Early last month, the Associated Press released an analysis of federal statistics showing that the rate of older workers dying on the job is higher than that of workers overall.

The results of the analysis showed that the workplace fatality rate overall decreased by 22 percent between 2006 and 2015. However, during that same span of time, the fatality rate for older workers was consistently 50 to 65 percent higher than the overall rate. Specifically, total fatalities fell from 5,480 in 2005 to 4836 in 2015, which older worker fatalities increased from 1,562 to 1,681 those same years. As recently as 2015, workers 55 and older made up 25 percent of all workplace fatalities.

Experts believe this trend is a result of the average age of retirement increasing among older generations as they refuse the traditional retirement age of 65. According to the United States government, 25 percent of the workforce will be comprised of older workers by 2024.

Ken Scott, an epidemiologist at the Denver Public Health Department, said aging and its associated physical changes “could potentially make a workplace injury into a much more serious injury or a potentially fatal injury.” The natural process of aging can also lead to impaired vision and hearing, musculoskeletal issues, diminished balance, and worsening response times. However, when it comes to making changes to your safety culture and program to address this rising issue, it’s best to remember older workers are unique from individual to individual – assuming that everyone of a certain age is in need of special accommodations will only pave the road to discrimination.

The Associated Press used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries, as well as one-year estimates from the American Community Survey, as a basis for its analysis. Fatalities examined in the results do not include those which occurred as a result of natural causes such as a heart attack. Also examined were fluctuations in types of incidents where an older worker died on the job between 2011 and 2015:

  • Falls increased 20 percent
  • Contact with objects increased 17 percent
  • Transportation incidents increased 15 percent
  • Fires and explosions decreased by 8 percent

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