Health and safety for older workers – UK’s longest serving employee, aged 89, has no plans to retire

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Following the recent news of an 89 year old accountant becoming the UK’s longest serving employee, after working for the same engineering firm for 70 years, we’re sharing HSE guidance this week on health and safety for older workers.

Introduction

Today’s workforce is likely to contain a higher proportion of older workers because of factors such as increased life expectancy, removal of the default retirement age and raising of the State Pension Age, which means that many people will need, and want to continue working.

Employers have the same responsibilities for the health and safety of older employees as they have for all their employees.

This guidance will help employers take older workers into account when considering how to meet their responsibilities.

Dispelling the myths

Health and safety should not be used as an excuse to avoid employing older people. A separate risk assessment is not required specifically for older workers.

Research that has been carried out on age and employment is listed in the resources and useful links section of this guidance (http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.htm#useful) and includes the following findings:

  • That instead of being unfit to work due to ageing and ill health, 62 per cent of over 50s describe themselves as feeling as fit as ever, with structural and (other people’s) attitudinal barriers thwarting their ability to stay involved.
  • Some employers can have stereotyped views of the abilities and attitudes of older workers.
  • That key elements of cognitive performance important for workplace health and safety, such as intelligence, knowledge, and use of language, do not generally show any marked decrease until after the age of 70.
  • Where decline in cognitive abilities such as working memory and reaction time does occur, there is evidence that safe performance of tasks is unlikely to be affected, as older individuals can generally compensate for them with experience, better judgement and job knowledge.
  • Strong evidence that, although speed of learning tends to slow with age, older workers can generally achieve a good standard in learning and performing new skills, given additional time and practice.
  • Little conclusive evidence that older workers have an increased risk of occupational accidents than younger workers. However, while older workers are generally less likely than younger workers to have occupational accidents, accidents involving them are likely to result in more serious injuries, permanent disabilities or death, than for younger workers. Older workers may experience more slips, trips and falls than younger workers, and recovery following an injury may take longer.

Guidance for employers

Older workers bring a broad range of skills and experience to the workplace and often have better judgement and job knowledge, so looking after their health and safety makes good business sense.

You 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, many jobs are supported by technology, which can absorb the physical strain.
  • Think about the activities older workers do, as part of your overall risk assessment and consider whether any changes are needed. This might include:
  • allowing older workers more time to absorb health and safety information or training, for example by introducing self-paced training.
  • introducing opportunities for older workers to choose to move to other types of work.
  • designing tasks that contain an element of manual handling in such a way that they eliminate or minimise the risk.
  • Think about how your business operates and how older workers could play a part in helping to improve how you manage health and safety risks. This might include having older workers working alongside colleagues in a structured programme, to capture knowledge and learn from their experience.
  • Avoid assumptions by consulting and involving older workers when considering relevant control measures to put in place. Extra thought may be needed for some hazards. Consultation with your employees helps you to manage health and safety in a practical way.

Further information

Guidance for older workers

As an employee, you have a duty to take care of your own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by your actions.

You must cooperate with your employer and other employees to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

If you have specific queries or concerns about your health and safety or if you are experiencing difficulty in carrying out your work, you should raise this with your employer.

Further information

The law

Under health and safety law, employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age.

Employers must also provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable their employees to carry out their work safely.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the workplace risks to the health and safety of his employees. This includes identifying groups of workers who might be particularly at risk, which could include older workers.

Equality Law

Discrimination in respect of age is different from all other forms of direct discrimination in that it can be justifiable if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end, such as considering changes to work that may be needed to ensure older workers can remain in the workforce.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides information and further advice on age discrimination: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/about-commission/our-vision-and-mission/our-business-plan/age-equality

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

 

HOW HEALTHY, SAFE AND DIVERSE IS YOUR WORKFORCE?

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Employing migrant workers?

Gender

Health and safety for disabled people

Young workers

Health and safety for older workers

New to the job

Introduction

Factors like race, gender, disability, age and work pattern may affect people’s health and safety in the workplace – and sometimes health and safety is used as a false excuse to justify discriminating against certain groups of workers.

Tackling discrimination

What is discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 became law in October 2010 and replaces the Disability discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act. The Equality Act covers nine ‘protected characteristics’ these are: Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, Sex and Sexual orientation. More information on the Act can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/

For health and safety purposes, equality is concerned with breaking down the barriers that currently block opportunities for certain groups of people in the workplace, aiming to identify and minimise the barriers that exclude people and to take action to achieve equal access to all aspects of work for everyone. Eliminating discrimination is important in achieving equality, since it is not just the physical environment or poor policies that prevent equality from being achieved but also ways of working, attitudes and stereotypes about different groups of people.

Diversity is about recognising, valuing and taking account of people’s different backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and experiences, and encouraging and using those differences to create a productive and effective workforce.

Why tackle discrimination?

The workforce and working patterns are changing. The working population is getting older and there are more women and people from ethnic minorities at work.

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work and to be free of discrimination on grounds of age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, or belief.

Many employers have found that making adaptations to their working practices to accommodate a diverse workforce makes good business sense. It makes their business more attractive to both potential employees and customers and helps them recruit and retain the best people. This is not only good business sense but helps them meet the requirements of legislation.

Some provisions that have helped in this respect are:

  • extended leave;
  • religious holidays;
  • adaptation to hours of work;
  • reasonable adjustments.

Health and safety should never be used as a false excuse to justify discriminatory action.

There is a lot of advice available to employers which helps to dispel some of the myths around health and safety in the workplace. For further information please see the HSE web pages on vulnerable workers (http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/index.htm) and HSE guidance on risk assessments.

Remember

Employers should make sure they communicate messages about risk in a way that their employees understand. Some things to think about are language, use of pictures, colour, font sizes or format.

We hope you find our updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Employing migrant workers?

Good practice when employing migrant workers; and your legal responsibilities to them:

Who is responsible for the health and safety of migrant workers?

There is no simple answer to this question – it depends on the relationship between the labour provider and user and the circumstances under which the work is being carried out.

When a business uses workers supplied by an independent labour provider, the business and the labour provider have a shared responsibility to protect their health and safety, regardless of which one is the employer.

Determining who is the employer will in any case depend on the facts of each case

What about information, instruction, training and supervision?

If you are a labour provider you should:

  • Make sure you know what induction and job-related training the labour user is providing for the workers you supply;
  • Agree with the labour user how, when and by whom training will be provided for the workers you supply;
  • Advise the labour user about how well the workers you supply can speak and read English.

If you are a labour user you should:

  • Provide essential induction training and any necessary job-related/vocational training;
  • Provide relevant information about the risks to which they may be exposed and the precautions they will need to take to avoid those risks;
  • Consider the needs of workers who may not speak English well, if at all, and whether you need translation services;
  • Make sure workers have received and understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely and consider how to ensure it is acted upon;
  • Make sure workers are adequately supervised and can communicate with their supervisors;
  • Make sure workers know where and how to raise any concerns about their health and safety and about any emergency arrangements or procedures.

What is risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to people. It lets you weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions to protect them or need to do more.

Assessing the risks from work activities is a legal requirement, but it is also the key to effectively managing health and safety. It reduces the potential for accidents and ill health that can not only ruin lives but also seriously affect your business if output is lost, or plant machinery or property is damaged.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), trade associations and other organisations have published advice and guidance on how to carry out risk assessments (http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm).

If you are a labour user you should:

  • Carry out a risk assessment of the tasks the worker will be expected to undertake;
  • Ensure the control measures identified in the assessment are effective, are in place and are maintained;
  • Pass relevant information on to your labour provider(s).

If you are a labour provider you should:

  • Ensure that your clients have carried out risk assessments for the tasks the workers you are supplying will be carrying out;
  • Agree with your client who will check the implementation and maintenance of the identified control measures, eg providing any necessary personal protective clothing.

Both labour providers and users should take account of the needs of overseas workers and consider:

  • Language issues;
  • Basic competencies, eg literacy, numeracy, physical attributes, general health, relevant work experience etc; and
  • Whether their vocational qualifications are compatible with those in GB;
  • Ensure that assessments are regularly reviewed to ensure they keep up to date with any changes to processes or working practices.

The risks that arise from workers being new to the job.

What about toilet and washing facilities and clean drinking water?

Employers must provide washing, toilet, rest and changing facilities for employees when they’re at work, and somewhere clean to eat and drink during breaks.

Toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer, as well as drinking water, are particularly important if working in remote, outdoor locations or premises with manual activities, such as labouring or planting and harvesting agricultural produce, and construction.

Employers must also provide a place to store clothing and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn during work.

Further guidance can be found in HSE’s leaflet workplace health, safety and welfare (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg244.pdf)

For more information on employing migrant workers, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/migrantworkers/index.htm  

Gender

Women make up 42% of the employed population in the EU. The jobs they do, their working conditions and how they are treated by society can affect the hazards they face at work and the approach that needs to be taken to assess and control them. Factors to take into account include:

  • women and men are concentrated in certain jobs, and therefore face hazards particular to those jobs
  • women and men face different risks to their reproductive health.

The impact of gender on both men’s and women’s occupational health and safety is generally under-researched and poorly understood. However, discrimination against new and expectant mothers is well known and HSE has been working closely with other government departments to tackle this.

Promoting gender equality at work and tackling discrimination

HSE launched and promotes an Equality Impact Assessment Tool to mainstream diversity in our day-to-day work. It is designed to help staff identify and minimise any potential issues around equality.

Building the evidence base

The HSE’s review of research on gender sensitivity in occupational health and safety has increased understanding of the issues in this area. Three subject areas have been identified, including key issues and messages. These are:

  • male and female reproductive health
  • pregnancy
  • older workers, in particular older female workers.

HSE links with specialists in the fields of gender equality and occupational health and safety have improved. For example they:

  • have met with the TUC Gender Occupational Safety and Health group
  • have joined the Men’s Health Forum
  • are building contacts with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Review of research into gender and occupational health and safety

Understanding the impact of gender (social) and sex (biological) differences on men’s and women’s occupational health and safety can help reduce inequality in the workplace.

A review of research identified three broad areas:

Gender balance in industry

  • Some industries and occupations are dominated by one gender.
  • Men and women in the same sectors, carrying out the same roles and tasks, can experience different demands. For example, female nurses tend to have more people-facing tasks than their male colleagues.
  • There is a perception that the risks associated with female-dominated industries are taken less seriously than those in male-dominated industries.

Under-representation of women in health and safety decision making

  • Women are under-represented in the health and safety decision-making process.
  • Their views and experience of female-specific health and safety issues are often marginalised, underestimated or overlooked.
  • Research studies tend to exclude or ignore women.

Gender (social) and sex (biological) differences

Examples of gender differences in occupational health and safety:

  • Differences in risk perception and risk management.
  • Different working patterns. Women are more likely to work part-time than men, and in jobs of lower status.
  • Outside the workplace, working women tend to have greater domestic and caring responsibilities.

Examples of sex difference in occupational health and safety:

  • Understanding the workplace risks to male and female reproductive health.
  • The impact of gender and sex difference in older workers is under-researched and little understood.

Working together, sharing intelligence and good practice

HSE’s External Diversity Team monitor progress against diversity priorities and the annual action plan.

HSE is trying to provide appropriate support by building intelligence they can share. If you have any information or research that would help them build their evidence base about health and safety in the workplace in relation to this area, please feel free to send it to them at diversity@hse.gsi.gov.uk.

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/gender.htm

Health and safety for disabled people

Health and safety legislation should not prevent disabled people finding or staying in employment and should not be used as a false excuse to justify discriminating against disabled workers.

We want to enable disabled people and those with health conditions, including mental health conditions, to get into and stay in work.

The following guidance will help those employing disabled people to understand their health and safety responsibilities.

Myths

HSE’s Myth Buster Challenge Panel has considered a number of disability related cases. The Panel provides a route to challenge perceptions and promote awareness.

Myth: Health and safety provides a legitimate reason for not taking on a disabled worker

Reality: This is not the case. There is no health and safety legislation that would prevent a disabled person finding or staying in employment. Health and safety should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing, or for refusing to make reasonable adjustments.

Myth: Employing a disabled worker is expensive and difficult

Reality: Many people with disabilities do not require additional assistance to do their job.  Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure disabled workers aren’t seriously disadvantaged when doing their jobs.  Many of these adjustments can be simple and straightforward, for example installing a ramp or letting a wheelchair user work on the ground floor.  The Government’s Access to Work programme means that funding may be available, should any adjustments be required.

Myth: You have to be registered as disabled to ensure you can get the adjustments needed to do your job

Reality: There is no process requiring registration for disabled people.  If you have a disability, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to do your job.  The best way to make sure this happens is to inform your employer of your disability and work with them to identify and consider adjustments that could be put in place to assist you.

Find out more about making reasonable adjustments on gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/reasonable-adjustments-for-disabled-workers

If you are blind or partially sighted, you have the option to register with your Local Authority.  You do not have to be registered to access help, registration is voluntary and may entitle you to certain concessions. The RNIB provides information on registering your sight loss.

Can health and safety law provide an employer with a legitimate reason to reject a job applicant on the grounds of their disability?

There are very few cases where health and safety law requires the exclusion of specific groups of people from certain types of activity. While work in hazardous situations cannot always be eliminated, it can often be substantially reduced with comparatively little cost.  With reasonable adjustments and plans to review if circumstances change, risks can be managed. This might be achieved by reallocating responsibilities or rescheduling duties to more suitable times.

Find out more about recruitment of disabled people on gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/recruitment-disabled-people

Is an employer required to carry out a separate risk assessment for each disabled employee?

No, there is no requirement to carry out a separate risk assessment for a disabled employee. Employers should already be managing any significant workplace risks, including putting control measures in place to eliminate or reduce the risks. If an employer becomes aware of an employee who has a disability, they should review the risk assessment to make sure it covers risks that might be present for that employee.

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/disability/index.htm

Young workers

Please see our 25th February update for HSE guidance on employing under 18’s: http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/health-safety-news-update-25th-february-2016/

Health and safety for older workers

Today’s workforce is likely to contain a higher proportion of older workers because of factors such as increased life expectancy, removal of the default retirement age and raising of the State Pension Age, which means that many people will need, and want to continue working.

Employers have the same responsibilities for the health and safety of older employees as they have for all their employees.

The following will help employers take older workers into account when considering how to meet their responsibilities.

Guidance for employers

Older workers bring a broad range of skills and experience to the workplace and often have better judgement and job knowledge, so looking after their health and safety makes good business sense.

You 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, many jobs are supported by technology, which can absorb the physical strain.
  • Think about the activities older workers do, as part of your overall risk assessment and consider whether any changes are needed. This might include:
  • allowing older workers more time to absorb health and safety information or training, for example by introducing self-paced training.
  • introducing opportunities for older workers to choose to move to other types of work.
  • designing tasks that contain an element of manual handling in such a way that they eliminate or minimise the risk.
  • Think about how your business operates and how older workers could play a part in helping to improve how you manage health and safety risks. This might include having older workers working alongside colleagues in a structured programme, to capture knowledge and learn from their experience.
  • Avoid assumptions by consulting and involving older workers when considering relevant control measures to put in place. Extra thought may be needed for some hazards. Consultation with your employees helps you to manage health and safety in a practical way.

Further information (click on the links):

The law

Under health and safety law, employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable , the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age.

Employers must also provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable their employees to carry out their work safely.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the workplace risks to the health and safety of his employees. This includes identifying groups of workers who might be particularly at risk, which could include older workers.

Equality Law

Discrimination in respect of age is different from all other forms of direct discrimination in that it can be justifiable if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end, such as considering changes to work that may be needed to ensure older workers can remain in the workforce.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides information and further advice on age discrimination: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/about-commission/our-vision-and-mission/our-business-plan/age-equality

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.htm

New to the job

Workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as during the whole of the rest of their working life.

The extra risk arises due to:

  • lack of experience of working in a new industry or workplace
  • lack of familiarity with the job and the work environment
  • reluctance to raise concerns (or not knowing how to)
  • eagerness to impress workmates and managers.

This means workers new to a site:

  • may not recognise hazards as a potential source of danger
  • may not understand ‘obvious’ rules for use of equipment
  • may be unfamiliar with site layout – especially where site hazards may change from day to day
  • may ignore warning signs and rules, or cut corners.

Six steps to protect new starters

  1. Capability

Assess the new starter’s capabilities. For example:

  • literacy and numeracy levels
  • general health
  • relevant work experience
  • physical capability to do the job
  • familiarity with the work being done and the working environment (especially where conditions change rapidly, such as on construction sites).

Don’t forget to assess cultural and language issues (grasp of English) too, where relevant – you may need to use visual, non-verbal methods such as pictures, signs or learning materials such as videos/DVDs/CD-ROMs

  1. Induction

Provide an induction. Plan it carefully, including photos of hazards where possible, and use plain, simple language. Take time to walk around the workplace or site with new workers and show them where the main hazards exist (eg falls, slips and transport).

  1. Control measures

Make sure the control measures to protect against risk are up to date and are being properly used and maintained:

  • Involve employees and health and safety representatives in discussions about the risk and how best to make sure new starters are protected.
  • Emphasise the importance of reporting accidents and near misses.
  • Make any necessary arrangements for health surveillance.
  • If required, make sure suitable personal protective equipment is provided and maintained without cost to the workers.
  1. Information

Provide relevant information, instruction and training about the risks that new workers may be exposed to and the precautions they will need to take to avoid those risks.

  1. Supervision

Provide adequate supervision. Make sure workers know how to raise concerns and supervisors are familiar with the possible problems due to unfamiliarity and inexperience.

  1. Check understanding

Check workers have understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely, and are acting on it, especially during the vital first days/weeks at work. Remember to make sure workers know how and with whom they can raise any concerns about their health and safety and that they know about any emergency arrangements or procedures.

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/new-to-the-job.htm

For more information on health, safety and diversity in the workplace, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/diversity/index.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence