vide specific notice to employers regarding their obligations to reduce hazards that can cause work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
There is evidence that workplace injuries decline following OSHA inspections (Scholz, 1990). It is nonetheless debatable whether the aggregate declines in reported injuries can be attributed to the regulatory and enforcement activities that are authorized under OSHA. No studies directly support this broader conclusion.
It is also impossible to measure the normative effects of laws on behavior. But to the extent that voluntary compliance is not assured, compliance with OSHA’s mandate cannot be certain. As the cohort of current workers ages, the number and percentage of workers with aging-related physical impairments will also rise. On the other hand, there will also be increasing heterogeneity within these aging cohorts. It is not clear what the implication of these trends is for health and safety regulation. Ultimately, the critical question regarding older workers is this: To what extent do current regulations provide adequate protection to prevent morbidity in aging workers and to protect aging workers who remain in the workforce? Finding the right balance is difficult: Specific protections aimed at workers at greater risk, including in some cases older workers, are likely to result in increased exclusion of these workers from the workforce; increased general protection may be too costly or too extensive to survive legal challenges. In fact, little is known regarding the effectiveness of the laws governing health and safety to protect this population.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq., specifically prohibits any discrimination by employers with 20 or more employees against workers who are 40 years old or older. Generally, mandatory retirement policies are unlawful unless public safety is implicated. As recently as the early 1970s, about half of all American workers were covered by mandatory retirement provisions that required them to leave their jobs no later than a particular age, usually 65. In 1978, the earliest age for mandatory retirement was raised from 65 to 70, and in 1986 mandatory retirement was outlawed entirely, except for a range of jobs that most commonly involve public safety. In addition, under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (amending the ADEA), an employer may not legally reduce or terminate an employee’s fringe benefits because of the employee’s age. In addition to the federal law, state fair employment practice laws often have provisions similar to those in the ADEA that may cover smaller employers.