Work-related injuries among older workers set to increase, study says

A new study found that age plays an important role in the likelihood of work-related injuries occurrence.

Researchers from the University of Otago studied the incidence, nature, and cause of work-related injuries in older New Zealanders and found that workplace injuries in older workers are set to increase.

The study found that older workers represented a significant burden on ACC with more than 1 in 5 accepted claims for all traumatic work injuries being made by workers aged 55-79 years, from 2009 to 2013.

Those under the age of 70-79 had the highest rate of work injury entitlement claims, and the highest percentage (5%) of fatal injury, among 55-79 olds.

Regardless of age, the highest claim rates were for male workers. Claim rates for both female and male workers increased steadily with increasing age and were highest among workers aged 70-79 years old.

Associate Professor Chrys Jaye, of the University’s Department of General Practice and Rural Health, said the number of people working beyond retirement age is increasing. It is predicted that the number of older workers in the workforce will double by 2036, which could result in increased costs to the ACC injury rehabilitation and compensation scheme.

“Employers and policymakers need to consider the impact of work activities on older workers while continuing to value their productivity,” said Associate Professor Jaye.

Employers are urged to ensure workplaces are safe and hazard- free.

“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.”

The researchers believe that factors such as decline of physical and cognitive function with age, workplace safety culture of those employing older workers, self-perception of invulnerability of older workers, underestimation of risk when overly familiar with a hazard, and age-related job segregation leading to a different job hazard exposure affect the increase in the rate of injuries among older workers.

The study has been published in the journal, Accident Analysis & Prevention.

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