Risk of injury and the aging workforce

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country, the aging of America may have serious implications in the workplace. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, workers who are 55 or older will comprise 24.8 percent of the workforce by 2024, and consequently, the increased physical vulnerability that may be associated with this demographic could negatively impact recovery and rehabilitation from any on-the-job injuries that might occur to these workers.

EData compiled in 2014 indicates that time away from work following a construction accident increases with age. Additional data from the same year shows that the risk of fatal falls across all sectors of industry also rises as workers grow older. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the 65-and-over age group of workers suffered 27.3 percent of the total number of fatal falls that occurred among all age groups in 2014. In contrast, 8.2 percent of these deadly falls occurred among workers in the 20- to 24-year-old age group.

Survey results suggest that the types of injuries that are most commonly experienced among workers differ by age. Head and hand injuries were most frequently suffered by younger workers while aging workers suffered injuries to the knees, shoulders, back and trunk more often than their younger counterparts. Musculoskeletal disorders were also found to occur more frequently among an older demographic in the 2014 survey.

Part of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s mission is focused on the strengthening of integration strategies that are designed to support an aging demographic in the workplace. Although progress has been made, more remains to be done to in order to better accommodate America’s aging workers. As researchers and safety professionals continue their efforts to this end, a worker of any age who is injured while on the job in Pennsylvania may find it beneficial to discuss the particulars of their unique situation with an workers’ compensation attorney.