2: Healthy workplaces for all ages

Healthy workplaces for all ages

Ageing and health and safety at work

A right to a safe and healthy working environment

It is your right to be able to work in a healthy and safe workplace without being discriminated on account of your age, gender or disability (read more). Your employer has a legal duty to assess the safety and health risks and if needed to adapt the work to the individual, taking account of his or her changing capacities.

It means that some changes in functional capacity that are related to ageing need to be taken into account in risk assessment and addressed through corrective measures at work.

Ageing and risk assessment

The following hazards, among others, need specific consideration due to age related changes in functional capacities:

  • Ergonomic hazards, such as repetitive movements, manual handling, awkward, uncomfortable postures, static postures;
  • Shift work;
  • Hot, cold or noisy work environments, vibration; and
  • Working at height.

Learn more about risk assessment here.

Workplace adaptations

Based on the results of risk assessment, adaptations to the workplace might be needed so that the demands of work better match the changing capacities and health status.

Examples of adaptations include:

  • Adapting existing equipment or providing new equipment to eliminate or reduce manual handling, repetitive and forceful movements, awkward postures;
  • Providing adjustable workstations to suit all users of all ages operating them;
  • Regularly changing tasks (task rotation);
  • Automating routine or monotonous tasks;
  • Changing shift patterns; and
  • Adjusting lighting.

The National Strategy on Active Ageing launched by the Maltese Government in 2013 applicable from 2014 to 2020 proposes work settings that ensure workers’ lifelong employability, equal access to training, age-appropriate training systems, flexible and individual work designs, age-friendly shift rotas and occupational support from well-informed management.  The Strategy highlights that  guidance services available to older workers tend to be fragmented and sporadic. The Strategy for Active Ageing also identifies a gap in the services available for persons aged above statutory retirement age who wish to return to work or take-up self-employment. Another gap relates to an absence of planned reduction of working hours, rather than an abrupt transition from work to absolute retirement .

Here (OSH professional's module) you can read more about how age-related changes can impact on a worker's functional capacities and how this can be addressed at work.

How can I help create a safe and healthy workplace? (next section)