Introduction

Since 2005 the incidence of serious injuries, those requiring lengthy periods of time off duty or restricted duty, has been on the rise as documented by numerous sources, including those cited below. In general, these increases are irrespective of the age of the worker. At the same time though, the number of aging workers in the workplace has increased. Data about the injury patterns of older workers indicate that, while the frequency of their injuries is lower than the proportion of the workforce they represent, they suffer from serious injuries more often than their younger counterparts. Finally, the recent economic downturn has virtually assured that the retirement plans of many workers in their late 50's and early 60's will have to be put on hold as they no longer possess sufficient resources to support themselves both in the interim period before they are eligible for Social Security and afterwards. This will result in an increase in the numbers of workers in the 55–64 and 65+ age groups; those who have the more serious and costly injuries as well as higher fatality rates.

In exploring these issues, this paper will present the idea that safety programs that lack the standard principles of effective occupational safety and health management systems (OSHMS), such as are outlined in ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, may be contributing to both issues. A plan of action that encourages a significant review and revision of occupational safety and health programs to line up with such standards will be discussed as a means to proactively deal with both issues. This includes, among other items, the development of enhanced incident investigations and a stronger safety by design processes.

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