Occupational & Environmental Health Consultants, Inc. / 1-800-962-4198 Occupational & Environmental Health Consultants, Inc. / 1-800-962-4198

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In 2008 there were 2.6 million lay-offs with a continuing rise expected each month in 2009. In an economy where lay-offs are occurring and imminent, the Human Resources and Safety Manager have an increasing challenge in maintaining the health of the workforce and limiting workers’ compensation cost. Since lay-offs generally occur for younger workers or those with less seniority at a facility, the average age of the workforce rises even higher than usual. Already, the average age of the American workforce has been over 40 years of age for over a decade due to the “becoming of age” of the Baby Boomers.  Today, most manufacturing facilities find that most of their employees are over 50. Now with lay-offs, with the more senior employees remaining, will that average increase—probably.

An aged workforce provides challenges in devising and maintaining Primary Control Programs to limit workers’ compensation cost. This relates to the health status of workers simply because of their age and the non-occupational related medical disorders affecting their ability to tolerate exposures to workplace hazards. As such, it is possible, because of these non-occupational medical disorders, that injuries or illnesses occur, which are designated as being caused by the hazards in the workplace. In reality, the cause of many may be secondary to pre-existing non-occupational medical disorders.

Certain Non-occupational Diseases may increase the risk of on-the-job injuries/illnesses; or these disorders may be aggravated by workplace conditions such as chemical exposures, extremes of temperature, mental or physical stress.
  • Over 147,000 Americans killed by Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) in 2004 were under age 65.
  • One in three adult men and women has some form of CVD.
  • Among Whites only, 11.9 percent have heart disease, 6.6 percent have Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), 21.2 percent have hypertension and 2.5 percent have had a stroke.
  • Among blacks only, 9.6 percent have heart disease, 5.2 percent have CHD, 29.2 percent have hypertension and 3.2 percent have had a stroke.
  • Among Hispanics, 9.2 percent have heart disease, 6.0 percent have CHD, 19.6 percent have hypertension and 2.8 percent have had a stroke.
  • More than 8 percent of the general population has Diabetes Mellitus
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prohibits inquiries about a workers medical conditions except by authorized personnel. However, there are methods to protect workers without actually knowing an individual’s medical conditions. This can be accomplished with health education sessions/information and with a system of better communication between supporting medical personnel and the facility’s safety & health personnel.

Primary Controls of Workers’ Compensation Cost

To prevent, one must insure proper job placement and analyze the potential causes that may lead to an injury or illness in advance. Once identified and analyzed the introduction of engineering and administrative controls must be introduced. This is the primary and most cost effective control—”an ounce of prevention for a pound of cure.”

Soliciting the Cooperation of Aged Workers

Statistics show that more mature workers are safer workers, however when an injury or illness occurs, the damage and recuperation may be more significant. Why are they safer; several reasons. I often say that when your 19 your mind is more on “meeting a mate”; with age you think more about “meeting your maker.” There are other reasons though, one becomes aware of one’s limitations, the higher risk of injury or illness due to one’s health status, and the accumulation of changes in the body with age.

As such, an aged workforce is more amenable to suggestions. Suggestions made in regards to the hazards in the workplace and the correlation of these with existing non-occupational medical disorders. Information that will not necessarily make them inform the employer of their health status, but cause them to act in a more safe manner.

Communicating with Medical Support Personnel

An additional challenge to controlling cost is communication with medical personnel. Since their limitations related to HIPAA is less, if sufficient information about workplace hazards is provided, better decisions concerning the actual causes of workplace injuries/ illnesses can be made. Examples of the type of information helpful in this endeavor is the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) and ADA Job Essential Functions. If documented properly, the practitioner is able to make inquiries about non-occupational related medical disorders as they relate to job site hazards.

Feel free to call for an initiation consultation at no charge.
Office—931-552-4655 (888-247-4655)