Institute for Occupational Safety marks International Older Persons Day

Science and Health

This week, in honor of International Older Persons Day, the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IIOSH) explained how to safely integrate workers over the age of 50 into the workplace. 

According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2022, the employment rate among the Israelis over the age of 65 in Israel stands at 21.4%. Yet in many fields, especially high tech, those over 45 are often considered as being “over the hill” and find it harder to get jobs. 

A decrease in visual acuity and flexibility of the eye, muscle weakness that may affect physical fitness for performing tasks, a decrease in hearing, and more. With age, the likelihood of injury due to physiological changes increases, so employers must be aware of safety guidelines to minimize the risk of injury to older workers in the workplace.

IIOSH declared that hiring experienced workers is a blessing and helps workplaces improve performance due to experience, professionalism, knowledge retention, and more.

Older workers, like all other workers, are exposed to various safety and health risks during their work, but age can affect their functioning and physical activity. The body’s systems reach their peak performance around the age of 25. Signs of physiological aging can already be observed in individuals aged 40 to 50. 

Workplace safety

Muscle weakness, for example, can present itself as early fatigue, making it difficult to perform tasks that require prolonged endurance or repetitive actions.

As individuals age, there is a gradual loss of range of motion and flexibility. While older workers can usually find solutions for common tasks in their work environment, they may face challenges in unexpected situations that require rapid and precise movements, especially in emergency situations.

The injury rate for older workers in workplace accidents is actually lower than that of younger workers, but when they are hurt on the job, the injuries tend to be more severe, and the recovery time is longer. Older workers have a much higher chance of musculoskeletal injuries.

Two young women in working in the office along with an older man. (credit: RAWPIXEL)

The risk of involvement in a workplace accident increases when an older worker is required to perform tasks that exceed their physiological capabilities. At advanced ages, physical capabilities are significantly reduced, and injuries resulting from accidents tend to be more severe.

As in any workplace, it’s vital to implement risk management tailored to the workers and work processes, with a focus on minimizing risks and protecting the workers. Create a work environment that accommodates the needs of older workers, including ergonomic chairs, short breaks, adjustable desks, and sit-stand options.

Ensure regular safety checks and adhere to occupational safety regulations. Consult with an occupational physician when concerned about changes in the health status of an older worker, such as decreased vision and hearing, drowsiness, and cognitive decline.

IIOSH director-general Dr. Miki Winkler noted that “an experienced worker is a dedicated and experienced employee who contributes significant value to the organization. But for the employment of older workers to succeed, workplaces must implement risk management and a safety and employment plan that includes the necessary safety and employment adjustments to ensure a safe work environment.”

“We invite employers to contact us and receive help from our experts in providing information, conducting safety risk assessments, and training managers to reduce risks and promote the employment of older workers in the workplace.”