Preventing work-related accidents and ill health throughout life is key, as health in later life is affected by working conditions in earlier life. The young workers of today are the older workers of tomorrow.
A holistic approach to occupational safety and health (OSH) management, taking account of all factors that could influence safety and health, is essential. Human resources (HR) policies can play a big role in ensuring that risks, especially psychosocial risks, are well managed. Rehabilitation and policies on return to work after illness are also increasingly important in the context of an ageing workforce.
An example of a holistic approach to OSH management is the ‘work ability’ concept. Work ability is the balance between work demands and individual resources. The promotion of good work ability requires good leadership and worker participation.
Employers are legally required to carry out risk assessments, which should take into account age-related risks. Older workers, however, are not a homogeneous group: differences in functional capacity and health between individuals increase with age. Diversity must therefore be taken into account in assessing risk.
Changes in an individual’s functional capacities can be addressed by adapting work, for example by using equipment to reduce physical workloads or providing training in appropriate lifting techniques. It should be remembered that good workplace design and organisation benefit all age groups.