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The aging workforce and safety considerations in Minnesota

A large number of baby boomers are choosing to remain in the workforce for longer times than did their predecessors. This means that the workforce is gradually aging. By 2022, it is estimated that 25 percent of workers will be 55 or older.

From a safety perspective, the older workforce brings some unique considerations. One piece of good news is that older workers are generally much less likely to suffer from a workplace illness or injury than are their younger peers. This may be because older workers, having greater emotional maturity, are likely to take care to avoid hazards and to point out ones they see to their supervisors.

Older workers have an injury rate of 94.2 per 10,000 workers, which is significantly less than the injury rate for workers in general, 107 out of 10,000. While this is true for almost all types of injuries, older workers have double the rate of injuries suffered from slips or falls at work. This may be attributed to declines in vision and balance as people age. When an older worker is injured, the injury is more likely to be severe than when a younger person is injured. Older workers also take a longer time to recover.

In order to prevent workplace accidents, employers should carefully assess the work environment. They may want to consider installing floors that have better grip and mandating that employees wear shoes with good tread. Taking proactive steps to correct workplace hazards and conducting safety training may help to prevent workers from being injured or becoming ill. If a worker is injured, the worker may file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Workers' compensation is carried by employers to provide protection to employees who suffer injuries while working on the job. Benefits may pay for medical expenses and replace a percentage of the worker's lost income.

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