Just because an employee reaches a certain age, doesn’t mean that their usefulness to the organization expires. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the age of 65 each day and a quarter of the workforce will be 55 or older by 2020.
Instead of jumping into retirement, many workers today are remaining in the workforce for a variety of reasons. They might continue to work for the additional pay and benefits or as a way to keep active and engaged. Whatever the reason workers choose to remain on the job, it’s become more important than ever that employers take measures to keep them healthy and safe while they are there.
Older Workers in the Workplace
There isn’t one particular industry that has a greater percentage of aging workers than another. Older workers are found across all industries, including blue-collar, white-collar, and service industry jobs. While most employers have a positive perception of their older workforce, there are some safety concerns depending on the position and the industry.
Older workers might have more knowledge and experience in a position, but some of the changes in their bodies could impact the severity of workplace injuries. Specifically, aging workers might suffer from a loss of strength and muscle mass, diminished vision and hearing, and slower reaction times.
Potential Work Injuries That Threaten Aging Workers
It might be a misnomer that older workers are automatically going get hurt the quickest and file the most worker’s compensation claims. Depending on the job, older workers simply adapt and worker “smarter” in their positions. Yet, when they do get injured, it could take longer to heal.
A 2014 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses gives data on injuries according to age group. Among injured workers for all industries, the median days away from work for all ages was 10 days. That went up to 12 days for workers ages 45-54, 15 days for workers ages 55-64, and 17 days for those 65 and older.
Some older workers may also be more susceptible to certain types of injuries. According to the same survey, employees in the 45 to 54 age group experienced musculoskeletal disorders at the highest rate of any age group, or 40 per 10,000 full-time workers. Older workers are also more likely than their younger counterparts to experience back, shoulder, trunk, hand, and head injuries.
The worst thing that can happen to a worker is for a life to be lost on the job. The 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reports that this risk does increase with age. In just 2014, 8.2 percent of fatal falls were for workers ages 20-24. As age increases so does the risk of a fatal fall. The risk of dying when a worker falls at work was 16.8 percent for workers ages 45-54, 20.7 percent for workers ages 55-65, and 27.3 percent for workers ages 65 and older.
How to Keep Aging Workers Safe on the Job
Whether you’re an aging worker or an employer who wants to keep their staff safe, there are ways to mitigate risk in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) gives several recommendations for keeping aging workers safe on the job. Among them are:
- Give aging workers more flexibility in how and when they do their jobs.
- Match a worker’s tasks to their abilities and limit repetitive tasks.
- Avoid sedentary or prolonged work without breaks.
- Manage workplace hazards such as excessive noise and trip hazards.
- Ask an ergonomic specialist to evaluate your workplace.
- Promote healthy lifestyles and give employees incentives for risk-factor reduction.
- Invest in safety training in the workplace.
- Proactively get employees back to work by offering light duty and other accommodations.
- Encourage aging workers to train for supervisory and management positions.
Get Help From a Qualified Connecticut Worker’s Compensation Lawyer
No matter what your age, if you have been injured on the job or are suffering from a work-related illness, you are entitled to benefits under the state’s worker’s compensation system. The experienced and knowledgeable Connecticut worker’s compensation lawyers at The APEX Law Firm, LLC will not only help protect your rights but will also advocate for your rightful compensation. Contact us today at (860) 900-0900 or online to schedule a free consultation.