Sep 2017

Fatal Rhode Island Workplace Injuries More Likely for Older Workers

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyAccording to the Associated Press, workplace fatality rates are higher for older workers than their younger counterparts. There are numerous contributing factors to this trend, but one thing that remains constant is the need for protection of the legal rights of injured workers. The families of Rhode Island workers whose lives are lost on the job also have legal rights that must be protected.

As the “baby boomer” generation devotes more of their lives to their work than previous generations, the average age of the American worker has increased. Federal estimates conclude that 25 percent of the labor market will be comprised of older workers by 2024.

There are many physical and mental complications that come with age, and they can make older workers more prone to workplace injuries. Such complications include:

  • Hearing and vision impairment;
  • Decreased response times;
  • Balance problems;
  • Medication side effect or cross-effects;
  • Chronic muscle problems;
  • Chronic bone conditions such as arthritis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that that in 2003, more than 1.5 million of the most serious job-related injuries involved workers over the age of 55. BLS also reports the fatality rates for older workers that year were three times greater than the fatality rate for younger workers. The most common fatal events for workers aged 65 and older were transportation incidents and falls.

Protecting Older Workers From Workplace Injuries

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has studied the issue of older worker safety extensively, and issued recommendations for best preventative safety practices in the workplace.

First, the CDC notes that while younger workers have physical advantages, their elders have years of experience and accompanying knowledge of their positions. They therefore recommend that employers shift older workers into positions of mentoring and training younger workers, to best utilize the assets of both groups.

Next, the CDC emphasizes the importance of disease prevention and detection programs in employee health programs. This is particularly important for the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, and other diseases which are common to older populations. Logistical considerations may include:

  • Slower and more self-paced work;
  • More rest breaks;
  • Fewer repetitive tasks;
  • Avoiding static postures;
  • Better lighting;
  • Less glare;
  • More adjustable seating.

Flexible work schedules can also accommodate medical care and periods of decreased work ability, to sustain better long-term productivity for the worker.

While employer programs can be an asset to employee health, it is important for older workers to take the initiative in ensuring their own safety in the workplace. Proactive measures, such as medical screening and annual vision tests, can help address medical issues before they cause workplace injuries.

Employees must examine their own work station to identify the ergonomic environment that is best suited to their physical needs. Better chair support, rest breaks, increased lighting, safety equipment, and other measures all help prevent injuries and can be put in place by employers. Sadly, employee intervention is often needed to initiate these steps that would better ensure workplace safety.

 Fair Compensation For Victims

 When injuries do occur, a Rhode Island workers’ compensation attorney will ensure that workplace injury victims and their families have access to the fair compensation to which they are legally entitled. Rhode Island General Law, Title 28, Section 28-29-1 through 28-29-30 details the general provisions of Rhode Island workers’ compensation law. Benefits, meanwhile, are outlined in Chapter 28-33. These laws are not easy to understand, and it may feel like you are at odds when trying to take a stand against the negligence responsible for fatal injury.

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