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Safety Tips for Aging Construction Workers

Safety Tips for Aging Construction Workers

Feb. 6, 2024
In 2022, 45% of construction workers were 45 and older.

As is the case for most businesses, the age of the average construction worker continues to increase as well. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2022 the median age of construction and extraction occupations workers was 41.2. And 45% of construction workers were 45 and older.

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) notes that many in this age group will continue to remain on the job due to financial pressures as well as job satisfaction. 

To help companies keep this population safe, in October of 2023, the group developed a variety of resources. One of these resources, the Aging Workers Data Dashboard examines the U.S. workforce by the numbers, including the number of workers 55 and older in construction, along with the average worker age in all industries and nine separate industries.

There is also information on tools for hazard assessment and primary prevention as well as legal resources.

CPWR offers some ideas for supportive programs: 

Pairing younger workers/apprentices with older journey persons
This is a classic approach, one that requires intentionality and training to facilitate.  The older worker shares guidance and experience, the younger worker assists with the more physically demanding tasks.

Bidirectional mentorship
In this updated version of the classic pairing model, the new/younger workers also train the older/skilled workers in new technologies that may have been recently introduced or that rely on technology with which younger workers may be more familiar, while the senior partner continues to provide trade-specific guidance and instruction.

Training for Career Ladders
Some older workers may have the inclination and skill set to move into positions that do not require hands-on construction work in the field. The following options have worked well for some individuals; however, there are limited positions of these types available, so it is not a solution for all workers as they age:

  1. Train workers for safety-related management positions, to become a safety and health trainer (e.g., for OSHA 10-hour, 30-hour, or other courses), or to conduct safety inspections.
    • OSHA requires experience in construction work and offers training leading to certification
    • Many union apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs incorporate safety and health training
  2. Train workers to become classroom instructors for skilled trade apprenticeship programs.
  3. Recently, a second apprenticeship program was approved by the U.S. Department of Labor to train journey persons who have IUPAT training to become safety inspectors for bridge repair work. This entails some pay reduction during the second apprenticeship but offers an important career ladder that is sustainable over time.
  4. Train workers for leadership positions. Trade unions, training institutes, trade associations, and community colleges offer various supervisory training programs (STPs) for those newly in supervisory positions (NOTE: some supervisory roles may require as much or more physical exertion as production work does). The Associated General Contractors offers a construction-specific training curriculum
  5. Assist workers with attending degree-granting or other programs that provide management and financial skills to move into management or to set up a small business.
    • NABTU offers scholarships that enable members to obtain on online construction management degree from Rowan University that builds on previous credits obtained through apprenticeships
    • Many local unions partner with community colleges to offer credit towards an associate degree that builds on apprenticeship courses.

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