Older Workers Miss More days when injured on the job, new study finds


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When injured on the job, older workers are sidelined for longer periods than their younger co-workers, a new study found.

Those 55 to 64 and those 65 and up were out of work for a median of 11 days and 12 days, respectively, compared with about nine days for those ages 35 to 44 and about six days for those ages 25 to 34, according to new findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research also suggests that although older workers do not have an increased risk of injury overall, they are at higher risk of falls from stairs, ladders or heights and for specific types of injuries, including fractures and hip injury.

And, unless workplaces keep the safety of older workers in mind, injuries will mount as the number of older workers rises from 19 percent to a quarter of the workforce by 2018, the report noted.

"There is an urgent need for us to look at the safety and health needs of older workers, because they are growing," said report co-author Dawn N. Castillo, chief of the surveillance and field investigations branch at the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

For their study, researchers analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

In 2009, there were an estimated 210,830 non-fatal work injuries and illnesses among workers 55 and older, which resulted in lost workdays, the researchers found. Most of the injuries (94 percent) were the result of trauma, with chronic injuries, such as back pain and illnesses, making up the rest of the cases.

Men, who make up 52 percent of older workers, accounted for 55 percent of the injuries and also stayed away from work longer than women (14 versus nine days, respectively), according to the report.

Among older workers, rates for falls on the same level -- such as falling to a floor, on a walkway, or the ground or against objects such as desks, walls, or doors -- increased steadily with age.

However, rates for being "struck by or against, or caught in or crushed by various tools, equipment, machinery, parts, or materials decreased with age," the report found.

Broken bones accounted for 11 percent of injuries among older workers and were associated with as many as 42 days of missed work. Most of the fractures were to ankles, arms, feet, legs, fingers and hips, the researchers found.

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• $4 million recovery for a factory worker whose arm was injured in a defective machine (read about this case).
• $2 million settlement for a worker who fell off scaffolding at a construction site.

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