Tackling the effects of an ageing workforce

The onset of chronic illnesses such as type-two diabetes and heart disease are hopefully front of mind already, and initiatives centering on body degeneration should be ramping up by the day. If these conversations are not occurring within your business, may I suggest that you start very soon? 

Let’s start by comparing a lean and fit 23-year-old exiting a truck from the top step to the ground to a 30-year veteran doing the same. I can hear what you’re thinking. “Our drivers never jump from their vehicle, they descend the steps carefully every time.” But after thousands of conversations with drivers over the past ten years, it must be said that in the heat of battle many drivers continue to jump down in a hurry. 

The 23-year-old flies through the air, lands like a panther and springs forward in the desired direction. The problem is that the human body, even when 23 and in fabulous shape, is not designed to continually land on hard surfaces in steel cap boots. The older, more seasoned readers of Prime Mover with sore, creaky knees and chronic lower back pain would attest to the fact that the human body is not young for long. 

In an ageing workforce the key word for all companies and individuals to consider is degeneration. Here are some facts about how the body naturally degenerates and, more importantly, what companies can do to decrease future human and organisational cost.

Fact 1: The human skeleton grows and strengthens until the age of eighteen in women and twenty-one in men. Bone mass, which is the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton, continues to grow until about the age of thirty.  After the age of thirty though, our bones gradually deteriorate.
Solution: Provide staff with education on the importance of resistance exercises (weight training) and nutrition that supports the long-term health of bones and joints. On-site fitness spaces and injury prevention training are also highly recommended.

Fact 2: Maintaining an upright, neutral spine becomes increasingly difficult as the discs of the spine lose minerals and moisture. This adversely affects posture, therefore increasing discomfort and injury risk.
Solution: Provide staff with training that focuses on adequate hydration and mineral rich foods. When talking about posture there is nothing more powerful in the long-term than educating on ‘core muscle stability.’

Fact 3: Knee and hip joints can become inflamed and less flexible as fluid in joints decreases and cartilage erodes. Shoulder joints become stiff because of bone calcification. These factors limit our range of motion, therefore increasing risk of injury.
Solution: Ensure that all staff perform warm-up exercises prior to driving and/or performing critical tasks. Stretching muscles during and after work is paramount in decreasing joint degeneration. 

Fact 4: Risk of injury increases due to a combination of instability and brittle bones.
Solution: Training offered to staff to improve/maintain balance and coordination. Such training decreases risk and incidence of slips, trips and falls, which continue to occur regularly across businesses.

When all’s said and done, don’t jump from vehicles – it’ll catch up to you down the track, if it hasn’t already.

Good luck and good health.

Written by Matthew Beechey, Director of R&R Corporate Health and acclaimed industry health and wellbeing expert.


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