Last week Time magazine reported on new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the number of Americans killed while on the job last year. Written by David Johnson, the article was published on January 10, 2017 as “These Are the Most Dangerous Jobs in America.”
What was the big “surprise” statistic that garnered national coverage in Time? It is the number of workers age 65 and over who are at risk of being killed while working on the job.
Senior citizens (age 65+) are a high risk group in fatal work injuries tallied in the BLS research.
One of the key findings highlighted in the BLS release is that “work-related deaths among workers 65 and older totaled 650, the second-largest number for that age group since the national census began in 1992.”
20 Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States
According to the BLS research, the most dangerous jobs in the United States are industries popular in both Indiana and Illinois. They are:
- Logging workers
- Fishers and related workers
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors
- Structural Iron and Steel Workers
- Truck Drivers
- Farmers, Ranchers
- Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers
- Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers
- Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
- Construction trade and extraction workers
- Construction laborers
- Grounds maintenance workers
- Taxi driver san chauffeurs
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Mechanics, installers, and repairers
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Construction equipment operators
For details, read the BLS release entitled “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2015,” published on December 16, 2016.
Growing Number of Workers Age 65+ Years in the United States
The National Council on Aging also relies on data collected by the BLS to report on older Americans. According to the NCA, almost twice as many workers 65+ years of age are employed in the United States as teenage workers.
The Pew Research Center reports that more people age 65+ are working in this country than “at any time since the turn of the century.”
Over 9,000,000 seniors are on the job today. That’s up from around 4,000,000 seniors in 2000. There are more seniors at work in the United States than those reported in the early 1960s when data was collected for the newly passed federal Medicare coverage.
Predictions are the percentage of American workers over the age of 65 years will continue to grow as the Baby Boomer Generation continues to age.
Why? They need the money. Reports are that 60% of American households have no retirement savings and those that have saved for retirement have had their funds hit hard in the financial crises of the past few years. Older workers are on the job because they need to make a living, the same as everyone else.
Fatal Accidents for Senior Workers
The death rate of workers who are 65+ years is growing just as the number of older workers is rising. A scary example was given in the Time magazine discussion. According to the BLS report on fatal work accidents, there are as many 65+ workers dying from accidents on the job as the fatality rate for electricians in 2015. (Electrician is number 20 on the above list of most dangerous jobs in the United States.)
The Economic Policy Institute has studied the correlation between an increase in worker injuries and fatal accidents with the increased labor force of seniors 65 years and older. According to the EPI, older workers have a higher risk of injury on the job than their younger co-workers.
“In 2014, nearly 35 percent of all fatal on-the-job injuries (1,621 of 4,679) occurred among the 21 percent of the workforce age 55 or older. The fatality rate for workers 65 and older is especially high—three times that of the overall workforce.”
The EPI considers older workers to be a “vulnerable” group of workers whose safety on the job needs to be given special consideration and review by both employers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is especially true of those workers in “blue collar” jobs.
For more, read “Workers 65 and Older Are 3 Times as Likely to Die From an On-the-Job Injury as the Average Worker,” written by Ross Eisenbray and published on September 18, 2015 by the EPI’s Working Economics Blog.
Employers Have a Duty to Protect Older Workers on the Job
This means employers need to protect older workers from injury or death on the job, just as they are legally mandated to keep all workers safe.
If older workers are on the job in a high risk industry, like construction or fishing, then employers need to take precautions to make sure those seniors are safe from harm while at work.
But do older workers and employees age 65 or older have special safety issues and requirements? If so, then the employer will have the duty to implement those special safeguards for the older worker. If a worker is hurt or killed on the job because of their employer’s negligence, then their claims for injury and wrongful death damages will be as viable as any other worker injured while at work.
It is true that the senior worker’s damages may be less insofar as future projections. An older worker will have fewer years in a future earnings calculation, for example.
However, older workers hurt on the job deserve justice from those who are responsible for their harm. As more seniors are hurt or killed on the job, these kinds of injury claims will increase. Let’s Be Careful Out There!