65+ Workers Have Fewer but Costlier Injuries

January 19, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Workers compensation claims for employees older than 65 are less severe in terms of indemnity and frequency but more severe in terms of medical costs compared with other workers, according to a new study.

According to the study report from NCCI Holdings Inc., 2007 data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed incidence rates average 122.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers over all age categories. They are well above average for workers aged 20–24 (with an incidence rate of 134.4) and well below average for workers aged 65 and older (with an incidence rate of 96.2).

However, indemnity and medical payments are highest for injuries associated with slips and falls, which are the injuries most incurred by older workers, the report said. Nearly half (47%) of workplace injury claims among workers aged 65 and older result from falls, slips, and trips – nearly twice that for all workers.

In contrast, claims involving strains (largely back-related) account for 38% of claims for all workers versus 23% for older workers. These differences partly reflect a lower share of employment among older workers in industries and occupations requiring heavy lifting, such as construction, manufacturing, and installation and repair, NCCI said.

Consistent with the higher percentage of falls, workers aged 65 and older have a higher share of injuries involving fractures, concussions, and related Injuries. In contrast, sprains and strains, more associated with back injuries, account for a third of claims of older workers – well below the 45% for all workers.

NCCI said it examined claims generated by older workers because economic conditions could push more to work longer. Workers 65 and older already have increased from 11% of the U.S. workforce in the late 1980s to 17% currently, according to the report.

The report is at http://www.ncci.com.