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Workforce aging, employers not preparing

Many employers, including those in Pennsylvania, are not prepared for the increased level of older workers who experts believe will flood the workforce. An older workforce means that workplace injuries will likely cost more time and money for employers.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the physical condition of employees deteriorates with age or chronic disease. With less-than-ideal physical conditions, employees become more prone to injuries and more likely to take longer to recover.

Experts say that the average age of employees will continue to rise as time goes on. Reportedly, the number of workers aged 55 and older by 2018 will be 40 million. To put this into perspective, this number was about 15 million in 1988. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the number of employees at age 55 or above will be about 25 percent of the workforce in 2018.

This is in part due to the fact that all baby boomers will be 54 years or older by then. Not only are baby boomers aging, but since the recession, many employers are doing their best to retain their skilled workers without hiring new ones.

Also, the recession managed to cut into a lot of the savings that workers have created. This may mean that more employees will be working longer than the retirement age, doing their best to scrape by on what they have left.

A director at NIOSH says that most employers are not preparing for this shift in worker demographics. Many employers are not aware of the distribution of ages amongst their employees.

For those that do get hurt, the recovery time is expected to be longer. With a longer recovery time comes more medical bills, potentially delaying retirement even further. Workers' compensation costs could sway employers to begin working proactively to assist the aging workforce.

Older workers should realize, however, that they qualify for workers' compensation benefits the same as any other employee who is injured on the job through no fault of their own.

Source: Workforce, "Rapidly Growing Older Workforce Demands Employer Attention to Injuries," Roberto Ceniceros, Feb. 14, 2012

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