The Manual Handling Specialists

The Manual Handling Specialists

8 tips to reduce the risks for an ageing workforce

December 2, 2016

The Australian workforce has more workers over the age of 55 now than it did 10 years ago, and this trend is likely to increase as time goes on. Workers are delaying retirement and staying in their jobs for longer due to a combination of economic and social factors. We all know how a business handles and adapts to change is crucial to its success, for those in business you understand that the shape of Australian workplaces is always changing – and an ageing population is one of these changes. If you haven’t been impacted yet, chances are that it is not far away.

An ageing workforce will pose challenges to employers that are looking to reduce the risk of injury and health related claims. Have a think about where your workforce is headed; high staff retention is great for your business, the experienced workforce is sure to save you plenty of money in down time and productivity, but with this we will need to consider strategies we can implement now that will put us in good stead moving into the future. As we always say, being proactive is better than being reactive.

It is a generalisation, however certain attributes associated with older workers may make them more vulnerable to particular types of occupational injuries, especially in physically demanding work environments. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, my uncle is a 60 year old athlete that can run circles around guys half his age, but as I mentioned in general as we age certain physical attributes can become impacted. Therefore, it is important for us to understand these characteristics and the needs of our employees and implement policies and strategies to reduce the risks. Remember, careful treatment of age related issues is required so as not to breach any age discrimination laws.

Below is a quick list from the health and safety handbook to help you get started, but if you would like to discuss, give our team a call to hear about some of the innovative strategies we have devised for similar companies.

8 tips to reduce the risks for an ageing workforce

Some 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. This may begin as early as within your functional pre employment screening.
  2. Train all workers in injury prevention strategies, there are many ways this can be achieved but engagement is key (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);
  3. Adapt tasks to suit older workers, e.g. an older worker with reduced physical strength may spend more time operating machinery than labouring;
  4. Rotate physically demanding or repetitive tasks. Regardless of age this is sure to yield some benefit;
  5. Provide ergonomically-designed workstations for all workers. This is easier than it sounds and doesn’t always involve costly options.
  6. Ensure workplace lighting is adequate for the job at hand;
  7. When possible, offer older workers flexible work arrangements, (e.g. reduced hours, fixed term contracts, working from home);
  8. Consult with workers about where they are having trouble and keep them informed about what you are doing to reduce the risks.

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