Older employees are at increased risk at work

Work-related fall injuries have been shown to increase steeply with age, particularly among women. In women, fall injury rates in the 55–64 age group are reported to be three times higher than in the 15–24 age group.

Older women are particularly at risk of falls, and this demographic is the fastest-growing group in the Australian workforce.

According to studies of hospital-treated fall injuries, health comorbidities were also part of the profile associated with falls. The Australian workforce is ageing. Workers aged 50–64 years accounted for 11% of employed persons in the mid-1990’s and increased to 21% in 2023.

Ageing is associated with a higher prevalence of comorbidities together with an increase in the prevalence of risk factors for chronic disease, such as obesity. This combination of increasing age and comorbidities may increase the likelihood of workplace falls.

Some of the comorbidities in the red – high risk zones, as one ages from 30 to 60+ years includes: Body Mass Index (BMI) >30 increased from 26% to 34%. Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP>140mmHg) increased from 21% to 38%. SBP >140mmHg standing similarly increased from 24% to 39% and Waist measure > 88cm – females and > 102cm – males increased from 29% to 49%.

This Monash University lead research analysed 42,176 hospital incident admissions for work-related injuries in Victoria (2017/2018–2021/2022). Of these, 24 569 (58.3%) were recorded as workers’ compensation accounts, and 34 946 (82.9%) indicated working for income at the time of injury.

Among the 42,176 work-related injury admissions – 8669 (20.6%) were fall-related injuries. The most common type of falls was ‘same-level’/low falls (36.2%), with most of the remaining fall types classified as non-same-level/high falls.

The average annual rate of work-related fall injury admissions was 0.52 per 1000 employees: 0.68 for males and 0.34 for females. From ages 35–39 to 65+ years, fall rates increased with increasing age in both males and females. Fall rates were higher in males among all age groups, but in the oldest age groups, a diminishing male/female rate difference was observed. While high fall rates were higher in males than females (0.44 vs 0.08) per 1000 employees, respectively, same-level falls were higher in females than males (0.21 vs 0.18).

Same-level fall rates were relatively low in the youngest age groups, yet showed a steep increase with age. The highest rates of falls were observed in the oldest female age groups.

This means if you are an employer of an aging workforce, with special considerations of female employees, then specific preventative interventions, based on the data surrounding their changing risk and comorbidity profiles needs to be considered. The Australian workforce is aging and the increasing costs, linked to low level falls, will be another financial burden for the business.

We can help you profile the risks of your workforce. We can also work with you to recommend interventions that will reduce risks and save you money.

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