New Zealand’s ageing workforce is rapidly expanding. “For people in their 60s, the participation rate is currently 59 percent, but this will rise to 64 percent in 2038 and 67 percent in 2068” (more).
So how is this likely to affect health and safety?
The ageing workforce poses many opportunities for organisations. People who have been a part of the work force for decades offer an extensive range of valuable experience, knowledge and skills that can really benefit the workplace.
However, the ageing workforce also creates health and safety challenges that must be addressed.
Older workers may be at higher risk of work-related injuries. A study conducted by the University of Otago found that 70–79 year olds had the highest injury rates and proportion of claims due to falls (more).
There is also higher prevalence of musculoskeletal problems in older workers, as these often arise from repeated actions over a long period of time. Moreover, they often take longer to recover resulting in more days away from work (more). High workload, lack of management support or poor work culture can also have an effect on them.
Thus, companies need to focus on effective ways to manage and maintain their health and safety.
What can organisations do?
Recognising the differing needs of older workers is important to ensure they remain safe and healthy. Furthermore, implementing certain measures can help lower the risk of health and safety issues from arising.
*Common approaches companies may take include:
- Monitoring work-life balance and Flexible working arrangements – Flexible work options such as flexi-time, remote work or part-time hours, are seen as a way to enable older workers to remain productive in their jobs while meeting their own individual needs (which can also contribute to their overall wellbeing). It can also help transition them into retirement.
- Job (re)design – This could include creating specific roles that suit their abilities (e.g. project-based roles), adjusting job responsibilities, or reducing work-load (e.g. access to less labour intensive roles).
- Ergonomic (re)design – With the higher risk of musculoskeletal issues in older people, companies should consider (re)designing workstations that fit the requirements of each individual, to prevent short/long term ergonomic injuries from occurring.
- Health and Wellness programmes – Such programmes can really benefit their wellbeing inside and outside of the workplace. For instance, subsidised gym memberships and eye examinations, free annual flu vaccinations or dietary/lifestyle recommendations are commonly provided in workplaces.
*These approaches can be beneficial for all workers (regardless of their age).
Managing and engaging older workers – especially when it comes to health and safety – entails developing a supportive and inclusive work environment. By valuing their work despite their age and ensuring their needs are considered, it can lead to a more productive and healthier workplace.
If your organisation needs assistance with creating health and safety systems that meets all employees’ needs (including older workers), contact the team at Working Wise by filling out our online form or giving us a call on 04 499 0710.