Workplace strategies to reduce injuries in older workers

Western Australia has an ageing workforce, with the proportion of older (over 55 years) workers in the workforce increasing from 12.6% to 15.5% from 2005/06 to 2013/14. Unfortunately, as we get older our bodies are more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries with statistics suggesting that older workers have the highest rate of lost time workers compensation claims. Not only this, but the percentage of longer duration claims also increase with a workers age as well.

As we age, we have a progressive loss of muscle mass, bone mass, flexibility and aerobic capacity. If we combine this with many years of exposure to the rigours of work, it is no wonder why older workers have higher workplace injury rates. So, what can be done to support the ageing workforce and reduce their risk of injury?

Many workplaces run injury prevention programs, however evidence is mixed as to whether they are effective in terms of their return on investment. It could just be that the programs in place just aren’t targeted towards the right working groups or in the right capacity. So, what does the evidence suggest is effective in reducing injury rates?

A review of literature on workplace interventions by Van Eerd et al (2016) showed that there was strong evidence to suggest that interventions with resistance exercise were effective in reducing upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders. With this in mind, it makes sense that our ageing workforce in particular would benefit from targeted resistance exercise as a means to prevent injuries at work.

At Absolute Balance, we have successfully implemented targeted programs involving resistance exercise as a way to reduce workplace injuries. A specific program was developed by Absolute Balance called ‘PREHAB’ to target individuals in high risk jobs and in particular, ageing workers. The program identifies the job requirements, the current capacity of the individual and then a targeted exercise program is prescribed by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to reduce the risk of a workplace injury.

If you would like more information on the PREHAB program or other target solutions that Absolute Balance can provide for your ageing workforce, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@absolutebalance.com.au

Aaron McErlaine (BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

Van Eerd D, Munhall C, Irvin E, et. al. (2016) Effectiveness of workplace interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders and symptoms: an update of the evidence. Occup Environ Med 73:62-70.

WorkCover WA. (2015). Workers’ Compensation in Western Australia Annual Statistical Report 2010/11 to 2013/14

WorkCover WA. (2018). Workers’ Compensation in Western Australia 2013/14 to 2016/17 Annual Statistical Report