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Workplace deaths among older employees continue to rise

Recently, we wrote about U.S. workplace fatalities in 2016, which have reached their highest level in eight years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In that blog, we noted the chilling statistics. But a closer look brings more concern, especially when we review the deaths of older workers – those 55 and older.

These numbers, too, are on the rise, and it’s alarming.

Older workers accounted for 1,848 deaths

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that among workers in this age group, 1,848 deaths occurred in 2016, the highest number within this demographic since 1992.

Deaths among older workers accounted for 35.6 percent of the 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016. This represents an increase of nearly 10 percent compared with the 1,681 deaths among workers 55 and older reported in 2015.

What is happening? What can be done to prevent this?

Aging citizens continue to work

We know that more and more baby boomers are forgoing retirement at 65 and remain in the workplace. The U.S. government predicts that by 2024, older workers will comprise 25 percent of the U.S. labor market.

As we age, our bodies undergo physical changes. We may not be as strapping and strong due to muscle and bone aches, and our vision and hearing likely have worsened.

Associated Press analysis

In August 2017, the Associated Press (AP) performed an analysis of workplace deaths that occurred between 2006 and 2015. Its study determined that workplace fatality rate for all workers declined by 22 percent during that time.

However, during that 10-year period, fatal accidents among older workers were 50 percent to 65 percent higher than for all workers, depending on the year.

Fall, equipment, and transportation accidents

In looking at the types of fatal accidents involving older workers between 2011 and 2015, the AP found double-digit increases in:

  • Falls (20 percent)
  • Contact with objects and equipment (17 percent)
  • Transportation accidents (15 percent)

Fatalities related to fires and explosions declined 8 percent among older workers. However, the AP found that 25 percent of these accidents involved older workers.

Age-friendly workplace

Older workers have an advocate in the National Center for Productive Aging and Work, which is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The agency promotes making workplaces as age-friendly as possible.

Here are some tips from NIOSH that promote an age-friendly workplace, and could reduce injury or fatal accidents:

  • Improve hazard management in areas that are noise-, slip/trip- and physical-related
  • Invest in training and improving worker skills
  • Promote a team environment for problem-solving
  • Promote healthy lifestyles
  • Avoid prolonged, sedentary work

Most everyone can benefit from these tips. Let’s make the workplace a consistently safe one.

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