Ergonomic Intrusions for the Ageing Industry and Workforce
Received Date: Mar 27, 2018 / Accepted Date: Mar 29, 2018 / Published Date: Mar 30, 2018
Ageing is one of the most imperative issues globally and ageing course impacts vast areas of our life . Major influential parts of the maturing course are social security, labour market and employment, education and healthcare systems, pension schemes, income distribution and savings, and relationships between different generations . This trend reflects that older workers are commonly found in every business and workplace, including blue-collar, whitecollar, and service industries, with slightly more in the white-collar industries . In these businesses, older workers are exemplified in all types of jobs and vocations .
The greying of the labour force in the U.S. and other industrialized nations is a well-recognized reality . People live longer and elect to stay in the workforce further than the established retirement age. In 2010, people age 55 and older made up nearly 20% of the entire U.S. workforce. In the European Union, almost one-quarter of the labour force is age 50 or older . In the case of the U.S., more than 13% of those ages 65 and older are still employed in some capacities .
Ageing development typically comes to decline in our body functions such as muscular strength, joint mobility, and sometimes slower reaction and movement . Although older workers may experience a loss of strength and flexibility, it’s important for the industry to recognise the value that the ageing workforce brings its expertise. The older workers are liable to be readier and more practical. Beyond the increased constancy, their workplace knowledge, experience, and customer focus are an irreplaceable impact on the company. To adapt this influential benefit, industries should reassess workspace designs, considering physical deteriorations we experience as we become old.
However, the ageing workforce faces several challenges such as a decline in a range of motion and ability to maintain postures, which can be supported with easy ergonomic improvements. Although some ergonomic features can be negotiated with portability, there are basically significant issues that employers can provide more comfortable and productive environments. Every worker can take advantage of an ergonomic workspace. However, with a progressively ageing labour force, it will be a beneficial idea to maintain it in a respectable, healthful, creative, and attentive stance. The knowledge, skills and experiences of the aged workforce are far too important to overlook their replacing needs. Thus, it is desirable to make changes as the old workers may tend to be more susceptible to their physical challenges.
Handling the safety and health requirements are not straightforward to the older workers. Chronological age is a poor guide to the workers’ aptitudes and maturing differs greatly amongst individual workers. The age-related illnesses can have an effect on work implementations. For instance, certain workers may hurt from various joints, bones, or musculoskeletal disorders. Because there are still large knowledge gaps on the ageing process and its impact on our workplaces and industries, a multi-faceted approach including ergonomic involvements is required to fully understand the older workers’ capability.
Ageing Workforces and Work Environments
Ageing workforces and workers
Older workers are found in every business and workplace . In 1995, 56% of the elder workforces age 65 years or older sustained parttime jobs and 44% held permanent ones. Until the year 2000, workers 65 years of age or older maintained more part-time jobs than permanent ones. Since then, there has been a stable growth in permanent positions for these older workers, growing to a complete reversal in 2007, where 56% held permanent positions and 44% parttime ones . In 2017, this gap was broadened further when 77% of the workers aged 55 years or older held permanent positions whilst 28% retained part-time ones in the case of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity in the U.S. .
Under such a global workplace trend, ageing is related to fresh human resource management problems. The rising proportion of ageing workers shows that care should be paid to matters such as equal employee’s opportunity policy , workforce labour deficiencies, employee appealing and maintaining , and stopping of indispensable institutional knowledge losses . Voelpel and Streb highlight that ageing work population causes new problems and challenges in the long term . Additional defy is to assuring knowledge transfers which may cause the industry serious difficulties. This issue appears when workers having unique knowledge retire from his/her position without proper delegations.
In accordance with Fabisiak and Prokurat, in the milieu of workforce ageing, the future competitiveness of industries and the whole economies will be subject to the older workers’ skill usages, productivities, and executions . Therefore, workplaces and industries need to change in the human resource plans and labour market policies. For these motives, mature people are fortified to dynamically partake in the job markets as long as possible and keep on working into the later life round. Rapoliene stresses that aged people are frequently linked to discouraging features . Approaches to the older workers are usually more pessimistic than attitudes to the younger ones . Tamutiene et al. discuss that the key reason why the older people confront difficulties in the working environment is varying psycho-physiological processes and incongruity of the prevailing capabilities . However, Beck suggests that “older workers’ output is not abridged by their age but by skill obsolescence” .
Aging workforce, cognitive learning ability, and physical aging
An ageing course is influenced by numerous causes, including genetic composition, ecological, and socio-economic conditions . The decremental theory of ageing proposes that some work capacities, both physical and cognitive functions, largely deteriorate, weakening the person’s capacity to deal with various job requests . Hence, training reforms may be required to accommodate ageing workers. For instance, joining in a dynamic job rather than a passive training can optimize human potential and avoid obsolescence . Mature workforces may also learn more efficiently in proactive training rather computer or web-based instructional curriculums .
Physiological alterations, associated with eyesight and hearing, are significant sensual functions that extensively affect cognition . Vision variations are a part of the standard ageing process comprising reduced contrast sensitivity, diminished adaptation to light and dark, and augmented sensitivity to glare. Elder individuals need more contrast to resolve details.
Physical ageing contains age-linked weakens in physical, physiological, perceptual, and motor procedures, and deteriorates in aptitudes such as dexterity, strength, and endurance . In job surroundings featured by higher corporeal efforts, maintaining workers healthy and accident-free signifies amplifying not only their capabilities but also lessening the danger of injuries. If elder workforces get injured, they need more times to recover and experience fatalities at a higher rate . For example, labour-intensive assembly jobs which are exemplified by highly recurring short sequence operations can cause work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). WMSDs are apt to be more predominant in old workers.
However, declines in the cognitive and physical performance may be counterweighed by experiences. It was uncovered that elder workers might use capabilities to recompense for weaken physical strength endurance. Experience covers up for cognitive insufficiencies whilst technology lessens physical stresses. Experience is also a primary determinant of job performance. Despite extensive studies on the ageing workers and work productivities, there are still large knowledge disparities to fully understand their relationships caused by lacking sufficient experimental confirmations.
Ergonomics and Old Workers
Ageing and aged work population is a global trend and a great challenge for most modern industries in the world. Physical capacity is one of the essential elements for health and safe work practices. When workforces are getting old, however, the number of injuries significantly affects health, physical capacity, and work performance . Thus, it needs to find answers to resolve and prevent such injuries and potential incidents. A rudimentary solution is to develop relevant measuring tools for supporting the health and work capacities of the older workers. In this sense, ergonomic assessments and immersions appear to be an ideal approach to maintain older workers' individual resources and professional competences [26,27].
Ergonomics can provide significant improvements for the all age groups in the workplace but be more beneficial to the older workers. According to Roy, elder workforces confront physical, physiological, and psychosocial challenges . Along with ageing, the older workers more frequently experience fitness issues such as reduced visions or hearing losses, increased blood pressures, fatigues, and other health concerns. Nevertheless, such debilities can be regulated by controlling the working circumstances. As Perry highlighted, the aim of ergonomics is “to design tasks, jobs, activities, work areas, and environment to remove known risk factors and obstacles that impede optimum performance to prevent injuries, illnesses, errors, confusion, mistakes and to improve overall employee wellness and overall business performance” . Thus, ergonomic interventions seem to be an ideal resolution for the older workers in the industry and workplace.
The recent literature reported a variety of measures to improve workplace ergonomics [30-35]. For example, Walker advised that workplace modifications could assist mature employees to sustain their productivities . Perry proposed an organized method to enhance ergonomic job designs and separate ergonomic control measure groups . Additionally, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services urges employers to utilize lighter materials, control workstation heights, utilize adjustable sitting, offer sufficient spaces for work areas, assure acceptable lighting systems, and apply larger text fonts and nonglare objects .
Safety and health problems caused by natural ageing affect all the workers, workplaces, and even the entire industries. With growing older work populations, paradigms of the workplaces’ safety and health exercises are turning into not only individual worker’s issues but also industry's aims. The rapid ageing tendency in the industries constrains flexibility and productivity in man-powered manufacturing systems. Despite the developments in technologies, the function of human workforces is central in variable manufacturing areas . Physical aptitudes are still demanded to execute more multifaceted assembly phases from semi- or partially-automated jobs such as finishing production tasks. Moreover, cognitive abilities are demanded by workers to cooperate with renewed skills and to deal with organizational plans and policies such as a work rotation . Hence, the requirement for fresh organizational gears which can consider agelinked reformations in the workforce efficiency is a crucial issue.
In this way, if any industry or workplace is not fully prepared to the situation at the structural level, this will generate different defies such as the loss of exclusive logistic awareness, a deficiency of skilled workforce; incompetent assessment of prospective or existing workers, parity matters, team controlling defies, and age-related staff disagreements . So as to safeguard the productivity of ageing workers, workplaces and industries should employ suitable gauges of human resource management and disburse more attention to their requirements. When workers are fulfilled with their employed condition, they are encouraged to sustain their jobs for a longer period.
To evade conceivable defies in the maturing work population, therefore, industries and workplaces should be attentive to the agemanagement matters such as job staffing, learning and knowledge supervision, constant health monitoring, adaptable working and workplace conditions, and ergonomic interventions. As Streb and Voelpel specified, running tools for the ageing workforce need to be tailored and planned to meet mission obligations with individual changing abilities over a time period . Prskawetz et al. suggested that frameworks for the future research could be aspired to developing more dependable statistical connections between the ageing issues and their impacts on ergonomic risk indicators and job performance at the workplace to forecast overall effects, assess the acceptability of situations in the course of time, and plan actions such as workplace upgrading or gradual shifting with younger workers with a methodic approach .
For the prevention of injuries and incidents to the older workers, an improved match between the job requests and worker competences is necessitated. As discussed in the above, therefore, ergonomic intervention seems to be an encouraging tool to help industries and workplaces to identify when, how, and why most injuries arise in their workplace.
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Citation: Kim IJ (2018) Ergonomic Intrusions for the Aging Industry and Workforce. J Ergonomics 8:e179. DOI: 10.4172/2165-7556.1000e179
Copyright: © 2018 Kim IJ. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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