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Older workers experience higher rates of fatal injuries, and younger workers experience higher rates of non-fatal injuries

Bravo G, Viviani C, Lavallière M, Arezes P, Martínez M, Diana I et al. Do older workers suffer more workplace injuries? A systematic review International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. 2020 July.

Review question

How does the age of workers (≥45 years old or <45 years old) influence their safety?


The global demographic transition and later retirement ages affect almost every industry. The aging workforce makes it more difficult for employers to maintain or expand organizational capacities.

Aging is associated with decreased muscle strength, balance, bone density, aerobic capacity, and some cognitive functions. This leads to a reduced capacity for some jobs starting as early as 45 years.

There may be a difference in the types of injuries experienced by older workers compared to younger workers.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published between January 2014 and December 2018 was conducted. Studies that focused on work, aging and safety were included in the review.

A total of 4,878 studies were identified in searches and 62 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the Mutual Seguridad CChC in Chile.

What the researchers found

Older workers (age 45+) tend to be more careful but are more likely to suffer from severe or fatal accidents than younger workers. This is due to the physical and psychological changes with aging that make certain risks more hazardous to older workers than to younger ones.

However, younger workers have a higher risk of non-fatal injuries than older workers. This can be due to a lack of experience, younger workers being assigned tasks that are more dangerous in nature, and an inconsistent definition of “young worker” among reviewed studies.

Findings suggest that employers should assign older workers to jobs with lower risk exposure and improve their safety in workplaces. In addition, older workers should be assigned to tasks where they are able to use their experience to improve job performance.


Although older workers tend to be involved more often in incidents causing fatal injuries, age does not correlate as strongly with risk for non-fatal injuries. Many factors, such as the type of industry, work arrangements, pre-existing health conditions and experience can affect the risk of work injuries. Future efforts should focus on developing interventions that reduce the vulnerability of older workers and improve their health and safety.

Related Topics


Cognitive function
Mental processes, including thinking, learning and remembering.

Related Web Resources

  • Work, Care and the Carer-Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations (CIAO) Standard

    The Vanier Institute of the Family
    The Carer-Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations (CIAO) Standard supports employees who are also informal caregivers. It helps employers and employees work together to balance work and caregiving responsibilities. A standard can help ensure employees feel more supported in their jobs. It also encourages employee retention and recruitment. Read this resource to learn more.
  • Promoting the labour force participation of older Canadians

    Health Canada
    This resource describes Canadian plans to help older adults to work for longer such as by increasing education, helping find jobs and handle health issues.
  • Infographic: Women, Caregiving and Work in Canada

    The Vanier Institute of the Family
    Caregivers have disproportionately been women. Women are also more likely to encounter challenges at work due to their caregiver status. Read this resource to learn more about the status of women workers and caregivers.
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