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Monday, February 27, 2012

Companies Focus On Keeping Aging Workers Fit

Workers taking part in a morning stretching routine at Duke Energy. (Duke Energy Corp.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2018 about a quarter of the labor force will be 55 or older.

And a number of companies are trying to find ways to keep older employees working for longer, to avoid the expense of hiring and retraining new workers.

At Harley Davidson, trainers hand out ice packs to workers who are coming off the manufacturing line, while Duke Energy Corp. has instituted a special stretching program for linemen, who work repairing power lines.

Barry Poe, a 53-year-old Duke lineman in Rural Hall, N.C., told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that at 7:30 a.m.,  his team does a regimen of stretches designed to prepare them for their daily activities.

“If we climb a pole, we have exercises designed for that. If we do underground, we have exercises designed for that,” he said.

Poe says he even does the stretches when he’s not at work.

Workers taking part in a morning stretching routine at Duke Energy. (Duke Energy Corp.)

“I didn’t used to do stretches, and then when the company started doing it… it started making you feel a little better and it become [sic] habit,” he said.

Improved Safety Record

Senior Vice President for Power Delivery Jim Stanley says the program was started to reduce the number of worker strains and muscle pulls, and to keep employees on the job longer.

“It takes four to six years to technically train a line technician, and then another couple of years to get them the experience required to be a fully developed line technician,” Stanley said.

“We want folks like Barry to be working for us and have a career as extended as he wants it to be.”

Stanley says that from a business standpoint, the stretching program, along with a focus on ergonomics, has paid off- they’ve seen fewer workers’ compensation claims and insurance payouts, and the company just completed their second-best safety year.

Guests:

  • Jim Stanley, senior vice president for power delivery at Duke Energy
  • Barry Poe, a 53-year old Duke Energy lineman in Rural Hall, North Carolina

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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