, especially jobs where workers are sitting on an assembly line or in front of a computer using their hands or the same muscle repeatedly over time. A good way to avoid injury in this regard is to switch up the tasks that all of your workers complete so they aren’t straining any particular body part. If your workers are sitting for long periods of time, then management should provide ergonomic chairs so your staff can keep their bodies aligned and protected.

To prevent long shifts of repetitive and potentially dangerous movements, your company may want to think about the flexibility that you provide your workers. Make sure that they get their two breaks and one lunch per day, and offer but don’t require overtime. If an employee needs to take time off to see the chiropractor or a doctor for pain, then be sure to allow them the option without making it difficult to do so.

Considerations for Sight and Hearing

As we reach our elder years, it is also inevitable that we may not be able to see or hear as easily as we used to, so warehouse management will definitely want to take that into account with an older workforce. There is little you can do to get rid of the excessive noise in a warehouse, so ensure that all staff members wear proper protection so they don’t damage their ears. For those with hearing impairments, management should provide written safety guidelines in addition to verbal reminders. 

Our vision also takes a hit in our older years, so safety and caution signs should be larger and made with bright colors so they can capture the attention of anyone, regardless of their age. Warning signs should be placed everywhere there is a danger, from forklift paths and warehouse machinery to the locations of recent spills so your staff can avoid slips and falls. You never want someone to get hurt because they couldn’t see the warning. 

To avoid the confusion of a bustling warehouse and keep boxes and shelving from blocking warning signs, cleanliness and organization should be key throughout your location. An organized warehouse should be free of debris that can lead to a fall, including power cords, pallets, excessive dust, and hoses, among any other items that don’t belong on the floor. To help older employees remember where important items are kept, create a written floor plan and place copies around the warehouse so workers can get what they need safely and efficiently.

Maintain Safety Standards

Studies show that although the age and wisdom of older workers prevent them from getting injured as often, when they do have an incident, the damage can be more severe and potentially career-ending. For that reason, it is important to follow the basic safety tips that all warehouses should have in effect. For instance, all machinery should be inspected regularly to test for vulnerabilities and checks should be conducted to ensure that only employees who are caught up on their certification can operate those machines. 

Older workers also typically have a reduction in their breathing capacity, which not only makes it harder to do repetitive physical labor but could also cause a more significant impact if they breathe in dangerous chemicals. To limit the chances of anyone breathing in harmful chemicals, which is one of the most common workplace injuries, warehouses need to ensure that all dangerous substances are properly labeled and all chemicals kept in sealable, waterproof containers and stored per the instructions on the labels.

To ensure that everyone follows the required guidelines, all safety meetings and training sessions should be properly documented and all employees should be required to sign off on what they were taught. Doing so will keep them accountable and legally protect your warehouse in the case that someone is hurt due to not following the guidelines. Employees who do not follow instructions should also be disciplined so they know that their management team takes safety seriously and that it is not something to take lightly. 

As you can see, older workers are not a liability in a warehouse environment. In fact, they are quite the opposite. By ensuring proper safety standards and protecting all employees, warehouse management can ensure a strong and productive workforce.

 

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