Changing Demographics & Workplace Injuries

Topics: Workers' Compensation

Summary: Workforce demographics are beginning to shift how employers manage the health and safety of their employees. Find out how factors like age, gender and race impact job-related injuries and workers' compensation claims.

How Are Workplace Demographics Changing?

Over the past 40 years, a shift in employee age, race, gender and other factors has begun to transform workplaces on a global level. The population across the world is growing older, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that by the year 2050, the population of those aged 60 years and older will top two billion, compared to 900 million of the same age in 2015.These older adults are working longer than ever before , far into their golden years, not only for financial reasons but also because they are healthier and more active than generations before.

Likewise, Generation Z, soon to surpass Millennials as the world's largest generation, is entering the workforce with an entirely different set of values and expectations from employers. Gen Z tends to focus more on choosing interesting work over a higher salary. They also choose to work for companies that demonstrate how they align with their own values, which usually center around issues like diversity and sustainability. Organizations will need to adapt and change to attract, hire and retain this younger generation.

The COVID-19 pandemic also brought a shift in workplace demographics that led to labor shortages and gaps in skill levels across a variety of industry sectors. For instance, women were disproportionately affected, especially those working in the hospitality and retail industries. Many had no choice but to leave the workforce in the first six months of the pandemic, and some never returned, opting instead to shift gears and take care of their children or enter the gig economy. Additionally, the pandemic drove many companies to switch to a remote workforce, and many employees remain reluctant even today to return to the office full-time.

Additionally, over 4.5 million Americans left their jobs by November 2021, leading to what has been named the Great Resignation. These employees left for fear of the virus or because they had no one to stay home with their children when schools and daycares closed.

How Do Workforce Demographics Affect Workplace Injuries and Workers' Compensation Claims?

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that there were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers in 2021, a decrease of 1.8% from 2020. While there were fewer reported injuries and illnesses overall, several private industry sectors actually reported an increase in cases, such as retail trade (+15.6%) and transportation and warehousing (+23%).

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that employee age demographics have shifted as the U.S. population is growing older. Since 2011, the proportion of employees aged 55 and older has increased, while employees in the 35-54 age range have decreased.

Demographics and Workplace Injuries: What Group of Workers is at the Highest Risk of Injury?

Age impacts worker injuries and illnesses, and thus, workers' compensation, in various ways, including:
  • Younger workers aged 16-19 suffer higher rates of contact with objects and equipment, and injuries involving upper and lower extremities, lacerations, cuts and punctures
  • Older workers aged 55-64 experience more injuries from slips, falls, and illnesses like COVID-19
  • Younger workers aged 15-24 experience higher rates of job-related injuries than older workers aged 25-44
  • Older workers tend to experience fewer workplace injuries, but when they do, their injuries are more costly than their younger counterparts and lead to more days out of work
One of the reasons younger workers tend to suffer a higher rate of workplace injuries and accidents is because workers in this age range are less experienced in recognizing common workplace hazards and reporting safety issues they may notice.

Other Workforce Demographic Factors and Workplace Injuries

Research shows that males experience higher rates of workplace injuries and preventable injury-related deaths than women. Men are more likely to be involved in accidents involving poisoning, motor vehicle crashes, being struck by or against an object and falls.

However, women are more likely to be affected by workplace violence, harassment and discrimination. Also, working mothers may face unstable or unpredictable work schedules that can negatively impact their health and safety.

Studies are still being conducted regarding race and workplace injuries; the current data is limited and of low statistical quality. Overall, the NSC found that the majority of workplace fatalities in 2021 involved white workers (60%), followed by Hispanic or Latino workers (22%). Similarly, white workers account for 32% of all nonfatal injury cases involving days out of work, followed by Hispanic or Latino workers at 13%.

Keeping an Eye on Changing Workplace Demographics

The impact of shifting workforce demographics will be a hot topic in the workers' compensation industry and the future of work as a whole. Employers must consider how diversity in worker age, gender and race affects their operations and take steps to ensure employee safety is always top of mind. This may mean adjusting health and safety programs, providing properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) for all body types, and investing in emerging technology, such as wearable devices like exoskeletons.

Workers' Compensation Coverage from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust Financial is a leader in workers' compensation insurance, working with small and mid-sized businesses to design the specific packages they need to comply and succeed. Additionally, our loss control department can help employers identify common hazards facing their businesses. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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