Older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than all other workers combined, even as the rate of workplace fatalities decreases, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal statistics.
This is an alarming trend as baby boomers reject the traditional retirement age of 65 and keep working. The U.S. government estimates that by 2024, older workers will account for 25 percent of the labor market.
Gerontologists say those changes include gradually worsening vision and hearing impairment, reduced response time, balance issues and chronic medical or muscle or bone problems such as arthritis.
In 2015, about 35 percent of the fatal workplace accidents involved a worker 55 and older – or 1,681 of the 4,836 fatalities reported nationally.
The AP analysis showed that overall workplace fatality rate for all workers – and for those 55 and older – decreased by 22 percent between 2006 and 2015. But the rate of fatal accidents among older workers during that time period was 50 percent to 65 percent higher than for all workers, depending on the year.
The number of deaths among all workers dropped from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015. However, on-the-job fatalities among older workers increased slightly, from 1,562 to 1,681, the analysis shows.
During that time period, the number of older people in the workplace increased by 37 percent. That compares with a 6 percent rise in the population of workers overall.
The AP analysis is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries and from one-year estimates from the American Community Survey, which looks at the working population. It excludes cases where the cause of death was from a “natural cause,” including a heart attack, stroke among others.
AP also examined the number and types of accidents in which older workers died between 2011, when the bureau changed the way it categorized accidents, to 2015:
- Fall-related fatalities rose 20 percent.
- Contact with objects and equipment increased 17 percent.
- Transportation accidents increased 15 percent.
- Fires and explosions decreased by 8 percent.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found in 2013 that 44 percent of older Americans said their job required physical effort most or almost all of the time, and 36 percent said it was more difficult to complete the physical requirements of their jobs than it was when they were younger.
In most states, the fatal accident rates for older workers were consistently higher than comparable rates for all workers.
Nevada, New Jersey and Washington had the greatest percent increase in fatal accident rates for older workers between 2006 and 2015.
The three states with the biggest percent decrease were Hawaii, Oregon and Vermont.
Eight states saw their overall workplace fatality rate drop, even as the rate for older workers increased: Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington.
In two states – North Dakota and Wisconsin – the trend was reversed; older worker accident rates got smaller while the accident rate overall increased.
If you have been injured on the job, one of the most important things you can do is to report it. While this might seem obvious, there are many times a person is injured without requiring immediate medical attention, so it might seem like a good idea to take a wait and see approach and not report the incident. However, when an accident is not reported, your employer could deny you medical treatment and benefits for missed time from work. By reporting any workplace accidents properly, you can prevent many potential hassles.