Toil and Trouble: Older Workers and Workers Comp

June 15th, 2005 by

A couple of new studies reinforce a number of concerns that we continue to raise concerning the aging of the American workforce. NCCI has released a study (PDFs) that specifically addresses the potential impact of an older workforce on workers compensation costs. Not surprisingly, they find that older workers get injured less often than younger ones, but when they do get hurt, their recovery times are slower and the cost of the claims is higher. The NCCI study focuses on the specific injuries that generate the most dollar losses among older workers: rotator cuff strains, lumbar disc problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. (We alerted readers in a prior blog that workers over 50 should be very careful when performing jobs above the shoulder level.)
The specific risks associated with older workers need to be examined in the context of changes in the overall workforce. The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) has published an interesting study on Return-to-Work Outcomes in four key states: California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas. WCRI found that workers over the age of 55 who are injured are 12 to 35 percent less likely to return to work when compared to workers between the ages of 25 and 39. In addition, these older workers are out of work 62 to 276 percent longer. (I would like to quote from the study at length, but the information is proprietary and protected by copyright, so I am limited to quoting from their press release.)
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