There always changes going on in workforce demographics. When labor laws became stricter, it became illegal to employ children; when the men were shipped off to Europe during World War II, women entered the workforce. Currently there are two major demographic shifts in the national workforce that are of concern for workers’ compensation: the aging worker and the overweight worker.
Nearly all workers in Georgia are covered by workers’ compensation and can file a claim to receive compensation if they are injured. While the demographic shift doesn’t change that, it does mean employers need to adapt to keep workplace safety a priority.
Concerns of an Aging Workforce for Workers’ Compensation
Many people are waiting to retire till later these days. Modern medicine and higher living standards mean people live longer and may need to work longer to ensure they have enough funds to carry them through retirement. The economic downturn and recession also lead many people to come out of retirement. Regardless of the reason, retirement at age 65 is no longer the norm and there are far more older workers across the country, and in Georgia, than there ever were before.
One of the greatest challenges for employers, is making work environments more friendly to older workers. To combat hazards for older workers, the Department of Labor advises employers to take key actions, including implementing wellness programs and developing job design and ergonomics that make jobs less demanding for talented, aging workers.
There is also great concern about how much workers’ compensation costs will change. Although older workers tend to have less injuries, they also are more likely to require more treatment and longer periods of time for recovery. Some concerns include:
- Comorbid conditions – Older workers are more likely to have comorbid conditions that either increase their risk of injury or make recovery more difficult. This includes many normal age-related conditions, such as diabetes or obesity. An older worker with osteoporosis, for example, would be far more likely to sustain a bone fracture from a fall than a healthy, younger person.
- Longer Recovery Periods – Although older workers face many of the same risks as younger workers at jobs, they may require more time to heal from similar injuries. While workers ages 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 needed, on average, six and nine days to recover, respectively, those 55 to 64 and 65 or older needed 11 to 12 days to return to work. The more time a worker needs to recover from an injury, the higher the workers’ compensation costs will be for employers.
- Higher Fatality Rates – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the frequency at which older workers are injured is actually less than other workers, however, the injuries are more likely to be severe or fatal. In fact, at age 60 workers are three times more likely to have a fatal work injury than other age demographics. Falls and transportation accidents are particularly dangerous for older workers and the primary culprits for fatalities.
Estimates show that the number of older workers will continue to rise, far more than any other age group. While older workers can be a great asset in many industries, it does mean employers need to continue developing ways to reduce hazards for older workers and make their work places more friendly to aging employee.
Overweight Workers and Workers’ Compensation
Another key demographic shift in the workforce is the overweight and obese worker. Obesity is a major problem across the U.S. and Georgia currently has the 19th highest rate of obesity in the country with a 30.5 percent adult obesity rate. According to some estimates, by the year 2030 the obesity rate will be 51 percent. Obesity complicates workers’ compensation claims for a number of reasons, primarily because of health problems associated with being overweight. This includes a myriad of disease and health risks including, but not limited to:
- Heart disease and stroke;
- High blood pressure;
- Osteoarthritis; and
- Breathing problems.
The American Medical Association classified obesity as a “disease state” in 2013, essentially making it a condition that needs intervention and treatment. This means obesity can be considered a comorbidity in workers’ compensation claims and, as a consequence, treating physicians of occupational injuries may first need to treat obesity in an injured worker before they focus on the job injury itself. Treating the obesity, usually, would increase the chances of a successful recovery. However, this also means the obesity can be cited as part of a workers’ compensation claim, especially for cases that involve major medical procedures, such as surgery, where obesity increases possible risks.
There’s also evidence that obese workers are more likely to be injured on the job. Overweight individuals are often more likely to experience fatigue, which increases risk for injury. Heavier bodies also put greater stress on muscles and bones, meaning obese individuals are far quicker to sustain injuries, such as sprains or strains as well as back and shoulder injuries. In addition, obese workers may have difficulty using safety equipment and gear made for smaller people, making them less likely to use it due to lack of comfort or correct sizing.
Most companies are generally concerned about worker safety, especially in the interest of keeping medical costs down. In order to keep workers’ compensation costs low, employers are encouraged to help their employees maintain healthy body weights. There are a variety of programs that can be implemented, ranging from bike-to-work days to healthy lunch options.
Get Help from Workers’ Compensation Lawyers In Georgia
Dealing with work injuries can be difficult, especially if you must take an extended leave of absence to recover. Workers’ compensation can help, but navigating the system can be difficult when you’re trying to focus on getting back on the job. If you’ve sustained a work injury in Atlanta, Georgia, there is help available. Contact the skilled work injury legal team in Atlanta at Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Atlanta to talk more about the specifics of your Georgia workers’ compensation case, to find out what your options are, and how you can get the compensation you deserve.