AGE, PHYSICAL DEMANDING JOBS AND MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDERS: OLDER WORKERS AT RISK FOR WORK INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Labor Market in the United States is aging. As a result, Older Workers are performing a large variety of task within the Open Labor Market. Older Workers performing more tasks that make them at risk for work injuries. This is the case with respect to musculoskeletal injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries are commonly known as orthopedics injuries which include medical conditions with respect to the spine, the upper and the lower extremities. A study was done with respect and there were some findings made.

This article will discuss Older Workers, injury rates for Older Workers, and laws which impact Older Workers’ Workers’ Compensation Claims.

Does Age Matter When Looking at the Risk of Work Injuries?

Age alone is not the issue. The type of labor is what is of import. In the labor market, there are jobs with minimal physical demands. There are other jobs which involve greater physical demands. Thus, some Older Workers perform light duty jobs such as receptionists or greeters. Other Older Workers perform more arduous jobs such as warehouse worker or construction worker.

The study, of interest, focused on jobs with physical demands.

Old Age combined with greater physical demands were relevant with respect to work injuries. See P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

It was found when the occupational [physical] demands were greater there was an increase of risk of injury. Further, “[t]he relationship between age and claim-risk was strongest when occupational demands were highest.” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Is the Increase Risk Associated only with Musculoskeletal Injuries?

It was found that “Older age was associated with a higher risk of work injury claims for both musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal conditions,” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Is there a Difference Between Musculoskeletal vs. Non-Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Yes. “with a slightly stronger relationship observed for occupational physical demands and risk of musculoskeletal, compared with non-musculoskeletal, conditions.” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Are There any Laws or Rules in Workers’ Compensation that Assist Older Workers?

Yes. Age is factored as part of the Permanent Disability Rating Formula.
Per the Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities, California Workers’ Compensation Law provides for an age adjustment which provides for an increase in permanent disability for ages 42 and older. It also scales up with age and tops out at age 62. The age used in this assessment is the age on the date of injury. There is a table upon which you obtain the figures. It is on Pages 6-1-6-5. See SCHEDULE FOR RATING PERMANENT DISABILITIES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE LABOR CODE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA (2005)

Are There Any Rules that Do Not Assist Injured Workers?

Yes. There is a legal issue of apportionment. Apportionment is a tool allowed to reduce an Injured Workers’ Award.

Labor Code Section 4663, provides that “[a] physician shall make an apportionment determination by finding what approximate percentage of the permanent disability was caused by the direct result of injury arising out of and occurring in the course of employment and what approximate percentage of the permanent disability was caused by other factors both before and subsequent to the industrial injury, including prior industrial injuries. See Escobedo v. Marshalls, CNA Ins. Co., 70 Cal. Comp. Cases 604, 2005 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 71 (W.C.A.B. April 19, 2005). In Escobedo, the board indicated that apportionment of permanent disability can be made based on the preexisting arthritis in applicant’s knees was found acceptable. Note: Older Employees are more likely to have pre-existing arthritic processes which could allow for apportionment to be found.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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