CIVIL ENGINEERING 365 ALL ABOUT CIVIL ENGINEERING



AbstractThe proportion of older workers in the construction workforce is increasing rapidly, due to an aging population globally. While the presence of older workers offers many benefits, they are deemed to pose added occupational health and safety (OHS) challenges. Understanding age-related OHS risks is essential to initiate appropriate interventions. Construction workers’ compensation data collected by Safe Work Australia from 2008 to 2019 was analyzed using three-way chi-square technique to investigate the influence of age on OHS performance, with consideration of moderating factors such as gender, organizational size, occupation, incident mechanism, and nature of injury or illness. Findings suggest that older (aged≥55) and aging (aged 45–54) construction workers are more vulnerable overall to fatalities and permanent incapacities. Organizational size has a statistically significant influence on the relationship between age and incident frequency and severity, with the greatest number of fatalities among older workers in micro-sized organizations. Gender has a statistically significant influence on the relationship, with older female workers recording zero fatalities. Similarly, permanent incapacities increase with age among male workers whilst it decreases among females. There is a noticeable increase in fatalities and permanent incapacities among older workers in four occupations: carpenter and joiners, plumbers, electricians, and construction laborers. Regarding incident mechanisms, exposure to chemicals and substances caused the greatest number of fatalities among older workers, followed by falls and then vehicle incidents. Exposure to loud sound and pressure is associated with the greatest number of permanent incapacities. Occupational respiratory diseases, circulatory diseases, and cancer are associated more with fatalities among older workers than injuries. Nervous system and sense organ diseases caused the highest number of permanent incapacities. These insights can inform construction organizations and policymakers about aspects for implementing purposeful preventive measures to safeguard the aging workforce.Practical ApplicationsThe presence in the construction workforce of workers in different age groups offers both opportunities and challenges from the perspective of OHS management. Construction organizations must manage the unique OHS challenges posed by workers of different age, in order to improve their overall OHS performance. Specifically, attention must be paid to older and aging workers, in order to reap the performance benefits derivable from them. Construction organizations need to implement measures that better protect older workers against death and permanent incapacity due to their increased vulnerabilities. In addition, incidents causing temporary incapacity need to be reduced for younger construction workers, given their high representation. Similarly, construction practitioners, organizations, and policymakers could use insights into the relationship between age, incident severity, and other variables (such as occupation, organization size, gender, and injury mechanisms) to inform OHS management procedures and practices and implement purposeful preventive measures, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. Organizational initiatives to support an aging construction workforce should widen their focus by encompassing adjustments for task allocation, task design, and work environment, to safeguard vulnerable groups of workers. Additionally, increased awareness of OHS risks among workers of different ages could make them extra cautious about more vulnerable occupations, injury mechanisms, and injury types commensurate to their age.



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