"Older workers had higher rates of falls on the same level, fractures, and hip injuries compared with younger workers and workers of all ages," the MMWR paper states

Study Confirms Concern About Older Workers' Injuries

NIOSH, BLS, and several state agencies analyzed Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses 2009 data and found length of absences from work increased steadily with age and was highest for the oldest workers.

A new study in CDC's MMWR echoes NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard's reminders that employers must be ready for "chronologically gifted" workers -- the older-than-55 workers who are living longer and are still employed because they can or must hold down jobs. The study done by NIOSH, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and several state agencies analyzed BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses 2009 data and found the length of absences from work increased steadily with age and was highest for the oldest workers, with a median of 11 and 12 days for workers ages 55-64 and older than 65, respectively -- even though the injury and illness rate of these older workers is lower than the rate of all workers combined.

This is worrisome because those older than 55 are the fast-growing segment of the U.S. working population. They represented 19 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2009, the authors note.

"Older workers had higher rates of falls on the same level, fractures, and hip injuries compared with younger workers and workers of all ages," their paper states. "Public health and research agencies should conduct research to better understand the overall burden of occupational injuries and illnesses on older workers, aging-associated risks, and effective prevention strategies. Employers and others should take steps to address specific risks for older workers such as falls (e.g., by ensuring floor surfaces are clean, dry, well-lit, and free from tripping hazards)."

The SOII data come from about 240,000 employers (220,000 private-sector employers and 20,000 state and local government employers), and BLS estimates occupational injury and illness incidence based on them.

The injury and illness rate for lost-time cases involving workers ages 55-64 was 116.8 per 10,000 FTE workers in 2009; it was 105.9 for workers older than 65. The rate for workers of all ages combined was 117.2. The authors estimated 210,830 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses among older workers resulted in lost workdays during the year, representing 17 percent of the total 1,238,490 cases for all workers.

The researchers involved in the study are Sara E. Wuellner, MPH, of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries; Jaime K. Walters, MPH, Oregon Public Health Division; Thomas St. Louis, MSPH, Connecticut Department of Public Health; Kathy Leinenkugel, MPA, Iowa Department of Public Health; Pamela F. Rogers, MPH, Wisconsin Division of Public Health; Daniel Lefkowitz, Ph.D., New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services; Letitia K. Davis, ScD, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Kitty Gelberg, Ph.D., New York State Department of Health; Mark J. Zak, Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Dawn N. Castillo, MPH, NIOSH.

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