Current trends suggest that people are living longer and therefore working for longer. Retirement age is increasing for many Australians with some people working up until the age of 70 or more. So how does this impact on return to work?
If you have an older worker with an injury there are other aspects that you need to be aware of with their return to work.
Changes that occur with age
Changes in performance capacity may arise from:
- Age-related reductions in muscular strength, which can reduce an individual’s capacity to perform physically heavy work. However, the level of decline varies greatly with physical condition and may be less for older workers who stay fit;
- Reduced elasticity in body tissues, leading to decreased range of movement, which could have implications for tasks that involve work at extremes of posture;
- A decline in information processing capacity including changes in hearing, vision and thought processing. However, this is not inevitable and can be balanced out by improved decision making ability, expertise and experience; and
- Older workers may have difficulties in working in very cold or very hot environments due to a change in their body’s ability to control body temperature.
After attending a conference late last year, I gained a better understanding of some of the factors that need to be considered. With one being functional capacity vs work demands. As a person becomes older their functional capacity decreases and if the work capacity is the same this can result in an injury. Are there any ways you could alter the worker’s tasks to match their functional capacity?
This can be completed through the following:
- Reduce manual handling required in role by completing team lifts, providing workers with equipment/machinery, limiting their exposure to tasks that put them at risk of injury, assigning jobs based on the person’s capacity.
- Avoiding awkward, repetitive and sustained postures.
- Considering whether the setup of the workspace could be altered
- Larger writing, increase lighting, regular eye tests (especially for employees using high risk equipment/machinery)
- Visual and auditory signals, ear protection
(1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 6260.0 Labour Force Projections, Australia, 1999-2016)
QCOMP Conference 2014 – Dr Halliday and Mr David Norris presentation. Turning Grey into Gold