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Supporting older workers in the workplace

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As our Queensland population ages, so does our workforce, and while older workers are often the most skilled and productive employees, they may also be the most vulnerable.

Ageing has many effects on the body including reduced muscle strength and endurance, bone density, joint mobility, balance, cognitive processing and reaction times. However, the effects of ageing vary from person to person.

Employers need to know and understand the needs, capabilities and skills of their workforce. This awareness will help them best support all workers and design safe and healthy work, and working environment for their workers.

In general, older workers have fewer accidents than their younger counterparts, however their injuries are often more serious and recovery is more complicated. Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest that older workers are less productive than younger workers.

Here are a few things to consider, to ensure that work is designed well to keep older workers in the workplace:

Know and understand your workforce

  • Gather human resource metrics and undertake analysis to ensure work and the workplace is designed to fit your workforce demographic, including their health status, skills, experience and vulnerabilities.

Adapt duties to suit older workers’ needs and abilities

  • Ensure all risks to health and safety minimised for all workers, and in particular ensure there is a fit between the work being performed and the workers doing the work. Job redesign or rotation may help manage the risks.

Support open communication at work

  • Encourage two-way communication with workers so that they feel comfortable in discussing any potential health and safety issues.

Offer workers flexible work arrangements

  • Discussing aspects of work such as the length of work days might allow older workers to stay in the workforce longer.

Make suitable duties available in the case of an injury

  • Have suitable duties available for injured workers to help them get back to work sooner and avoid long periods of time off work, which can result in feelings of alienation from the workforce.

Recover at Work

  • If an employer has no suitable duties available, an injured worker may be able to return to work with a host employer as part of WorkCover's Recover at Work program.

It is important to remember that workplaces also need to thoroughly identify, assess, control and review all health and safety risks to all of their workers. Read more about this four-step process to managing risks, and ways to design safe and healthy work for all workers using good work design principles.

Last updated
14 January 2019