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Study Says Older Workers Have Higher Risks for Injuries and Illnesses

Study Says Older Workers Have Higher Risks for Injuries and Illnesses

Recently the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a study indicating that older employees as a group have a heightened risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. The study also found that workers age 55 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce. Therefore, employers and employees should recognize these risks and proactively guard against occupational injury.


The study performed by the NIOSH, in conjunction with other agencies, analyzed occupational injury and illness data from 2009 for workers age 55 and older. The researchers found that older employees had longer absences from work due to injury or illness with an average of 11-12 missed days for workers aged 55-64.

Workers age 55 and older also had higher incidences of work-related falls, fractures and hip injuries than their younger counterparts. There were 210,830 on-the-job injuries and illnesses for older workers in 2009, which was 17 percent of all cases that year.

Older-Worker Considerations

Medical research shows that aging can cause unique physical changes such as vision and hearing loss as well as decreased balance, flexibility and strength. Older workers also are more susceptible to injuries that become chronic conditions, which can be more difficult to treat and resolve in people more advanced in age.

Workplace Injury Prevention

Workplace safety is an important priority, and simple adjustments can help employers minimize the risk of injury for all employees. Keeping floor surfaces clean, dry and free of clutter prevents falls. Well-lit and ergonomic workstations can help prevent vision problems and tasks that require repeated bending and reaching.

Older employees also can protect themselves from work injuries by having their vision and hearing tested regularly, limiting alcohol intake, wearing appropriate foot gear and staying physically fit and healthy. In addition, drinking water, taking scheduled breaks and working at a steady pace can help minimize bodily harm.

If you are an older employee who was recently injured during the course of your work, consult a workers’ compensation attorney before filing any claims for benefits. If your employer was negligent or did not make reasonable accommodations for you, you may be entitled to additional damages and workers’ compensation coverage in your state.