The demographics of the American workforce are changing dramatically. Few employers are ready for what this will likely mean to the frequency and impact of work injuries on their bottom lines. As America ages, the number of workers over 55 years of age will rise along with it. This will likely mean fewer workplace injuries, but also a much slower recovery time for the injuries that do occur. A number of studies point to the impact of an older workforce and to the unprepared nature of our employers.
It is difficult to project the exact number of older workers who will be in the labor pool in the future. The Great Recession has taken a toll on many people's finances. This will likely force a greater number of workers than previously expected to continue working beyond retirement age. With the tail end of the baby boomer generation reaching their 50s soon, the population as a whole will be older than ever. One-quarter of the workforce is projected to be made up of workers 55 years-old and older by 2018.
An older workforce is not a problem unless employers fail to properly prepare. The health problems and work injuries suffered by older workers are different than younger workers. Employers need to have plans in place to help older workers stay healthy and productive. Employers need to be aware that the same injury suffered by a young person will lead to longer absences and greater health care costs in an older worker. This is offset by the skill and wisdom possessed by older workers, which helps them avoid many of the injuries that strike newer workers.
If employers take the time to be aware of the demographics of their employees, they will be able to plan accordingly. The health and safety of older workers has never been more important. It would be wise for employers to make more of an effort to protect this growing segment of their workforce.
Source: Workforce, "Rapidly Growing Older Workforce Demands Employer Attention to Injuries," by Roberto Ceniceros, 14 February 2012