Project: The health, safety and health promotion needs of older workers

Peer reviewed and published

This project was submitted on 21/01/2014, published on 15/12/2009 by IOSH, and peer reviewed by IOSH

Changing demographics in the UK indicate that the working population is ageing and there is a need to maintain the over 50s in the workplace. The following review examines current research on the health, safety and health promotion needs of older workers by identifying age-related change, whether older workers need support and evidence of successful intervention in the workplace. Using a systematic review methodology, databases were searched identifying 179 publications. Each publication was screened and data were extracted for those included in the review. The review identified that there are a number of age-related physical and psychological changes with ageing. However, these changes can be moderated by increased physical activity, intellectual activity and other lifestyle factors. Sensory abilities are also subject to change but these can be accommodated via equipment or workplace adjustments. In reviewing accident data, although older workers are at a reduced risk of accidents, they are more at risk of fatal accidents. Ill health data show that although there is an increased risk of developing disease with age, many chronic diseases can be controlled and adjustments put in place in the work environment. A number of intervention studies were identified but few were of high quality. The research suggests that occupational health intervention can reduce the risk of early retirement from the workplace; health promotion interventions are seen as positive by older workers but it is important to ensure equal access to all workers in such promotions. In the UK there are still many research gaps, including a lack of longitudinal research; no further analysis on fatal accidents or understanding of the high prevalence of MSDs, stress and anxiety in older workers; and a lack of investigation into what interventions are going to be effective and occupationally relevant measurements of work capacity for both physical and mental work.

Ageing, Occupational health & wellbeing
Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Chemical, Construction, Education, Engineering, Entertainment and Leisure, Environmental and Waste management, Finance, Fire, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Manufacturing, Media, Nuclear, Offices, Offshore, Other, Public Sector, Quarrying / Mining, Railway, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport

Organisation: Institute of Occupational Medicine

Research Avenue North,
EH14 4AP,
0131 449 8000

Principal Investigator: Dr Joanne O Crawford

Other Researchers: Richard A Graveling, Hilary Cowie, Ken Dixon and Laura MacCalman

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Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
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