Are older workers at greater risk for specific injuries?

November 10th, 2004 by

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation has published an interesting paper on the relationship between age and injury. We are all aware that many people are working longer and retiring later. Does this put employers at risk for higher workers compensation costs for their aging workforce? Are there specific injuries that occur to workers as they get older? The Ohio study, backed up by research from the Workers Compensation Research Institute, does not project significantly higher costs for workers comp due to the aging workforce. But a close look at the numbers reveals areas of concern.
The Ohio study of claims between 1998 and 2002 reveals intriguing differences between the injuries of younger and older workers. Younger workers are injured more often, with the predominant injuries involving lower back strains. If frequency is greater among younger workers, severity increases with age. This is pretty much what you would expect. It simply takes longer for an older worker to recover full function after an injury, and for many workers who have spent decades performing physically demanding work, returning to productive employment may prove very difficult indeed..
There are a couple of findings in the study that are truly compelling. The primary cost driver for both younger and older workers is lower back strain. However, the number one injury in terms of indemnity cost for workers between the ages of 50 and 70 is rotator cuff sprain. Among younger workers, rotator cuff sprains are not even in the top 10. There is also a higher rate of knee injuries (degenerated meniscus) among the older workers.
The study recommends that employers take steps to ensure that the tasks performed by older workers are limited to the area