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9 tips to reduce the risks for an ageing workforce Jul 17th, 2014
Australia’s population will both grow strongly and become older in the medium term. This population growth and ageing will affect labour supply, economic output, infrastructure requirements and governments’ budgets, and has lead to the gradual increase in the retirement age from 65-70 for those people born after 1965.

As for safety on the job, workers who are older actually tend to experience fewer workplace injuries than their younger colleagues. This may be because of experience gathered from years in the workplace, or because of factors such as increased caution and awareness of relative physical limitations.

This caution is well-founded. When accidents involving older workers do occur, the workers often require more time to heal, underscoring the need for a well-planned return to work program.

Also evidence suggests incidents affecting older workers are more likely to be fatal. A recent Safe Work Australia document suggested people over 65 have a higher fatality rate (7.73 fatalities per 100,000 workers) than their young work collegues (0.98 fatalities per 100 000 workers). This underscores the need for employers to be mindful of how best to gradually adapt the conditions of work to protect workers as well as explore opportunities for preventative programs that can maintain or build the health of employees through their working life.

Here are 9 tips you can use to eliminate or reduce the risks posed to older workers in your workplace:

  1. Ensure that a person (regardless of age) is suited to the task and can carry it out safely; Pre-employment Physical Assessments are vital.

  2. Adapt tasks to suit older workers, e.g. an older worker with reduced physical strength may spend more time operating machinery than labouring;

  3. Rotate physically demanding or repetitive tasks;

  4. Provide ergonomically-designed work area and workstations for all workers;

  5. Regularly assess stress levels of workers and implement stress management training if required;

  6. Train all workers in injury prevention strategies (it is important to keep in mind that as you age, the pace and way that you learn changes, meaning that training requirements may be different for older workers and training may require repetition);

  7. Ensure workplace lighting is adequate for the job at hand;

  8. If possible, offer older workers flexible work arrangements, (e.g. reduced hours, fixed term contracts, working from home); and

  9. Consult workers about where they are having trouble and keep them informed about what you are doing to reduce the risks.

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