Germany — ‘Off the Back’: retaining older workers in a small roofing company
Plenker’s small roofing enterprise, in partnership with the University of Applied Science Lower Rhine and the Fraunhofer Institute for Work Organisation, implemented musculoskeletal disorder prevention measures for workers to retain them in employment for longer. Six months of activity analysis by University researchers in Plenker’s workplace was followed by the identification of measures to reduce heavy work. These included mobile lifting aids, transport aids and the use of kneepads. Employees also received basic office training — upskilling that allowed workers to transfer to lighter work when necessary. Success factors included the consistent supervision by the company owner and the input from external experts. Changing employee behaviour was the most significant challenge. A similar approach could be followed for any working environment involving heavy physical work. While employees can easily be trained in office work, providing transfer opportunities might be more problematic in more structured companies.