Author(s): Bohle P, Pitts CH, Quinlan M
The workforces of many countries are aging, creating pressure for older workers to retire later despite greater vulnerability to various occupational safety and health (OSH) risks. Some specific risks to older workers arise from age-related physical or psychological changes, while others reflect exposures to poor work organization or employment conditions. This article reviews evidence on the nature of the OSH risks faced by older workers, focusing on work ability, contingent work, and working hours. Work ability, the capacity to meet the physical, mental, and social demands of a job, has been linked to positive health outcomes for older workers. However, work characteristics seem to be more critical than workers' individual capacities. Contingent work is generally associated with poorer OSH outcomes, and older workers are more likely to be contingent, with special implications for their safety and health. There has been limited research on age and working hours, but risks for many physical and mental health problems are known to increase with shift work experience, and physiological and psychosocial changes associated with age may also increase injury risks. The authors discuss organizational practices and regulatory policies to protect and enhance the OSH of older workers.