OHS Implications of an Aging Workforce
Australia, like the rest of the western world, has an aging population. With decreased birth rates and the ‘Baby Boomers’ now aged between 45 and 65, the nature of our workforce is vastly different then it has ever been in our history, with implications both immediate and into the foreseeable future.
According to the 2006 census, approximately 38% of the Australian working population is 45 or over, with 15% aged 55 or over. With still relatively low levels of unemployment, a previous long period of economic growth and an ongoing skills shortage, both the current and former federal governments have a policy of encouraging mature workers to get in and stay in the workforce for as long as they can. Most employers are already responding by implementing their own policies to eliminate age discrimination and pave the way to recruit mature workers, whilst competing heavily to retain the wealth of experience they have in their current workforce.
Unfortunately recent history shows that the work health and safety (WHS) management of this work group is failing. Contra to popular belief, statistics year after year show that ‘baby boomers’ are disproportionately represented in both injury and fatality statistics. In fact employees aged 45 or over are 20% more likely than someone under 45 to have an injury serious enough to require a Workers Compensation claim. This increases to 30% if the worker is 55 or older.
The news is even more grim when it comes to fatalities. Employees aged 45 or over are 57% more likely than a younger worker to die of a work related injury or illness. Whilst work related death rates of employees 55+ and 65+ are 2.5 times and 4 times higher than someone 44 or under.
Given the demographics, organisations wishing to sustain their current levels of productivity not only need to embrace the mature labour market, they need to target it. However Occupational Health and Safety Professionals must work with management to turn the injury and death statistics around. Mature workers have different needs not only in areas of remuneration, work-life and human resources but also in the management of their work health and safety.
If you would like assistance developing a strategy for managing the health and safety of your mature workers, Contact Us.
Injury and Fatality Incident Rates calculated using data provided by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council