Injuries Among Older Workers on the Rise: CDC04/28/11
THURSDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- More and more Americans
over age 55 are working later in life, and this means work-related
injuries in this group continue to climb, up from 12 percent in
2003 to 17 percent in the latest tally, federal health officials
Although older workers do not have an increased risk of injury
overall compared to younger workers, they are at higher risk of
falls from stairs, ladders or heights and for specific types of
injuries, including fractures and hip injury, the researchers
Unless workplaces keep the safety of older workers in mind,
injuries will mount as the number of older workers rises from 19
percent to a quarter of the workforce by 2018, according to the
researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
"There is an urgent need for us to look at the safety and health needs of older workers, because they are growing. Employers and others should take steps to help protect the older worker," said report co-author Dawn N. Castillo, chief of the surveillance and field investigations branch in the division of safety research at the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
"We thought it is important to look at injury data to be able to assess if there might be some specific needs in terms of safety and health for the older worker," she added.
Castillo stressed that the overall rate of injuries suffered by
older workers is the same -- or even lower -- than other age
But since the rates of falls, fractures and hip injuries are
higher among older workers, "this points to the need of employers
to be aware of these risks and take steps to improve safety of the
older workforce," she said.
Improving safety for older workers will also improve safety for
all workers, Castillo said.
The report was published in the April 29 issue of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Details for the report were gathered from the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics and include all types of workers -- from
industrial to office and retail and service workers, Castillo said.
Many also work in health care and in agriculture. The report also
includes statistics for state and local government workers, she
In 2009, there were an estimated 210,830 non-fatal work injuries
and illnesses among workers 55 and older, which resulted in lost
workdays, the researchers found. Most of the injuries (94 percent)
were the result of trauma, with chronic injuries, such as back pain
and illnesses, making up the rest of the cases.
Men, who make up 52 percent of older workers, accounted for 55
percent of the injuries and also stayed away from work longer than
women (14 versus nine days, respectively), according to the
Among older workers, rates for falls on the same level -- such
as falling to a floor, on a walkway, or the ground or against
objects such as desks, walls, or doors -- increased steadily with
However, rates for being "struck by or against, or caught in or
crushed by various tools, equipment, machinery, parts, or materials
decreased with age," the report found.
Broken bones accounted for 11 percent of injuries among older
workers and were associated with as many as 42 days of missed work.
Most of the fractures were to ankles, arms, feet, legs, fingers and
hips, the researchers found.
Employers can help reduce injuries by removing tripping hazards
and install slip-resistant floors, Castillo said. These and other
measures may help reduce injuries and stem the rising tide of
injuries among older workers, she said.
Federal researchers also found that work-related highway traffic
accidents were the leading cause of fatalities for both workers and
the general population, according to another report in the same
issue of the
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. A total of 8,173 workers died in highway accidents in the United States between 2003 and 2008, representing 24 percent of all occupational deaths during that period, with the highest rates among workers over 65, followed by those 55 to 64.
Most of these accidents involved truckers killed in semi-truck
accidents, including jackknifing. The majority of the fatalities
were among people who worked in transportation, warehousing and
utilities. The second highest rate of deaths were among state and
federal government workers, according to the report.
Employers should make road traffic safety a priority, enforcing
policies that require use of safety belts and prohibit unsafe
behaviors such as impaired driving and use of cell phones and other
mobile devices "that might distract the driver while the vehicle is
in motion," the report concluded.
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