Figures released by the Associated Press after an analysis done of federal statistics of occupational fatalities nationwide reveal that the overall work-related death rate in 2015 showed a decrease when compared to previous years. However, deaths in workplace accidents among workers over the age of 55 were considerably higher than in prior years. In California, the rate for older worker fatalities was 60 percent more than for workers overall.
The trend is attributed to the fact that baby boomers tend to continue working past the age of traditional retirement. An estimate by the U.S. Government indicates that, in seven year's time, one-quarter of the national workforce will be comprised of older workers. An epidemiologist says workplace injuries can be more severe if suffered by older workers due to the physical changes that are typical during the aging process. An injury that might not be particularly serious for a young worker may be fatal for an older worker.
A gerontologist who specializes in working with age-related changes over people's life spans, says typical changes as people age include the gradual failing of vision and hearing along with issues related to balance, chronic medical problems, and muscle and bone ailments, including arthritis. In the AP study, the types of accidents that caused fatalities among older workers between 2011 and 2015 were analyzed. Increases showed in accidents involving falls, contact with equipment and objects, along with transportation accidents.
As part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Center for Productive Aging and Work underscores the importance of changes to workplaces to accommodate the acquired limitations of older workers. Their wisdom and experience can be invaluable in training younger workers. However, based on the statistics, the loved ones of older workers will likely find comfort in knowing that they are entitled to survivor's benefits from the California workers' compensation system in the unfortunate events of fatal workplace accidents.
Source: onlineathens.com, "Workplace accident death rate higher for older workers", Maria Ines Zamudio, Michelle Minkoff, Aug. 4, 2017