Safe at Home? an Aging Work Force Reinforces the Need for Off-the-Job Safety as Employee Injuries Prove Hazardous to Employers' Bottom Lines

By Appy, Meri-K | Occupational Hazards, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Safe at Home? an Aging Work Force Reinforces the Need for Off-the-Job Safety as Employee Injuries Prove Hazardous to Employers' Bottom Lines


Appy, Meri-K, Occupational Hazards


In today's work force, employers should be happy to know that they can continue to depend on a mature and experienced pool of employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers 55 and older represent the fastest growing segment of the work force, rising to 22.7 million in May of this year. This number is up from 20.7 million in 2002.

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Baby Boomers now make up nearly 50 percent of the American work force, and studies show they're here to stay. A survey recently released by AARP showed that nearly half of respondents plan to work into their 70s and almost 20 percent said they would not retire until they were 80 years old or older. Some even reported having no plans to retire at all.

Labor and workplace experts have proven that Boomers in the workplace is a win-win situation for both employees and employers. Corporations benefit from the retention of a valuable, trained segment that brings decades of honed skills, maturity and experience to the job. In turn, Boomers may enjoy the financially sound lifestyle from their current salaries that their retirement plans may not be able to provide, as well as a continued satisfaction that they receive from their ongoing career instead of from an idle lifestyle.

However, as businesses experience the benefits of an older adult work force, it's important for the employer to understand that, although this age group is healthier than ever before, they are not immune to the changes and issues that come with age. Knowing the value that Boomers bring to the workplace, some progressive employers are taking action now and developing age-related solutions within the workplace to protect older adults on the job, such as enhanced technology to magnify computer screens, voice recognition computers to relieve arthritic hands of excessive typing and ergonomically designed equipment to reduce the injuries older adults may sustain at work. But few employers understand where the greatest injury risk lies for this population--not within their workplaces, but within their own homes.

Home Hazards

According to a recent study conducted by the Home Safety Council, unintentional home injuries cause nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits on average each year, with the highest rate of unintentional home injuries and injury-related death coming from the older adult population. It's no secret to employers that a healthy employee equals a healthy bottom line, but employers may not realize what home injuries can do to the bottom line. The answer is $38 billion a year.

Employers are spending an average of $280 per employee--equating to $38 billion annually--due to home hazards including falls, fires and burns, poisonings, suffocation and drowning. Health insurance, life insurance, sick leave & disability, hiring and training new employees, not to mention the time-off employees may need to care for a loved one who has sustained a debilitating home injury, all hit employers in the pocket book. …

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