Employers Can Extend Longevity Among Older Workers, Experts Say

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Guest Author – Great Article  On How Employers Can Extend Longevity Among Older Workers

Older workers have some of the best qualities an employer could want in a worker: expertise, loyalty, commitment to quality, and the ability to be outstanding mentors to others. But the physical challenges that accompany the aging process can be daunting for both the employee and the organization.

Owners With Older Workers At The Back
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By understanding the aging process and being open to making some changes, employers can keep these valuable employees — and avoid potential litigation. Two workers’ compensation experts outlined the obstacles and opportunities available in their ‘Pearls of Wisdom, an Aging Workforce’ session at RIMS.

“Almost 20 percent of the workforce is over 65,” said Dawn Watkins, director of Integrated Disability Management for the Los Angeles Unified School District. While that number is 9 million now, it is expected to increase to about 98 million by 2060. Joining Watkins for the presentation was Darrell Brown, chief Claims Officer for Sedgwick. The two identified some of the unique risks of aging workers and ways employers can mitigate them and capitalize on their capabilities.

Stats

Older workers have the fewest number of work-related injuries, according to researchers. However, the severity costs associated with injuries of workers aged 35 and older are 50 percent higher compared to their younger colleagues. While that is partly due to higher wages, aging workers typically have more comorbid conditions and take longer to recover from their injuries.

The types of injuries also vary among different age groups. Older workers tend to have more rotator cuff and knee injuries while younger workers have more back and ankle sprains.

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Among the physical changes that may accompany aging are the following:

  • Strength — a decrease of 25 to 30 percent.
  • Flexibility — decreases 18 to 20 percent.
  • Balance — 1/3 of those aged 65 and older fall each year.
  • Sight — all aspects can deteriorate.
  • Reaction time and speed — decreases.
  • Hearing — 1/3 of adults 65 to 74 years of age have problems.
  • Manual dexterity — decreases.
  • Body fat — increases.

“Older workers tend to have more slips, trips and falls, often due to decreased balance,” the two explained. “They also have a higher number of illness days.”

There are several specific signs that may indicate the aging process is impacting an employee. Increased fatigue, for example, or loss of patience along with irritability may be signs. An increase in minor injuries and near misses are others.

Addressing Physical Challenges

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Employers can help prevent injuries among older workers through various worksite programs, according to an industry physical therapy expert. “Injury prevention programs such as stretching, body mechanics training, and general education on the types of injuries you can get on your job can really help,” said Daniel Sanchez, VP of Operations for OnSite-Physio. “They should also be shown how to do their job tasks properly to avoid injury.”

When older workers sustain injuries their recoveries may take longer due to preexisting conditions. “An underlying condition is often not mentioned by the treating physician, but it makes the recovery slower,” Sanchez said. “If you are providing physical therapy for an older person with a sprained knee and there are arthritic changes that cause the recovery to be slower you have to change your treatment approach to be less aggressive with the therapy. You don’t want to aggravate the underlying condition.”

In addition to physical activities, there are additional changes employers should consider to help their older workers. Training materials, for example, can be produced in large print to make it easier to read for those with poorer eyesight. Collaboration and knowledge can be integrated as a fundamental requirement of every job at every level. And jobs can be modified to respond to age-related changes.

Reasonable accommodation

Chronic or other medical conditions of aging workers might prompt a request for reasonable accommodation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, private employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide a covered job applicant or employee with a reasonable accommodation, unless doing so would pose undue hardship or direct threat.

Workers who believe they are covered may request an accommodation verbally or in writing. While there is no specific time frame, employers are advised to respond to requests as soon as possible to avoid violating the ADA. “If you can’t deal with this accommodation issue now, how will you deal with it in a deposition,” Watkins said.

Making accommodations does not need to be costly. “Modifying jobs is a great way to address reasonable accommodation,” Watkins said. “You can adjust [the job] based on the person’s needs.”

Claims administration

Man Giving Folder To Older Workers Woman At Office
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Using best practices in managing all claims is the best way to avoid litigation. There are several ways that can translate to claims involving older workers.

“Be sure the treating physician is experienced with comorbidities and psychosocial issues among older people,” Brown explained. “Also, use empathy and caring. And don’t draw conclusions based on demographics, including the age of the claimant.”

Communicating with an older injured worker may involve sending a letter or initiating a phone call, rather than sending a text message. Respect, dignity, open mindedness and fairness are essential.

“We have a customer service approach to claims,” Watkins said. We return calls. We do the things we expect as consumers.”

For more information visit www.sedgwick.com  or www.onsite-physio.com.

Authored by  and thanks to

Nancy Grover  President, NMG Consulting

©J&L Risk Management Inc Copyright Notice

 

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Table of Contents

James Moore

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Mgmt Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications

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