Aging Workforce Tops List of Safety Concerns in European Nations

June 12, 2001
One of the most significant\r\nroadblocks facing safety and health professionals in years to come is an\r\naging workforce.

Preventative action is the weapon Hans-Horst Konkolewsky that the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the European nations are using to combat one of the most significant roadblocks facing safety and health professionals in years to come: an aging workforce.

Konkolewsky, the director for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, told attendees at the ASSE Safety 2001 Conference and Exposition in Anaheim Monday that lucrative retirement packages are prompting workers to leave the workforce at an earlier age than ever before. Early retirement is becoming so problematic, in fact, that when it comes to safety and health because it is leaving labor force without skilled workers who are not only have experience performing their jobs productively, but also safely.

"Now instead of working 45 to 50 years on the job, many workers are opting to retire after just 35 or 40 years of service," Konkolewsky said. Making the issue even more challenging is the fact that there is a decreasing number of young workers to replace these retirees. For that reason, the European Union is beginning to looking into creating legislation that would not only reduce the financial incentives prompting workers to retire early, but also explore ways of luring retired workers back into the workforce.

"One study the agency conducted found that 40 percent of retired workers say they hope to find another job," Konkolewsky said, adding that government officials find the statistic encouraging in the sense that it makes the job of getting retirees back on the job less intimidating.

According to Konkolewsky, an aging workforce isn''t an issue confined to Europe. Instead, he said, it''s more of a global issue that safety and health professionals worldwide, particularly those in the United States, will have to deal with in the next decade. And when it comes to keeping older workers on the job somewhat past their prime, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the link between safety and health on the job and employability, he said.

"What we have here is a changing work population that is not only bringing with along with it new risks, but is also putting new groups of workers at greater risk," he said. "Add that to the fact that many work conditions are not improving and are beginning to pose higher physical and mental challenges, and what we see is that it is going to take cooperation and communication between safety professionals to ensure that ideas are being shared, not only between companies, but between nations."

by Melissa Martin

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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