21 Nov 2017

Older workers among highest ACC claimants - report

6:07 am on 21 November 2017

Older workers are among the highest ACC claimants in the country, an Otago University report reveals.

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Most claims filed by workers aged 55 to 79 were from those working in physical jobs like manufacturing, construction and forestry. Photo: 123RF

The Grey Power lobby group says the stark statistics should put an end to any conversation about raising the retirement age.

Between 2009 and 2013, workers aged 55 to 79 filed more than 25,000 claims - nearly a quarter of the 119,000 total.

The vast majority of the claims came from people doing physical work such as in manufacturing, construction and forestry.

The paper's author, Chrystal Jaye, said it was incumbent on not only employers, but society, to make it as easy as possible to let older workers, who want to work, to continue to do so.

"We don't want people to say 'older workers are a liability, we must get rid of them'.

"We do need to be, as a society, having these conversations about looking after this huge ... human capital of stock that we have. These are people who've paid taxes their whole lives ... [We need to make] sure we're not endangering them."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the country's oldest workers were among those injured most often.

Over-65s made 124 claims for every 1000 full-time workers - second only to those aged 15 to 24.

Former prime minister Bill English last year announced that if re-elected National would progressively raise the age for superannuation from 65 to 67 in 2037.

That's since been walked back by the new government - but the retirement commissioner, Diane Maxwell has said the age should be raised.

It's a conversation that's unlikely to go away - but Grey Power national president Tom O'Connor said that would force more older people to stretch out their careers.

"It's simply unacceptable to have people in physically demanding jobs working at that age. Sixty-five is enough - and even then the accident rate seems to get up there."

With the number of older people in the workforce expected to rise by up to 50 percent over the next 20 years, the report's authors said employers needed to put in place safeguards.

Chrystal Jaye said workplaces could take simple steps to make sure they were helping their older staff.

"Workplaces which are free of trip hazards, and have well-lit workplaces as well ... over a certain age you might need a little pep talk on the fact that you are declining a bit. Many industries - our university included - will send employees for regular hearing checks, et cetera."

And ACC's head of workplace safety, Paul Gimblett, said the right training could go a long way to protecting employees.

"There needs to be a little more care on how workplaces are designed - possibly how we used aides and appliances to supplement heavy lifting. But, to be fair, that should be happening in workplaces, regardless of the age of the person."

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