A 2011 California study titled “Working Safer or Just Working Longer? The Impact of an Aging Workforce on Occupational Injury and Illness Costs” CHSWC Report (February 2011), by Frank Neuhauser, et al., was performed under contract with the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation. The primary focus of the study was to address concerns about the impact of an aging workforce on occupational safety and health. The study ultimately made a number of surprising findings concerning not only the impact of age, but the disparity of occupational risk between men and women.
The study found that, unlike with men, whose risk lowers with age, the risk of injury for women stays constant or increases. The study also identified a new and very important issue: “that the risk of occupational injury is 20% to 50% higher for women in the same job working the same hours as men … [and] [t]his difference becomes more severe with age.” (Neuhauser, pg. 1)
The percentage of women in the workforce has increased over the last several decades, and women now represent about half of the workforce. Along with this increase, the percentage of women performing higher-risk jobs, such as construction and manufacturing, has also increased. (Neuhauser, pg. 16) Overall, women account for approximately 40% of occupational injuries and illnesses, which can be attributed to the concentration of women in less risky occupations. However, in the same jobs, working the same hours as men, women are much more likely to be injured. (Neuhauser, pg. 22)
This difference may be attributed to level of experience within the workforce, as men are more likely to be more experienced at any age. It may also be that “higher-risk occupations traditionally dominated by men are characterized by workplaces, machinery and safety equipment that is designed for men and poorly adapted for the increasing number of female workers.” (Neuhauser, pg. 22) Whatever the reasons, this is an important issue that requires future research.
This issue is one of many reasons why Rehm, Bennett & Moore will be hosting a booth at the upcoming 2015 Lincoln Women’s Expo held at the Lancaster Event Center on Jan. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regardless of gender, if you have questions or concerns about a workers’ compensation issue, please stop by for a consultation.