Older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than workers overall, even as the rate of workplace fatalities decreases, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal statistics.
It’s a trend that’s particularly alarming as baby boomers reject the traditional retirement age of 65 and keep working. The U.S. government estimates that by 2024, older workers will account for 25 percent of the labor market.
Getting old — and the physical changes associated with it — “could potentially make a workplace injury into a much more serious injury or a potentially fatal injury,” said Ken Scott, an epidemiologist with the Denver Public Health Department.
Gerontologists say those changes include gradually worsening vision and hearing impairment, reduced response time, balance issues and chronic medical or muscle or bone problems such as arthritis.
In 2015, about 35 percent of the fatal workplace accidents involved a worker 55 and older — or 1,681 of the 4,836 fatalities reported nationally.
William White, 56, was one of them. White fell 25 feet while working at Testa Produce Inc. on Chicago’s South Side. He later died of his injuries.
“I thought it wouldn’t happen to him,” his son, William White Jr., said in an interview. “Accidents happen. He just made the wrong move.”