Health and Safety and the ageing workforce

By marketing@airsweb.com

November 6, 2014

Today’s workforce is steadily ageing. In one of our recent blogs we outlined how the EU intends to improve health and safety across Europe over the next 6 years, including taking into account the risks surrounding the ageing workforce. It is expected that by 2030, the amount of people in England aged over 65 will increase by 50% and those aged over 85 may double [1]. This will have a huge impact on UK employers and as the State Pension Age is set to rise, many people will want or need to continue working. Although there are some issues that employers will face as a result of this change, there are also many myths surrounding the ageing workforce.

Dispelling myths

Employers, although they may see changes in their workforce, should apply the same health and safety strategy for their ageing workforce as the rest of their workforce. As backed by the HSE [2], health and safety should not be an excuse to refrain from hiring older employees. However, some of the main issues concerning employers are that an increasingly ageing workforce could lead to decreased productivity and a greater proportion of absentees and accidents.  These concerns may not be needed, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work [3] older workers are less likely to have accidents than their younger equivalent. It has also been shown that the proportion of employees involved in a work-related accident, not resulting in sick leave was fairly similar across the age range.

Potential Issues

Many employers hold older employees in high esteem. They are seen to have a strong work ethic, to be more reliable and have priceless experience, making many older employees an invaluable asset to any company. It is for this reason that organizations’ are adapting their working environments in order to retain these useful members of staff.

With this in mind there are barriers concerning working longer into life. The UK’s 2006 Age Equality Law was intended to encourage organizations to put in place specific strategies with the aim to manage and retain their older workforce. Issues surrounding access, hours of work, flexibility, and physical activity could all affect an ageing workforce.

When job roles include labour intensive tasks, such as in the construction industry, issues can arise. There is a hard decision to be made as to whether the physical side of the job will cause physical injuries. However, moving an individual who has worked in a physical role their entire life into an office job could cause serious mental issues.

Solutions

Organizations should be aware of their ageing workforce while not assuming that certain jobs are too demanding. Communication with your workforce is key in this situation. By understanding the needs of not only the older employees but the entire workforce, organizations can adapt the work environment to maximize safety and working efficiency. One solution for particularly physical job roles could be to introduce technology or better equipment to take the brunt of the strain.

Having a superior risk assessment strategy in place allows businesses to collect and analyze incidents and accidents within the company using powerful software. With this in-depth knowledge of the health and safety, organizations can pinpoint weak areas and quickly find solutions. The software Airsweb provides allows businesses to easily manage health and safety risks, safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the entire workforce.

We act as your partner, offering best practice on implementation right through to user adoption to ensure your QHSE programme is measurable at board level. Talk to a member of the team today on 0151 289 6811 or email info@airsweb.com

Lee Davies

Sources:

[2] http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.htm

[3] https://osha.europa.eu/en/priority_groups/ageingworkers/index_html

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