work safely and productively have met these objectives specifically with regard to older workers. Policies that should be the subject of such evaluation research include the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other health and safety laws; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act; and related state laws.

Many existing intervention programs have demonstrated at least some efficacy for workers generally, and some for older workers, specifically. In principle, effective workplace interventions address hazards as close to the source as possible. Therefore, job design, including redesign and engineering to improve the exposures and accommodations for older workers, deserves the highest level of attention. There are design approaches to address a variety of age-related changes in vision, hearing, and physical strength and capacity and approaches that address work-related musculoskeletal disorders that are anticipated to be an important problem for aging workers. There is evidence for the effectiveness of a limited number of interventions to address cardiovascular disease by improving work organization and job design and by reducing job stressors. Many effective interventions also involve changing the social climate in the workplace (e.g., empowering workers), introducing better work practices (e.g., ergonomic interventions to improve body posture for bending and lifting), improving physical fitness with exercise, and substituting machine work for human exertion. Training is an intervention that seems particularly relevant for older workers, who are likely to be the most distant from initial professional training and from initial job training. Access to training, however, is often too limited.

Accommodations for workers with impairments and return-to-work programs are important interventions for older workers, who are more likely to bring impairments into the workplace and to be out of work longer than their younger colleagues after an injury at work. Modified work programs have been clearly shown to facilitate the return to work of workers with temporary or permanent impairments.

Attention to general health promotion programs is relevant for older workers, in part because chronic illness or disorder rates are higher at older ages. It is important to add, however, that general health promotion programs directed at workers appear to be more effective when tied to environmental controls in the workplace. Factors known to result in shortening the duration of disability consistently include medical and vocational rehabilitation interventions, organizational level employer factors, and employer-and insurer-based disability prevention and disability management interventions. Although most employee assistance programs (EAPs) have not emphasized employee needs related to aging, they have strong potential as a support for older workers in relation to occupational health and safety

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement