Older employees face increased risk of accidents at work.
We know as a society we are all living longer. As life expectancy increases it is becoming more common for employees to be working past the age of 65. By 2020, a third of our workforce will be over 50. For some this is a choice but, with the forever increasing state pension age, for others it is a necessity.
The Pensions Act 2014 was given royal assent on 14th May 2014 and is now and an Act of Parliament. This Act allows the government to regularly review the state pension age (SPA), at least once every five years. In the HM Treasury’s autumn statement 2013, the Chancellor said that, based around the principle that people should expect to spend a certain proportion of their adult life in retirement, the SPA would increase to 68 by the mid 2030’s and to 69 by the late 2040’s.
With an aging workforce comes the growing concern that older workers are at a real risk of suffering a serious injury at work, especially those in manual labour, working past the age of 65.
In July 2014 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a report that considered health and safety for older workers. They warned that although older workers are less likely to be involved in an accident at work, when they do have an accident is it likely to be more serious, which may lead to disability or even death. They emphasised that although people are working longer ‘employers have the same responsibilities for health and safety for older employees as they have for all their employees.’
Although the HSE promote health and safety in the workplace the government’s priorities are blurred on the issue. In October 2013 the government changed the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). They reduced the amount of major injuries required a RIDDOR report. Some injuries that don’t require a RIDDOR report include:
- An electrical shock leading to unconsciousness, resuscitation or admittance to hospital.
- A temporary loss of eyesight.
- Unconsciousness or acute illness caused by a biological agent its toxins or infected material.
A campaign called ‘68 is too late’ was launched in 2012 which is fighting to reduce the SPA. This campaign is backed by many unions, including the Union of Construction and Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), a construction trade union.
Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The reduction in the requirement to report major injuries is dangerous. Many of these types of injury are potentially life changing for those involved. If companies no longer have to report them then they are less likely to take preventive measures to stop them re-occurring.”
Employers seem to be more open to employing and retaining older workers because of their broad range of skills, maturity and experience. David Fairhurst from McDonald’s says “it might surprise people to learn that at McDonald’s we employ over 1,000 people aged 60 or above.”
To help protect older workers from an accident at work, the HSE suggest, amongst other things that employers should:
- Review your risk assessment if anything significant changes, not just when an employee reaches a certain age.
- Not assume that certain jobs are physically too demanding for older workers.
- Design tasks that contain an element of manual handling in such a way that eliminate or minimise risk.
Samantha Hirst, a specialist in accident at work claims at Ridley & Hall says “The law surrounding accident at work claims changed in October 2013. The introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 makes more difficult for employees to bring a claim for compensation.”
She adds, “I’m concerned that the government isn’t putting enough pressure on employers with regards to health and safety for older workers who are working in physically demanding jobs, where the risk of an accident occurring is high. The message to employees is clear, anyone doing manual work shouldn’t be afraid to ask their employers to do proper risk assessments – accident prevention must be a priority for everyone. But if you’ve had a workplace accident, don’t assume it was your fault or that you shouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ by claiming. If your employer is to blame, their insurer should pay you the compensation to which you are entitled.”
Samantha Hirst is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases. For further information please contact Samantha at Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.