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Workers' compensation: older workers deaths rising

An older workforce may impact workers' compensation in Illinois. Although workplace accident deaths have generally dropped, deaths of older workers from a workplace injury accident are on the rise.

According to the Associated Press's analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace deaths among all workers fell from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015. Deaths among older workers, however, grew slightly from 1,562 to 1,681. The number of older worker in the general work force rose by 37 percent during that period.

Approximately 35 percent of workplace fatalities involved a worker who was at least 55-years-old in 2015. Among older workers, there was a 20 percent rise in fall-related deaths, a 17 growth in fatalities from contact with objects and equipment, a 15 percent increase from transportation accidents and an 8 percent drop in fatalities caused by fires and explosions.

The federal government estimated that older workers will comprise 25 percent of the labor market by 2024 as they work beyond the customary 65-years-old retirement age. Although all workers need additional protections, gerontologists and experts argue that certain conditions should be addressed for older worker. These include vision that decreases over time, diminishing hearing, slower responses, more difficulty with completing physical tasks and long-term muscle or bone conditions such as arthritis.

In 2015, Illinois had a fatal accident rate for older workers of 4.5 for 100,000 workers. This was 60 percent higher than fatal accident rates for all workers in the state.

One deadly accident included a 56-year-old worker who fell 25 feet while working in a produce company on Chicago's South Side after he went to retrieve an item for a delivery driver and made a wrong turn. A union official sad that he was not wearing a safety harness. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the employer for not providing workers with the necessary safety training.

A work accident victim may want to seek prompt legal assistance, to ensure that their rights to compensation are protected. A lawyer can help determine whether there were unsafe working conditions and hold employers liable if appropriate.

Source: Claims Journal, "Older worker fatalities higher than all other age groups," Maria Ines Zamudio and Michelle Minkoff, July 31, 2017

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