This information looks at:
- some of the myths around older workers and safety, and how these negatively impact on workers and business
- how to create positive attitudes and a safer workplace for all your workers.
An ageing workforce
Australians are increasingly working to older ages:
- by 2050, around one quarter of all Australians will be aged 65+
- by 2050, there will be around 1.8 million Australians aged 85+
- there are twice as many women as men aged 85+ (reflecting their longer life expectancy).
Older workers can be victims of outdated attitudes and stereotypes, such as:
- older workers are ‘over the hill’ and can’t work safely or effectively
- older people are unable or unwilling to learn new skills (‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’).
But age doesn’t determine one’s curiosity, productivity or physical fitness.
These stereotypes can negatively affect older workers. They may be:
- excluded from learning and training
- denied employment or promotions
- prematurely forced out of the workplace.
This can negatively affect business, too. Older workers can be a valuable source of skills and knowledge, especially for younger or newer workers just starting out.
WorkSafe surveys have found that respondents in the 50+ age group were the most aware of their responsibilities and what they need to do to work safely, and the least likely to take shortcuts with safety.
They were the most likely to:
- keep up to date with current WHS issues
- report a safety issue or accident
- use safety gear where provided.
What PCBUs can do
If you’re a Person Conduction a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you can:
- recognise the value of experience
- encourage lifelong learning
- promote wellbeing at work and a sustainable longer work life
- facilitate skills being passed on between ‘generations’.
Creating a safe and healthy workplace will benefit all your workers. That might mean reducing manual handling risks, controlling noise hazards, getting shift work rosters right, or taking measures to address sedentary work practices.
Following safe work procedures, using the appropriate personal protective equipment, and looking after your own health and safety is something workers can do, too.