By 2030, it is expected that older workers, those aged over 55, will make up more than 30% of the UK’s workforce, according to Priorities for occupational safety and health research in Europe: 2013-2020, published in 2013 by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
This is influenced by the removal of the mandatory retirement age and, for many, financial pressures.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes older workers are a valuable resource who make a positive contribution to organisations. Age diversity at work brings benefits to individuals, workplaces and wider society, including a broader range of skills and vast experience.
However, longer working lives can result in longer exposure to occupational risks which can cause health damage, some of which does not manifest for many years. These include exposure to noise, vibration, dust and fumes. This is something that has to be managed over the entire working life.
This is the rationale behind the European Union Occupational Health and Safety Agency’s Healthy workplaces for all ages campaign, for which IOSH is a partner. It provides a rich source of information and tools aimed at employers and employees.
There are free e-learning and videos that get messages across in a light-hearted manner, as well as case studies around how, in reality, the task can be achieved.
It all points towards a holistic approach, undertaken by the employer, its human resource and occupational health and safety professionals, looking at diverse elements such as: work environment and organisation; training and lifelong learning; leadership; work-life balance; worker motivation, and career development.
Judith McNulty-Green is technical information manager at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)