Age and industrial accidents : a re-examination



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Both immediate economic trends and long term population projections indicate a gradual increase in the median age of the American labor force over the next several decades. As such, the relevance of the employment problems of older workers in industry can be expected to increase. A review of the technical literature of industrial gerontology indicates that the empirical evidence concerning these problems is rather dated and unsystematic. Further, there is considerable disagreement with respect to the influence exerted by functional declines on the job performance of older workers in industry. It is argued here that the disagreement is a function of the research assumption that the influence exerted by functional declines is Independent of situational variables. This assumption is responsible for contradictory conclusions and neglect of the larger pattern of influences on the job performance of older workers. Accordingly, a situational view is advocated in which a variety of influences specific to the employee, the employment context, and the interface between the two are considered along with functional declines to account for observed performance patterns. The present study confirms the practical significance of a situational view through a re-examination of the safety performance of older workers in industry. Analysis of 2180 accidents incurred by 1316 employees of a petrochemical complex demonstrated a high degree of interdependence between age and situational factors on a variety of aspects of safety performance. This finding underscores the necessity of viewing functional declines as one component of an interactive network of influences on the safety performance of older workers. In addition, occupation is identified as one of the situational factors which must be accounted for when examining age-related performance trends, at least in the area of safety performance. Finally, the present study suggests further analysis of the increased risk and accident liability associated with the job expansion that occurs upon promotion from second class to first class positions in operations and skilled craft occupations.



Industrial accidents, Older people, Employment, Age and employment