With people living longer than ever, more people are continuing to work into their senior years. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce was at least 55 years old in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some people continue to work out of financial necessity. Others simply enjoy what they do or found retirement unbearably boring.
These older workers aren’t all in desk jobs. Some are in strenuous and potentially dangerous jobs like construction. Others do work that involves being on their feet all day and/or repetitive motions, like being a store clerk.
Being older may put you at greater risk of injury, but employers can help
None of this means that older people shouldn’t be allowed to continue doing work they’re qualified and able to do. Employers have the same obligations to provide a safe workplace and make their jobs as risk-free as possible as they have for any employee. That might require a few adjustments — but ones that are worth making. For example, they may assign a new employee to an older one to learn from them while also taking on some of the more strenuous tasks.
As an official with the NIOSH National Center for Productive Aging and Work says, “Identifying and reducing the risks that many older workers face – especially those who perform hands-on labor – can help employers retain their experience and keep them injury-free.”
The head of the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) acknowledges that “the risks on the job do sometimes disproportionately affect aging workers.” However, he notes, “We don’t want to suggest that older workers create the safety hazards because it’s the job conditions that create the safety hazards.” The BLS found that more fatal workplace injuries occurred among people 55 and above in 2019 than in any prior year.
Older employees need to report work-related injuries
Too often, older workers are hesitant to report injuries that may not be readily apparent, like soft tissue injuries, or minimize more serious injuries out of fear of losing their jobs. It’s crucial to understand that if you suffer a workplace-related injury or illness, you have as much right to workers’ compensation benefits as younger employees without fear of retaliation. If you’re having difficulty getting the benefits you deserve, you may want to seek legal guidance.