Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NCCI Issues Report on Workplace Injuries of Workers 65 and Older

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has released a new report examining how workers aged 65 and older differ from all workers in terms of their share of claims, indemnity and medical payments, frequency, and indemnity and medical severity (i.e., cost per claim). Among other things, the report--"Claims Characteristics of Workers Aged 65 and Older"--finds that:
  • falls/slips/trips are by far the greatest cause of injury among older workers;
  • indemnity severity is less for older workers, largely because of the lower average weekly wage of such workers; and
  • medical severity is higher for older workers, although the differential between workers aged 65 and older and nearby age cohorts is small.
NCCI decided to follow up on an earlier study on workers aged 20-64, since labor participation rates of workers aged 65 and older have increased by nearly 50% since the late 1980s, and the rate for workers aged 55 to 64 has also increased (from 55% to 65%).
For safety and loss prevention managers, the increase in the number of older persons in the workforce presents both challenges and opportunities. The challenges reflect the fact that as people age there appears to be a deterioration in factors such as eyesight (in terms of acuity, peripheral vision, and depth/ color perception), hearing, muscle tone (strength, flexibility), reaction time, and mental processes (slower recall rates and less effective short-term memory).

The opportunities involve steps that can be taken to reduce the risks in the workplace for older workers that take into account these changing circumstances. For example, to reduce the risks of falls, employers can enhance lighting where necessary, install slip-resistant flooring, and provide handrails (steps that would likely benefit the safety for all workers as well). The installation of noise dampening materials may also help where hearing may be an issue (e.g., on the factory floor). Employers can also provide wellness and exercise programs and provide information and support for common health problems that may affect older workers (such as arthritis and adult-onset diabetes).
Source: National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. News Release (January 15, 2010)

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