Research is starting to demonstrate a concerning trend for older Americans: workplace injury and fatality rates are consistently higher for older workers than younger workers. Regardless of the type of accident or age of the employee, workers' compensation coverage is available for all work-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses sustained by South Carolina workers.
The Statistical Evidence of Older Worker Injuries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2003, 1.57 million of the most serious workplace injuries involved workers aged 55 and older. BLS also reports that the 2003 fatality rates for older workers was three times greater than the fatality rate for younger workers. The most common fatal events for workers aged 65 and older were transportation incidents and falls. And according to the Associated Press, workplace fatality rates are higher for older workers than overall workplace death rates.
As the “baby boomer” generation continues to work, the age of the average American worker has increased. The federal government estimates that 25% of the labor market will be constituted of older workers by 2024. There are many complications that come with age, and these complications make the elderly more prone to falls. They can also make older workers more prone to workplace injuries. Such complications include: hearing and vision impairment; decreased response times; balance problems; medication side effect or cross-effects; chronic muscle problems; or chronic bone conditions such as arthritis.
What Can Be Done?
The government, employers, and individuals can all take steps to prevent workplace injuries. Federal regulations for worker safety are an important step toward establishing a baseline for safe working environments. But this is just an absolute minimum: employers must take further precautions if they are to avoid worker’s compensation claims, time off due to injuries, and civil liability. There are many ways that companies can address the problem of workplace injuries. It is important for employers to carefully evaluate the needs of a specific workplace and craft solutions that are tailored to those specific needs. This is exactly what one Virginia health care employer was able to successfully accomplish. According to the Insurance Journal, Bon Secours Virginia Health Care System experienced a trend in its workers' compensation claims. Older workers were filing many claims for back injuries caused by lifting patients. Recognizing this specific problem, the employer designed a protocol by which a “patient mobility team” was used to transport patients.
While employer programs can be an asset to employee health, it is important for older workers to take the initiative in ensuring their own safety in the workplace. Medical screening and annual vision tests can help address medical issues before they cause workplace injuries. Employees must examine their own work station to identify the ergonomic environment that is best suited to their physical needs. Better chair support, rest breaks, increased lighting, safety equipment, and other measures can all help prevent injuries, but these steps rarely happen without an employee initiating them. Unfortunately, the best prevention strategies cannot eliminate workplace accidents entirely. An experienced Colombia, workers' compensation attorney will help protect the legal rights of injured workers and their families.