Health and safety of the older worker

Occup Med (Lond). 2012 Jan;62(1):4-11. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqr148.


Background: In the UK, increasing numbers of paid employees are over 60 years with further increases expected as the state pension age rises. Some concern surrounds possible increased work-related illness and accidents for people working beyond the age of 60.

Aims: To identify the available evidence for health and safety risks of workers over age 60 years with respect to factors associated with injuries and accidents.

Methods: Databases searched included PUBMED, OSHUpdate, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHTIC-2), SafetyLit, the UK The Health and Safety Executive (HSELINE) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety until December 2009. Inclusion criteria were workers aged over 60 years. Findings were grouped into occupational accidents and injuries and individual and workplace factors that may have influenced risk of injury to the over-60s.

Results: Very little direct evidence was found concerning safety practices and health risks of workers over age 60. Some safety risks were associated with specific physical declines such as age-related hearing loss. Overall, these workers had fewer accidents and injuries but these were more likely to be serious or fatal when they occurred. There was no strong evidence that work patterns, including shift work or overtime, affected safety. Protective, compensatory strategies or experience may maintain safe working practices.

Conclusions: Implications for health and safety risks cannot be assessed without longitudinal research on workforces with substantial numbers of workers over age 60 in order to address the healthy worker effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Electric Injuries / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hearing / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / physiology*