Retirement age hike could mean bigger role for OH

Government plans to phase out the default retirement age (DRA) next year could put extra responsibility on to OH professionals, as maintaining the health and productivity of older workers becomes a more pressing issue for employers.

The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) said that while the removal of the default retirement age had been welcomed by many, it could pose challenges for employers and OH professionals alike.

The Government has said it intends to phase out the DRA, which has allowed employers to dismiss staff just because they have reached the age of 65, from October 2011.

The IoM has argued that, while the majority of workers do still retire at or before 65, managing the health needs of older workers is likely to become more of an issue for many employers.

It said: “Supporting and maintaining health and wellbeing at work will require input from a range of professionals in occupational health, public health, safety, occupational psychology, human resources and social policy.”

It carried out an evidence review last year which concluded that, while reaction times may slow slightly with age, this was unlikely to have an effect on general working life.

Age-related physiological change could be more significant, but it could also be supported by workplace design and accommodations.

Work and work equipment could also be designed to reduce the need for extreme physical exertion, particularly from heavy lifting.

The report said: “Ergonomics can help to improve workplace and environmental design, task design and minimise the physical and mental risks to older workers.

“Designing work to fit the physical and mental capabilities of the employee can reduce the risk so that age alone is not a barrier to continued working,” it added.

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