Bulletin: Gravity to Continue
Aug 22, 2019

This installment of the March of Gravity concerns the ongoing aging of the American workforce. A recent post in workerscompensation.com provides the numbers. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans 65 and older either working or looking for jobs has grown by more than 35 percent in recent years. We all know the reasons. People are living longer and maintaining a larger degree of health into their later years. For a myriad of reasons, Social Security, 401Ks, pensions, etc. aren't as robust as they used to be as our investment markets turn into carnival rides. And, of course, too much golf sucks.

We bring this up to ask how you are modifying your risk planning, safety programs, recruitment strategies and other aspects of acquiring, retaining, and training these older cohorts. Are you working with HR to make optimal use of the older workforce? As the report from AAA below makes clear, aging Boomers are not interchangeable with Millennials in all respects. The average human eyeball admits 30% less light at 60 than at 20, for example. Reflexes aren't the same. Learning patterns and methods may be different. Risk taking skills and judgment are often better with age.

The point is - are you actively taking these factors into consideration? Are you running loss analytics by age bands? Are you rethinking workplace ergonomics for older employees? Or are you still assuming that one size fits all and hoping for the best? Or maybe you think the workforce will stop aging - in the face of overwhelming demographic evidence to the contrary.

By 2030, one fifth of all Americans will be 65 or older. They'll be your workers and your clients. Are you ready?


Too Many Bells & Whistles?

The AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety and the US Navy appear to have come to similar conclusions about one aspect of modern technology. The AAA just issued a report in which they note that "older drivers" (55 to 75) are seriously distracted by much of the new driver assist technology in new cars. According to the report, "older drivers removed their eyes and attention from the road for an average of 8.6 seconds, compared with 4.7 seconds for younger drivers, when performing tasks, such as programming the navigation or tuning the radio." One reason for this potentially disastrous difference is touch screen controls. You have to focus on the touch screen to do much of anything in many new cars. The Tesla Model 3 is a good example. You get a couple of floor pedals, a steering wheel, and a big touch screen. Good luck, older driver.

Meanwhile, the US Navy is scrapping the touchscreen controls panels in its new destroyers after inquiries showed that confusion over how to use the screens played an integral part in the crashes of both the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald. In both cases, state of the art Navy ships collided with freighters in clear weather and open waters with serious casualties. The sailors on the bridge in both cases were confused by the touchscreen controls. When interviewed, the sailors expressed an overwhelming preference for old fashioned manual controls, like a wheel and a throttle quadrant. Note that we don't see a lot of us old fogies operating Navy destroyers. Maybe this issue is not as age-related as AAA thinks.

picture showing crewmen on a navy destroyer ship

Driving a destroyer - see any gray heads?

Once upon a time - WW II, say - warplanes, tanks, ships, etc. were designed so that each control had a separate place, could be felt clearly, operated by muscle memory, and used correctly even in the dark while other people were shooting at you. This is something to keep in mind as a risk or fleet manager. We sometimes get dazzled by new tech. Ask yourself - a dark night, bad weather, complicated traffic patterns - do you want the person piloting your 18 wheeler or your delivery van, for that matter, to have to focus on a screen in the cockpit to make a simple adjustment to the defroster, say? Too much reliance on touchscreens killed several of our sailors and caused millions of dollars in damage to two of our newest fighting ships - and no one was shooting at anyone. Think about that when you consider fleet upgrades or similar purchases.


Quick Take 1:
Can One Picture Be Worth a Thousand Tedious Reports?

Perhaps. Let's take a look at this picture of ten factors shaping workers' compensation costs in 2019 from Risk & Insurance and Liberty Mutual. (For a better view of the graphic, click here.)

Each of these ten factors may well be worth a conversation with your broker and your TPA. Are you doing everything you can to understand, control, and mitigate these cost drivers?

None of these factors is brand new. We've covered all of them in these august pages over the years. But each one is changing and presents its own dynamic. Opioid abuse, for example, is beginning to fade as a new claims issue given much improved formularies and vigilance by claim organizations, but now the issue of how best to treat those claimants who are already addicted looms much larger. Motor vehicle accidents present another challenge. Does your fleet safety program respond to new injury information streaming in from your comp program? Or are they still in their cute little silos ignoring each other?

As my Swedish grandfather pointed out half a century ago, just when you have all the answers, they change all the questions.


Quick Take 2:
Got Forklifts?

If you're in one of the many industries that involve moving stuff inside factories or warehouses or across loading terminals, forklifts are like fleas on an old dog. Just part of the scenery. But we may take them too much for granted. A new report in EHS Today reminds us that some 70% of the 100,000 forklift involved on the job accidents documented by OSHA each year are the result of poor training, maintenance, or other preventable oversights. The report, complete with a slideshow, no less, provides a nicely compact overview of forklift safety from facility design (don't cram big class V forklifts into a small facility, for example) through training and maintenance. If you haven't reviewed your forklift safety program recently, this could make a great checklist to spot oversights.

Driven a forklift lately? Too often we think that operating a forklift is just like driving a car with this big lifting doo-dad on the front. Your faithful correspondent drove a forklift as a summer job - in an explosives warehouse surrounded by stuff that goes BANG (true story, no exaggeration). That requires a complex skill set and excellent judgment regarding the weight of goods and clearances. Patience is a pretty good idea as well. Forklift design has come a long way in the last fifty years, but we are still using big machines to move heavy stuff. Take the time to get it right.

Picture of a forklift turned upside down, picking up a shipping container.

Other than that, how was your day?


Share This
* Required Fields