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Is There A Connection Between Work Injuries and The Aging Workforce?

Some studies show that due to having more experience, older workers are, in fact, a lot more careful in carrying out their daily activities.

The population of older people in the workforce is growing. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016, 19% of U.S. adults age 65 and above were employed, some working longer hours, and about 64% working full-time.

But apart from the growing number of older workers, the number of workplace injuries is also increasing. Even if stricter safety rules are in place, it seems like a lot of places of employment simply cannot eliminate all potential risks. But is the increase in work accidents related to the aging workforce?

Are Older Workers More Likely to Get Hurt?

Interestingly, older workers aren’t more likely to get injured while on the job. Some studies show that due to having more experience, older workers are, in fact, a lot more careful in carrying out their daily activities. Younger and middle-aged workers have higher injury rates, by comparison.

However, when older workers do get injured, their conditions are often:

  • More serious
  • More expensive
  • Require more time off
  • Less likely to be offered modified work
  • Less likely to return to work after an injury

One study published in 2015 showed that roughly 11% of older workers actually intended to retire after sustaining an injury at their workplace. Of the people aged 51 to 61 who also received Social Security Disability Insurance, about 37% were disabled because of an injury or illness caused by their workplace.

So even if older workers aren’t necessarily the ones adding to the growth in workplace injury rates, they are not by any means safe from injuries. Even worse, when older workers do get injured on the job, most often they require more expensive treatment and are more likely to be forced into retirement.

Preventing On-The-Job Injuries Among Aging Workers

Prioritize Workplace Flexibility

Creating a flexible work environment is one of the best ways an employer can prevent injuries among aging workers. This means allowing employees to adjust their hours, break times, and even work locations to suit their needs. It also means modifying workstations to reduce strain on the body, adjusting job duties to eliminate or minimize repetitive motions, and even providing ergonomic furniture and equipment.

Match Tasks to Abilities

With age comes a natural decline in physical abilities. You may find that some of your older employees can no longer lift as much weight as they used to or that they tire more easily when performing tasks that require a lot of physical activity. As such, it’s important to match each employee’s abilities with the demands of their job. For instance, if an employee can no longer lift heavy boxes, you may consider assigning them to a less physically demanding task, such as sorting through paperwork.

Other ways to match tasks to abilities include:

  • Breaking up large tasks into smaller, more manageable parts
  • Assigning team members to help with physically demanding tasks
  • Encouraging employees to pace themselves throughout the day

Manage Hazards

Whether it’s a wet floor, a cluttered workstation, or exposure to harmful chemicals, all workplaces have hazards that can lead to injuries. And while it’s important to manage these hazards for all employees, it’s especially crucial for those who are more susceptible to injury due to age-related physical decline. Some ways to manage workplace hazards include:

  • Conducting regular safety audits
  • Providing employees with proper safety equipment
  • Creating and enforcing safety rules and procedures

Invest in Skill Training

It doesn’t matter how strong or physically capable an employee is—if they don’t know how to perform their job tasks properly, they’re at risk of injury. That’s why it’s so important for employers to invest in skill training for all of their employees, regardless of age.

Some things to keep in mind when providing skill training:

  • Make sure employees understand all safety procedures before they begin work
  • Provide hands-on training for physically demanding tasks
  • Give employees ample time to practice new skills before putting them into use

Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Choices

While you can’t always control what your employees do outside of work, you can encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices that will reduce their risk of injury. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You might also consider offering wellness programs or other incentives to encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles.

Following these tips can create a safer work environment for your aging employees and help prevent on-the-job injuries.

Older Workers Need to Know Their Rights

According to Missouri law, injured workers are entitled to workers compensation to cover treatment and therapy for their work-related injury. The law makes no mention of how old the worker is. As a result, even if you get injured one day before retirement, the law says that as long as your injury or illness is caused by your job activity, you are eligible for workers comp.

You will need to report your injury to your supervisor, who will then report it to the insurance company who will cover your costs. If at this time any of the two parties refuse to cover your costs because of your age, reach out to a St. Louis workers comp lawyer immediately.

If You Are Injured at Work

As an older worker, your experience on the job makes you less likely to get injured in the workplace, but no one can be truly safe. Studies show that if you do get injured, you need more time and more money to recover.

But the state believes you should not carry this burden yourself. Get in touch with the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann today to discuss your case. For more than 25 years, we have been helping injured workers receive the compensation they need and deserve. Call our law office at (314) 361-4300 or fill out our online case evaluation form.

Updated: July 19, 2022