Expanding older workforce needs H&S support


The number of aged workers in the workforce is predicted to double by 2036.

With the burden of work-related injuries in older employees only set to increase, more needs to be done to keep them safe, a University of Otago study has found.

Researchers studied the incidence, nature and cause of work-related injuries in older New Zealanders.

The study found older workers represented a significant burden on ACC with just over one in five accepted claims for all traumatic work injuries (2009-2013) being made by workers aged 55-79 years.

Overall, workers between 70 and 79 years old had the highest rate of work injury entitlement claims, and the highest percentage (five percent) of fatal injury, among 55–79 year olds.

Claim rates for both males and females rose steadily with increasing age, and were highest for the oldest group of workers aged between 70 and 79 years. Regardless of age, the highest claim rates were for males.

The researchers believe factors behind the increased rate of injury include:

  • the decline of physical and cognitive function with age
  • workplace safety culture of those employing older workers
  • the self-perception of invulnerability of older workers
  • underestimation of risk when overly familiar with a hazard
  • age-related job segregation leading to different job hazard exposures

“Employers and policy makers need to consider the impact of work activities on older workers while continuing to value their productivity,” says Associate Professor Chrys Jaye of the University’s Department of General Practice and Rural Health.

“Employers need to work to make workplaces as safe and hazard free as possible.

“This means taking into account risks related to age-related impairments such as declining vision, hearing, physical capacity and balance.

“This might include re-designing workplaces to meet the needs of older workers, and worker training and health promotion in the workplace.

“A workplace that is safer for older workers is likely to be safer for all workers,” he says.


Read the full report here