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Changes in workforce demographics will affect workplace injuries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that workers aged 65 and older are working longer rather than retiring. In fact, they are expected to represent the fastest growing labor group through 2024. The number of employees between the ages of 25 and 54 is expected to rise at a substantially lower rate during that period. Part of this is due to a drop in the birth rate since the Baby Boom. Part likely has to do with retirement savings losses during the Great Recession keeping many people from retiring as expected.

The aging workforce likely means there will be more workplace accidents and injuries, according to a spokesperson for Travelers Insurance. First, older workers tend to suffer more serious injuries than younger workers. Second, younger workers often replace more experienced workers with greater skill.

Age, experience and chronic health conditions

Employers are already investing less time training new employees than they did in the past, according to Claims Journal. That could mean challenges ahead for companies and their newest workers. It might mean a substantial increase in the number of first-year accidents, or greater seriousness in those accidents.

According to Travelers, the risk and frequency of injury is greater among older workers. At the same time, American workers are not as healthy overall as they once were. This, too, could have to do with an aging workforce.

The Travelers spokesperson said that about half of workplace claims today involve workers who already had a chronic condition prior to an injury. Having a chronic condition means it's likely to be more challenging to get back to work after an injury.

Also, "when an injured worker has at least one chronic condition, things like obesity, smoking, diabetes, cancer, those types of things, chronic pain will be another one," he points out.

If an injured worker has a chronic condition, it approximately doubles the workers' compensation claim cost. With two or more chronic conditions, the claim ends up being about five times as high.

Yet a serious injury to a younger worker may be even more expensive. In the case of a catastrophic or disabling injury, youth may simply mean the claim is paid out longer. "Therefore, the frequency of the injuries for the younger demographic is actually less, but the severity is a lot higher," he said.

If you are injured on a construction site, it doesn't matter whether you're older and more experienced, or younger and more agile. Be sure to reach out to a lawyer who has experience in both workers' compensation and personal injury law. You may be entitled to make a claim against your employer and against any responsible third parties.

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