How Employers Can Protect Workers Over 55
October 19, 2017
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2024, workers over 55-years-old will account for roughly one-quarter of the entire job market. In a recently published article in the Insurance Journal, researchers found that older workers are particularly susceptible to certain types of work injuries and are at a higher risk for workplace fatalities.
With changes to the economic landscape, employees over 55 are staying in their jobs and are more likely to have hearing impairments, worsened vision, issues with balance and reduced response times – all of which can put them at higher risk for dangerous or deadly workplace accidents resulting in serious injuries.
In 2015, the BLS recognized that individuals over 55 made up nearly 23% of the workforce. In a study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), concerns over having fewer work hours and less access to health and other types of benefits have kept many older workers in their jobs. According to the BLS that percentage will only grow in the coming years.
Another obstacle that older workers face is the amount of time it takes to complete physical rehabilitation after work injuries. According to the 2014 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), workers 45 and older miss anywhere between 20 to 37 days of work – and as they grow older, the number of missed days grows. Physical rehabilitation tends to be more difficult for older workers, whose bodies can take more time to heal meaning they will spend more time out of work and in rehabilitation.
The SOII also found that workers between 45 and 54-years-old experienced the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders out of any other age group. Although younger workers are at a higher risk for hand and head injuries, older workers also experience a higher incidence of back, core, knee and shoulder injuries. Musculoskeletal disorders include all those that affect body movement, such as the ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, muscles or tendons.
Data from the BLS shows that older workers are also more susceptible to experiencing bone fractures, sprains, strains and tears as well as cuts, lacerations, bruises and contusions than younger workers are. In 2015, approximately 35% of all fatal work accidents involved workers 55 and older. The most common fatal work events for older workers are transportation incidents, falls, contact with objects or equipment, assaults or fires.
Because older workers are at a higher risk for injury and death, employers need to take a variety of safety measures and precautions to protect them in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends:
- Promote healthy lifestyles and accommodate all medical self-care in the workplace;
- Employ job flexibility, including tasks, scheduling and location;
- Create a work environment that encourages people to move, instead of staying sedentary;
- Provide sit/stand work stations or onsite physical activity;
- Manage all noise, slip or trip hazards, and:
- Ensure an ergonomically friendly worksite (flooring, seating, workstations and lighting)
Some workplaces have taken major steps to protect older workers. BMW spoke to Safety and Health Magazine about the safety measures they implemented in 2010, most of which were ergonomically based – or in order to ensure minimal physical injury, pain or discomfort. They also made floor changes to avoid knee and leg problems, provided magnifying lenses and large computer screens to inhibit eye strain and gave workers orthopedic footwear to decrease foot problems. All in all with the changes made, workplace productivity increased by almost 10% within a year and fewer injuries to older workers occurred.
Employers across the country should implement safety measures in order to protect their older employees. Although it is the legal responsibility of every employer to provide a safe workplace that is free from all foreseeable hazards, it is crucial that special precautions are implemented to protect workers over 55.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Pursue Recoveries for Work-Related Injuries and Accidents
If you sustained injuries while at work, please contact our Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger. With offics located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.