America’s workforce is getting older, with nearly a third of workers now over 50 and employees over age 65 outnumbering teenage workers for the first time since 1948. Employers value older workers because they typically have higher patience and tolerance, greater job satisfaction, lower numbers of unscheduled absences, and lower turnover rates than younger workers. Additionally, they often possess significant business knowledge and experience. However, as workers age, they often experience decreased physical and cognitive abilities and are more prone to disability from injury.
What has caused the increase in older workers?
- There are more older people in our population thanks to the “baby boom” generation (those born between 1946 and 1964). By contrast, the succeeding generation-referred to as Generation X is 30% smaller than the baby boom generation. By 2025, workers over age 55 are expected to account for 25% of the labor force.
- People living beyond 55+ due to advances in medicine.
- Most workers age 50 and over are in the labor force for financial reasons, such as the need for money or health insurance.” Only 19% report that they are working primarily for “non-financial reasons such as enjoyment of the work they do or the desire to be productive.
The incidence of injuries in older workers
The number of injuries from slips, trips, and falls for workers over age 65 averages approximately 49.5 per 10,000 workers, which is about double the rate of workers younger than 45. Additionally, older workers take longer than their younger counterparts to recover from injuries and return to the job.
As workers get older, many of the tasks they used to be able to do may become more challenging. Physically intensive jobs present a danger of more severe injuries in older employees. “For people over 65, falls are the number one cause of death,” according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. Activities, such as lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, standing for long periods, or performing repetitive tasks, may increase worker fatigue and lead to worker carelessness or shortcuts.
Normal effects of aging
The aging process causes several physical and cognitive changes in individuals that may require special consideration from a safety and health perspective.
- Movement control: Older adults typically take 30-50% longer to complete movements than younger adults. Additionally, strength and balance diminish with age.
- Vision changes with age. Changes occur in peripheral vision, visual acuity, depth perception, resistance to glare, and light transmission.
- Approximately 25-40% of adults over 55 have some degree of hearing loss.
What should Employers do to assist older workers?
The health and safety of the rapidly growing number of older U.S. workers require employer attention to reduce injury.
Employers can help by providing a safe work environment that reduces the chance of injury or occupational illness. These steps include having equipment in good working condition, training in safe work procedures, low chemical and hazard exposure, supportive management styles, risk assessments that take into account aging factors, etc.
Employer-sponsored health and wellness programs, such as active living, healthy living, stress awareness, on-site gyms, and discounts for fitness programs can enhance health status and performance and result in cost savings for employers.
Making ergonomic adaptations such as anti-fatigue mats, height-adjustable work surfaces, reducing exertion, reducing motions can help older workers be as productive as younger workers, and reduce injuries.
If you have been injured on the job in St. Louis, Missouri, before you agree to an insurance company settlement, contact the attorneys experienced in workmen’s compensation at Walton Telken Injury Attorneys to advise you of the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.