California workers have always faced the potential for workplace injuries. Now, a growing body of research has demonstrated that older workers face increased risk of sustaining injuries on the job. Workplace injuries in California can result in permanent - or even fatal - injuries which devastate workers and their families. There are many contributing factors to this trend, but one thing that remains constant is the need for protection of the legal rights of injured workers. The families of California workers who are killed on the job also have legal rights which must be protected.
A Growing Problem
As the “baby boomer” generation continues to work, the age of the average American worker has increased. The federal government estimates that 25 percent of the labor market will be constituted of older workers by 2024. There are many complications that come with age, and these complications make the elderly more prone to falls. They can also make older workers more prone to workplace injuries. Such complications include: hearing and vision impairment; decreased response times; balance problems; medication side effect or cross-effects; chronic muscle problems; or chronic bone conditions such as arthritis.
The connection between age and workplace injury is not mere conjecture. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2003, 1.57 million of the most serious workplace injuries involved workers aged 55 and older. BLS also reports that the 2003 fatality rates for older workers was three times greater than the fatality rate for younger workers. The most common fatal events for workers aged 65 and older were transportation incidents and falls. And according to the Associated Press, workplace fatality rates are higher for older workers than overall workplace death rates.
How Employees Can Take the Initiative to Ensure Workplace Safety
While employer programs can be an asset to employee health, it is important for older workers to take the initiative in ensuring their own safety in the workplace. Proactive measures, such as medical screening and annual vision tests, can help address medical issues before they cause workplace injuries. Employees must examine their own work station to identify the ergonomic environment that is best suited to their physical needs. Better chair support, rest breaks, increased lighting, safety equipment, and other measures can all help prevent injuries, but these steps rarely happen without an employee initiating them. And finally, workers must maintain awareness of their surroundings, and be honest with themselves about any changing abilities that come with age.
Employer programs can be effective, but many employers simply do not know what steps to take, or do not know that employees are concerned about the issue. Workers can address this problem by providing research on the issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has studied the issue of older worker safety extensively and issued recommendations for best practices in the workplace. First, the CDC notes that, while younger workers have physical advantages, older workers have the advantage of experience and knowledge. It therefore recommends that employers shift older workers into positions of mentoring and training younger workers, to best utilize the assets of both groups.
Next, the CDC emphasizes the importance of disease prevention and detection programs in employee health programs. Logistical considerations may include: slower and more self-paced work; more rest breaks; fewer repetitive tasks; avoiding static postures; better lighting; less glare; and adjustable seating.
Contact a San Diego workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible after any workplace accident, in order to ensure that you receive the fair compensation to which you are legally entitled.