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Ergonomic aspects of older workers' postural balance.

Bhattacharya A; Succop P; Modawal A
Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R01-OH-003936, 2003 Oct; :1-269
With the aging of America, it is estimated that there are about 59 million people between the age of 45 and 64 years. As the mandatory retirement age has been abolished, the view of the older worker as a resource is replacing the perception of older workers as a liability. Therefore, this new growing workforce of elderly workers needs to be studied carefully to determine their abilities and limitations in the light of some of the work related demands and associated tasks and environmental risk factors. The purpose of this research study was to investigate the impact of workplace related risk factors on postural balance of 95 industrial workers in three age groups, i.e. 45-54 years (youngest), 55-64 years (middle age) and 65-75 years (oldest). The risk factors investigated were, task type performed (static and dynamic), environmental lighting, standing/walking surface slipperiness and inclinations and footwear hardness. The choice of risk factors and worker age groups were based on published epidemiological literature showing potential impact of these factors in contributing injury and the impact of these risk factors on age associated changes in afferents (somatosensory, vision and vestibular systems) necessary for maintaining safe upright postural balance. Each worker's postural stability was quantitated using both kinetic and kinematic measurement systems in a laboratory where he/she was presented with random administration of mentioned risk factors. The results from this study has now provided useful scientific data to enhance an existing statistical model, based on industrial workers' (age range: 21 to 55 years) data which demonstrated the relationship between postural instability and loss of balance potential and the independent variables characterizing the Environmental, Job Task and Personal workers' risk factors. The specific enhancements will include such contributions as: effect of workplace risk factors, of environmental lighting, surface slipperiness, footwear types and surface inclination, on the limits of older (>55 years of age) workers' postural stability/loss of balance during performance of various types of tasks. In future field studies this statistical model, can be used to help evaluate the postural instability and loss of balance potential by measuring, in a walkthrough evaluation, existing risk factors at the worksite. A determination of which of the risk factors need to be corrected to reduce the fall potential is then possible. Availability of such models will have significant impact in identifying risk factors. Their reduction will help prevent fall related broken bones. spinal injuries. fatalities. permanent disabilities. lost work days. and medical costs and will increase national productivity.
Ergonomics; Workers; Demographic-characteristics; Age-factors; Posture; Environmental-factors; Risk-factors; Injuries; Industrial-factory-workers; Vestibular-disorders; Vision-disorders; Injury-prevention
Biomechanics and Ergonomics Research Laboratories, University of Cincinnati - College of Medicine, Department of Environmental Health, PO Box 670056, Cincinnati, OH 25267-0056
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Final Grant Report
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division