New, Older Workers Stand Out in Workplace Injury Data

By John Egan July 24, 2023

​Human resource professionals, take note: New research finds that new workers and older workers may require the most attention regarding workplace injuries.

A recent review by the Travelers insurance company of more than 1.2 million workers' compensation claims from 2016 to 2020 found that 34 percent of workplace injuries happened during an employee's first year on the job. These injuries triggered nearly 7 million missed workdays.

Meanwhile, the most expensive workers' compensation claims came from employees ages 60 and older. These claims were about 140 percent more costly than claims for workers ages 18 to 24, Travelers found.

"As employers navigate turnover and a multi-generational workforce, it's important that they stay aware of the risks that come with changing worker demographics so they can help keep employees safe and businesses running," Rich Ives, vice president of business insurance claims at Travelers, said in a news release.

Strategies for Reducing Workplace Accidents

John Dony, vice president of workplace strategy at the nonprofit National Safety Council, said new workers typically have undergone less workforce training than their colleagues and therefore aren't as aware of workplace risks.

And although the Travelers study found workers ages 60 and older were injured less often than workers in most other age groups, their injuries cost the most to treat. Workplace injuries among workers ages 65 and older are also more severe and more likely to result in disability or death than ones among younger workers, according to a study published in 2022 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

To prevent injuries, experts say employers can step up employee onboarding, training, operating procedures and other factors to promote workplace safety so that workers of all ages can put safety first.

Another way to cut down on workplace accidents is to institute a safety management program that consistently gauges and reduces workplace risks, Dony said.

"Too few organizations actually formalize their safety and health approach in this way," he said, "and it is truly the first step in grappling with injury and incident reduction."

When an employer is establishing a safety management program, it should involve workers in developing, tracking and carrying out safety measures, Dony said. Furthermore, the program should gain buy-in and engagement from leadership.

Watch Out for These Workplace Injuries

What sorts of injuries may warrant the most attention from HR professionals, workplace safety specialists and others? These key statistics from the Travelers study might supply some answers:

  • Most common injuries: The most common injuries were strains and sprains, accounting for 38 percent of all injuries, followed by fractures (13 percent), bruises (8 percent), inflammation (7 percent) and dislocations (7 percent).
  • Most common causes of injury: Overexertion led to the most claims (29 percent), followed by slips, trips and falls (23 percent), being struck by an object (13 percent), motor vehicle accidents (5 percent) and caught-in or caught-between hazards (5 percent).
  • Most commonly injured body parts: The lower back took the top spot in this category (13 percent), followed by shoulder (12 percent), knee (10 percent), finger (6 percent) and wrist (6 percent).
  • Costliest claims: Among the most frequent injuries, dislocations led to the most expensive claims on average, followed by fractures.
  • Greatest number of lost workdays: Slips, trips and falls caused employees to miss an average of 83 workdays, followed by motor vehicle accidents (79), overexertion (71) and being struck by an object (67).

Innovations in Workplace Accident Prevention

At West Virginia University, engineers are dispatching camera-equipped robots to discover threats on floors in retail spaces such as grocery stores and drugstores. Among other risks, the robots are searching for hazards that could lead to slips, trips and falls.

Other new tech strategies for preventing workplace accidents involve harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

The Nationwide insurance company, Swiss Re Reinsurance Solutions and CompScience have teamed up to make CompScience's AI-powered Intelligence Safety Platform available to more businesses as part of efforts to reduce workplace injuries.

CompScience said its technology detects previously unreported workplace risks by analyzing workplace videos to identify and stop an accident before it occurs.

In addition, insurance company Chubb pointed out that apps, wearables, drones and virtual reality/augmented reality are playing a growing role in workplace safety. For example, smartphone apps enable workers and supervisors to evaluate noise levels, promote ladder safety, offer guidance about handling hazardous materials and take other steps to decrease risks.

John Egan is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.



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