'We definitely need them' - older employees important, but at higher risk of suffering workplace injuries

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The saying goes "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" but new research could see the quip changed to "the older they are, the more they get injured."

A five-year University of Otago study shows men, particularly in manual labour jobs, are at most risk.
Source: 1 NEWS

A University of Otago study conducted by anthropologist Chrys Jaye has revealed that nearly a quarter of ACC claims for workplace accidents are from workers aged between 55 to 79 years old.

That's quite a significant age-range, but with baby-boomers and population growth taken into consideration there's potential for a concerning amount of workplace injuries for the health system to deal with in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the more physical jobs produce the most injuries.

"The thing that was perhaps of the greatest concern for us is that men were over represented in that group, so men had about twice the numbers of workplace injuries that women had, Maori and Pacific Island and other ethnicities were overrepresented as well," Ms Jaye said.

The research found the injuries sustained were generally soft tissue injuries and fractures, often as a result of falling.

"It seems that the main reason for these injuries was falls, and lifting and carrying were the biggest problems," Ms Jaye said.

Grey Power president Tom O’Connor says the findings backs up their opposition to lifting the retirement age.

"They (workers) should not be under financial pressure to stay at work beyond 65, even that, even 65 in some physically demanding jobs is too old. The smart guys are using older staff as trainers and mentors.

"If they're really smart about it promote them up to a supervisory role - if that's possible and if they're capable of doing it, that's where they should be," Mr O'Connor told 1 NEWS.

Construction firm Naylor Love says based on the company's own anecdotal evidence, the study paints a realistic picture of what is happening in the workforce, and while younger workers who've more recently joined the company had the most accidents, it was the older workers who had more serious ones.

"The younger guys, less experienced, are more likely to have accidents but generally (the accidents) are reasonably minor. For the older guys, with a bit more experience; know what to do, know where to go and don't necessarily have the accidents.

"But with age other issues come where they might have sprains, strains around backs/necks and things like that," Ian McKie of Naylor Love said.

Mr McKie was quick to stress that although they suffer more serious injuries, the older section of their workforce is highly valued.

"We definitely need them, they've got the experience skills and knowledge to help train and develop the younger guys coming up through and share that. So we try and keep them in an environment that’s going to keep them working as long as they want to," he said.

Study author Chrys Jaye hopes the findings will lead to further discussions and approached from workplaces managers to mitigate risks.

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