As a workers’ compensation legal transcription service company, we find that law firms are now handling an increasing number of claims for older workers. More and more employers are hiring older workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) y reports that the groups of workers 65 to 74 and 75 and older are predicted to grow faster than any other age segments through 2024.
While studies suggest that older workers experience relatively low overall rates of work-related injury possibly due to their experience, expertise, and motivation, their claims cost more when they do get injured. This is because older workers need more treatment for their injuries and get benefits for longer periods. Implementing strategies to support productive aging at work can help employers control workers’ compensation costs while gaining competitive advantage.
Factors driving Surge in Older Workers
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, one in four Americans will be over the age of 55 by 2020, and currently, one in every five American workers is over 65.Multiple factors, both from the employee’s and employer’s side, are fueling this trend. Increased life expectancy due to improved healthcare and medical treatment, financial necessity, need for medical insurance, lack of qualified workers, and the desire to remain productive are the key factors driving individuals to remain in the workforce beyond the conventional retirement age. Today’s employers see the older labor pool as a proven, committed, and diverse set of workers, according to a Deloitte report. The report notes that more than 80 percent of US employers consider workers aged 50 and more as “a valuable resource for training and mentoring,” “an important source of institutional knowledge,” and as offering “more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience.”
Injuries affecting the Older Labor Force
An aging workforce has specific implications for workers compensation costs.
While the Bureau of Labor Statisitcs (BLS) states that incidence of occupational injuries declines as a worker ages, the injuries that an older worker suffers are more likely to be severe. The BLS notes that workplace injuries can even prove fatal for those who are older, and the highest around age 60. The reasons why older employees are at greater risk for workplace injuries are as follows:
- Reduced muscle strength due to aging increases risk of slips and falls that can lead to serious injuries
- Hearing and vision problems due to the natural process of aging can affect awareness of surroundings and reaction times, thereby increasing susceptibility to injury
- Pre-existing medical conditions such as arthritis can cause repetitive strain injuries due to repeating the same movement or tasks
- According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), analyses of the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries revealed that roadway crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths for older workers in the U.S.
RAND Corporation’s 2015 American Working Conditions Survey revealed that older workers are engaged in tasks that put them at higher risk of work-related injury. Respondents over age 50 reported these tasks as moving heavy loads or people, maintaining tiring or painful positions, standing all or almost all of the time, performing repetitive hand/arm movements, and sitting all or almost all of the time.
The cost of claims goes up as age increases. Along with the higher risk of injuries and health-related concerns, older workers may also have comorbidities like obesity or diabetes that could increase claims costs and risk, and prolong recovery times. Employers need to take account of the needs, capabilities and skills of their aging workforce and design safe and healthy work practices and environments that will best support their older work force. This will improve the productivity of this segment and also help control workers compensation costs.
Simple Strategies to help Older Workers stay Healthy and Productive
Make adjustments and implement ergonomic practices: such as extra lighting and larger computer monitors can help older employees with make failing vision. Tools like hand trucks ease lifting of heavy loads.
Offer flexibility: Offer older employees flexible schedules and allow them to work from home if possible. Encourage them to leave their workstation and stretch their limbs to get relief from repetitive tasks.
Support healthy lifestyle practices: Offer discounts for membership in gyms and exercise programs to encourage healthy lifestyles. Set up wellness programs and promote annual health screenings. This can help reduce the risk of certain health concerns that can affect them.
Encourage mentoring: Using older workers to mentor younger workers will help both parties as well as the company. Younger workers will gain valuable information on best practices, and proper work habits and attitudes towards work. A good mentoring system can make older workers feel useful and appreciated and boost the company’s productivity.
Provide training programs for older workers: Training experienced employees is important to update their skills, make them more employable, and improve their productivity and confidence.
Offer return-to-work programs: A return-to-work program can employees who were injured on the job to get back to work. Such programs identify temporary transitional jobs that these employees can engage in while recovering from an injury. Current positions may be adapted to fit the medical limitations of injured employees by adjusting workstations, modifying specific tasks or reducing working hours.
Legal transcription outsourcing helps law firms manage their documentation needs, allowing quick resolution of workers’ compensation claims. However, in this competitive scenario, businesses cannot afford to lose their knowledge-based foundations. Implementing the right strategies to support the aging workforce can reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, medical costs, claims filing, claims management, time-loss payments, re-opened claims, re-injury, and return to work, and help businesses get the best out of their aging workforce.