Why is it important to keep aging workers safe?

The number of workers older than 65 who continue employment instead of retiring has increased by more than 10% over the past 20 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers older than 75 years nationwide, including in North Carolina, show similar numbers. Are you one of them?

Injury risks

For several reasons, older workers’ occupational injuries occur less frequently. However, when they do occur, injuries suffered by aging workers are typically more severe and more likely to cause death. The BLS says workers between 25 and 35 years report fewer non-fatal injuries, and as they get older, the fatality rate increases. The most significant jump in fatal work-related injuries involves workers around 60 years old.

What is your worth as an older worker?

Despite your age, or maybe because of your age, you and your fellow aging co-workers play a crucial role in your employer’s success. Your ongoing presence yields the following benefits:

  • Strong work ethic
  • Safer and less likely to show risky behavior
  • A better understanding of hazards and mitigating dangers
  • Lower staff turnover and absenteeism
  • Better improvement or maintenance of productivity
  • Years or decades of experience
  • Sharing and transferring the experience with younger workers

Most employers recognize that losing older workers could lead to losses in productivity.

Accommodations required for older workers

If your employer wants to continue benefiting from older workers, jobs should match with capabilities. As you age, your physical, cognitive and sensory abilities will diminish. You might have problems with heavy lifting, working in awkward postures and doing repetitive tasks. Chronic illnesses common in aging workers include asthma, diabetes and depression, any of which could affect or complicate work-related injuries or illnesses.

If your employer understands and appreciates age-related changes, he or she can put measures in place to limit injury risks. For example, if you and a younger worker suffer the same musculoskeletal injury, the effects on you will be more severe than on your younger colleague. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, data indicates that older victims of MSIs need more recovery time and days off work than younger workers.

Typical age-related changes could even affect your ability to drive. Therefore, if your job involves driving, your injury risk will be higher. Diminished vision could become a problem, or glare intolerance and reduced night vision. Age brings slower reaction times, decreased range of motion, declined cognitive functioning and more. Safety authorities say road accident risks increase after age 55.

Workers’ compensation eligibility

North Carolina victims of work-related injuries are entitled to file workers’ compensation claims regardless of age. Furthermore, it is a no-fault system, meaning that you will remain eligible for compensation even if you were responsible for your injuries. It is always best to report any injuries as soon as possible to get the wheels of a benefits claim rolling. There are time limits for the submission of workers’ compensation benefits claims.

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