A newly released study has found that workers' comp claims of older workers aren't as costly as once thought. Earlier studies had found that older workers tend to be out longer on workers' comp after suffering on-the-job injuries than their younger counterparts, resulting in higher claims costs. The studies also found that older workers suffered fewer injuries in the workplace, largely due to this age group better knowing limits and also due to their experience in knowing how to protect themselves.
The latest report, "Workers' Compensation and the Aging Workforce," was authored by Tanya Restrepo and Harry Shuford of the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a workers' compensation rating agency. It notes that while older workers generally have higher loss costs per worker, the main cost difference appears to be between younger workers in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups.
"These are reassuring findings in that an aging workforce may have less negative impact on loss costs per worker than originally thought," says Restrepo and Shuford.
Findings show that workers aged 35 to 64 have similar costs in terms of workers' comp claims costs per worker. Other findings include:
- The longstanding belief that younger workers have much higher injury rates in no longer true. Cost differences in injury frequency by age have all but disappeared, so such differences are reflected instead by severity of injuries.
- The big differences in frequency of claims among age groups found in the 1990s were absent by 2009. The study found better workplace safety - and not different jobs held by older and younger workers - was the biggest factor in fewer injuries across all worker ages.
- Older workers tend to have more rotator cuff and knee injuries, categorized as above average in severity for indemnity and medical. Younger workers tend to have more back and ankle sprains, which are below average in severity.
- Higher wages and different jobs are key factors leading to higher costs for older workers, as are more medical treatments per claim. Claims severity (the cost of an injury) is about 50% higher for older workers. But the report finds that "older" is really not that old, and seems to start at age 35.
Additionally, the study notes that from a workers' compensation perspective, some of the higher costs are offset "at least to some extent" by the higher premiums for older workers, linked to the higher wages they earn.
While the average weekly wage tends to increase with age, it typically maxes out when employees hit their early 50s, and then declines gradually from ages 60-64.
In tracing the age of the workforce, the study found workers 45 and older make up an increasing share.
The amount of workers 55 to 64 is "growing steadily," and those aged 45 to 54 show a modest increase.
Overall, the share of workers 45 and older increased from 34% in 2000 to 42% in 2010.
Reprinted from The Armstrong Report