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Friday, 13 December

Keeping One Foot in the Workplace

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign.

The European workforce is ageing fas and by 2030 employees aged over 55 are expected to make up 30% or more of the total workforce in many EU countries and in the UK, 30% or more of the total workforce is already over 50 years’ old, while 60 year and older employees constitute 23% of the workforce and this figure is set to rise to 30.7% by 2020.

This demographic trend creates significant challenges and opportunities for both employers and their workforces which is why the EU-OSHA has launched the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign last month. It is set to alert European employers to the urgency of the situation and the need to respond to it in a positive way.

The aims of the 2016-2017 Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign are:

  • Promotion of sustainable work and healthy ageing and the importance of risk prevention throughout working life.

  • Assisting employers and workers of all ages by providing information and tools for managing occupational safety and health (OSH) in the context of an ageing workforce.

  • Facilitation of information and good practice exchange in this area.

“The new campaign is not about age itself but about ageing throughout working life and we need to improve the working lives of all generations of workers, promoting sustainable work and healthy ageing,” explained Dr Christa Sedlatschek, Director, EU-OSHA. “Risk prevention will be at the core of this.”

The British Safety Council has given its support to this initiative and urges employers to ‘get onboard’, warning against the consequences of standing still. “The official retirement age in EU member states is increasing and in the next two decades, a large proportion of employees over 50 will leave work for ever, taking their market expertise, professional experience and skills with them,” warned Mike Robinson, CEO British Safety Council. “Meanwhile the demographic data suggests that there is unlikely to be a sufficient supply of younger people in the UK who would replace retiring workers. These facts cannot be ignored by any employer.”

Mr Robinson stated that retaining older workers would become not only an economic but also a social imperative. The companies that would be prepared to retain older employees would remain more competitive and diverse with a greater pool of skills and talent. However, longer working lives would mean greater exposure to a variety of health related risks and the management of issues, e.g. disability prevention, rehabilitation and return to work, would increase in importance. Older workers were also more vulnerable to certain hazards, particularly in an industrial work environment. “Therefore, the introduction of specific measures to ensure work safety and the efficiency of older employees as well as age-sensitive risk assessments would have to become a key part of occupational health and safety policies,” concluded Robinson.

Picture: Retaining older workers will become not only an economic but also a social imperative as the workforce ages and is not fully replaced

Article written by Cathryn Ellis

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