“There is growing evidence that an aging workforce has a far less negative impact on workers’ compensation claim costs than might have been thought,” suggests new research.
“The NCCI study on the aging workforce published in 2011 concluded that costs for workers in the 35- and older-age cohorts tend to be quite similar. … This study provides further evidence of similarities between younger and older workers.”
The authors partially credit employers for the new trend. “As the workforce ages, employers are making efforts to encourage older workers to remain on the job by implementing safety and loss control programs to reduce injuries for older workers,” they said. “These programs are also likely to improve overall productivity and benefit workers of all ages.”
The report noted that specific companies have implemented stretching programs for workers before their shifts begin or provided on-site trainers with ice for aches and pains. Some have changed the configuration of work areas to accommodate older workers.
While the findings come as good news to employers seeking to retain their more senior, knowledgeable workers, it also points out potential problems about younger workers. Among its conclusions was that older workers no longer have a monopoly on some of the more costly injuries.
“Injuries due to high severity diagnoses have historically been more common for older workers, but those high severity diagnoses are now becoming common in younger-age cohorts as well,” the study says. “It has been suggested that a sedentary lifestyle, which reduces blood flow to muscles and joints, is likely a factor in causing the relative increases in knee and rotator cuff injuries in younger people.”
Three costly injuries — rotator cuff syndrome, rotator cuff sprain, and tears of medial cartilage meniscus of knee — entered the top 10 for younger-aged workers as time went by, and rankings within age cohorts became higher. For example, rotator cuff syndrome was in the top 10 only for the 55-64 age cohort in 1996/97 but was in the top 10 for workers 35 and older by 2007/08.
Additionally, the study noted:
- Duration, treatments per claim, benefits paid per day, and costs per treatment are all very similar for workers in the 35 and older age cohorts, and they are higher than for workers in the under age 35 cohorts.
- Age-related deterioration is small and gradual until age 80.
- For a given diagnosis, on average, an injury sustained by an older worker is no more likely to result in a temporary total or permanent partial claim than for a younger worker.