Working people are working longer to support themselves and their families. And they are paying for it. Today, one in five workers are 65 years or older and are at greatest risk of fatalities and injuries due to falls, slips and trips. But a rule proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would strengthen protections and prevent falls, slips and trips caused by workplace hazards.
What does this mean for their health and safety on the job?
Aging workers are at increased risk of dying on the job. In 2014, 35% of all work-related fatalities occurred in workers 55 years or older; and the fatality rate among workers 65 years or older was more than three times the rate of the overall workforce. This is the first time the fatality rate for older workers increased in eight years and disproportionately affects blue-collar workers.
Aging workers have lower injury rates but need more time to recover. Older workers do not recover from severe injuries quickly, taking a median of 15 to 17 days away from work for recovery, compared to nine days for the overall workforce. Older workers tend to be highly skilled workers as a result of decades of training, education and experience, resulting in fewer work-related injuries. This is true when workers remain in their field of expertise, but often time older workers are unable to continue the jobs they have devoted their lives to because of physical demands and must change industries at an older age.
How are aging workers injured on the job?
Workers 65 years or older are at greatest risk of fatalities and injuries due to falls, slips and trips, which accounted for 27% of all fatalities in workers in this age group. The same events accounted for 17% of fatalities among the entire workforce. Workers 65 years or older also were 1.7 times more likely to experience a fall, slip or trip that resulted in a severe injury.
Specifically, older workers are at increased risk of falling on the same level. These falls typically occur because of wet, slick or cluttered floors, steps or other walking surfaces and surfaces without proper guarding or handrails.
How can we protect an aging workforce?
In 2010, OSHA proposed a walking and working surfaces rule to strengthen protections and prevent falls, slips and trips caused by workplace hazards, after decades of delay. The Obama administration is running out of time to issue the final walking and working surfaces rule to protect all workers, including older workers who are especially vulnerable to these hazards on the job.
Read more about safety and health issues on the aging workforce in the 2016 Death on the Job report.