Is a growingly gray workforce increasing job site fatalities?

Aug 03 2017

As modern-day baby boomers set aside the growingly antiquated notion of retirement at 65, the workforce is getting older. In fact, the U.S. government now estimates that older workers will compose 25 percent of the labor force by 2024.

However, with age comes physical change. With physical change comes the increased likelihood of a workplace accident resulting in a serious, potentially fatal injury.

While a recent Associated Press analysis of federal statistics revealed that the rate of workplace fatalities decreased from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015, the news was not all good.

Workers of advancing ages rejecting age-old practices are dying on the job at a higher rate than their younger contemporaries. In 2015 alone, on-the-job fatalities for older employees increased from 1,562 to 1,681. Approximately 35 percent of fatal workplace accidents nationally involved workers 55 and older.

From 2005 to 2016, the number of older people working increased by 37 percent while the entire population of workers only increased six percent. During that time, deaths on job sites fell 22 percent for all workers. However, fatal accidents involving workers 55 and older increased 50 to 65 percent, not counting deaths by natural causes.

Specific categories of fatal accidents involving older workers saw significant increases from 2011 to 2015. Those include:

  • Falls – 20 percent
  • Contact with objects and equipment – 17 percent
  • Transportation accidents – 15 percent
  • Fires and explosions – 8 percent

In response to the alarming statistics, The National Center for Productive Aging and Work (part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is lobbying for changes in the workplace that will hopefully increase safety for older workers.