The increasing number of aging employees staying in the work force today has become known as the "silver tsunami". Employers are facing the unique challenges and benefits of working with this growing class of workers. Older workers who benefit from an optimum safety environment can actually be quite an asset to employers, bringing with them better attitudes and work flexibility associated with maturity. However, in order to achieve an optimum safety environment there are many issues that the safety professional must take into consideration when it comes to successfully managing safety of a work environment populated with an increasingly "graying" workforce.

First of all, the safety professional should be prepared to address an increasing number of chronic health problems and age-related disabilities as the numbers of workers over age 60 grow disproportionately in the years to come. Among older employees (age 50 and older) arthritis, or joint disease, is the number one chronic condition. This disease will affect strength, endurance, range of motion and flexibility. Consequently, the implementation of better ergonomic and wellness programs will become crucial to avoiding excessive time off for illness.

Occurring along with the aging phenomenon are the demands of working with different generations who often hold opposing attitudes about work and life. Safety professionals will have to become proactive in understanding the problems that may result from these generational attitudes as they affect safety and work performance. If a proper ergonomics and behavioralbased safety program is not developed, older workers will begin to feel disenfranchised if they are unable to "keep up" with the younger workers. This can lead to an increasing number of lawsuits being initiated by disgruntled older employees who may play the "age" card. It is good to be reminded that workers over the age of 40 are protected from discrimination on the basis of age by the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

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