Older workers are less likely to experience a workplace injury than their younger colleagues, but more likely to experience a workplace fatality, a report has suggested.
Workers aged 55 to 64 are almost two times more likely to experience a fatality than those under 55, according to a study carried out on behalf of the Health and Safety Authority.
Workers over 65 are three-and-a-half times more likely to experience a fatality than workers under 55.
However, the report authors stress the overall risk of death remains very small.
The higher risk of fatal injury among older workers within sectors is of concern and suggests a need to target information and safety interventions in the high-risk sectors, particularly agriculture.
Ireland’s workforce is getting older, with the proportion of the workforce aged 55 and over increasing from 10% in 1998 to almost 20% in 2018 – and is forecast to rise further.
The self-employed are the group most likely to work longer than people employed in public administration.
The authors found differences among early leavers, finding occupational and sectoral differences between those who retire early and those who leave for non-retirement reasons such as illness, care responsibilities and job loss.
Almost one in five of those who left employment between the ages of 55 and 59 did so because of illness and disability.
A similar proportion left because of job loss, while 7% left for reasons of family care. Just over 50% cited retirement or early retirement as the reason for leaving.
Women are five times more likely to have stopped working to care for someone than men.
Overall, the report noted working conditions for older workers compare favourably to working conditions for younger workers.
However, those who experienced poorer working conditions may already have left the labour market.
Dr Ivan Privalko of the Economic Social Research Institute (ESRI) said while the retention of workers aged over 60 in Ireland is higher than the OECD average, there is considerable scope to increase participation further.
“However, simply raising the minimum retirement age will not build sustainable jobs. Policies that take account of the variety of push and pull factors leading to early exits from the workplace, including the provision of safe working conditions, is critical to support longer working lives,” he said.
Minister for Trade, Business and Employment, Pat Breen, urged Irish businesses to embrace the value of older workers.
“An ageing workforce isn’t a burden, it’s an opportunity. Experience is a critical asset right now, and one that older workers have accumulated over the course of their careers. Businesses are going to struggle if they don’t embrace older workers and make better efforts to retain and retrain them,” he said.
- Press Association