AARP has a big section on their website about working at age 50 and over. It details how to find jobs, what to say in interviews, how to assess benefits, talks about unemployment, self-employment and small business.
They say nothing about getting hurt on the job.
Yet, this demographic, the "aging workforce," has been specifically catalogued by the workers' compensation underwriting and claims community as a particularly high risk due to comorbidities, fragilities, and other age related ailments that can manifest at an instant with or without physical provocation at the work place.
It is also this particular demographic that is ill prepared to NOT work - the baby boomer generation still lives pay check to pay check; in other words they MUST work...
Yet, AARP (nor most other organizations) does absolutely no education to their constituents and members about work place injuries, about workers' compensation or how the system works, leaving this demographic especially vulnerable to surprise, or worse, abuse.
I guess this isn't really a surprise. Nearly no one educates the working population about workers' compensation, or any work injury program, until it's too late, after an injury occurs (or is claimed).
Many states have laws that require the "employer" to provide workers brochures and notices about workers' compensation, but frankly, no one reads those. They are textually dense, full of words that require a dictionary, have little relevance to the "now" and besides, everyone remains in denial about work injuries until they happen.
Then it's too late.
We talk a lot about national discussions - what should workers' compensation be, how can it be improved, how do we do a better job of taking care of the industrially injured ...
Yet we do a miserable job of public outreach.
Why would anyone give a rat's arse about changing anything if they have zero idea of what is to be changed in the first place?
Gaining knowledge about workers' compensation is sort of like learning about sex as an adolescent - most parents are loath to breach that sacred topic, and if they do then it's in shrouded terms of embarrassment; so we learn by doing, sometimes with terrible consequences...
So it is with workers' compensation: expectations at time of need/desire fail to match reality.
And we shouldn't sugar coat the workers' compensation story either.
When my son began adolescence, I literally hit him in the head with a box of condoms and told him my two golden rules: don't be a dumb arse, and beware the power of female genitalia (I used more profane adjectives...).
That lesson was reinforced from time to time with similar provocative, yet effective, communications.
Talking about what work comp should be is probably a good discussion. The "Grand Bargain" has veered off course I think.
But more important is telling the story of comp, in real and frank terms, to those most affected: workers, and the employers who pay the bills.
We can start with the various organizations that communicate regularly with at risk demographics, like AARP.
Hit them in the head with the proverbial box of condoms...
On Tuesday, August 25 at 11:15 ET I will moderate a panel at the WCI Conference in Orlando, FL on the topic, "The Image of Workers’ Compensation and What Industry Can Do About It." Here's my panel:
Deborah L. Michel
Executive Vice President of Major Accounts,
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Helmsman Management Services, LLC
AMAXX Risk Solutions, Inc.
New York, NY
Bethany Boggess, MPH
Workers Defense Project
Part of the image has to include acknowledgements by the industry of the perceptions of work comp. I hope you're able to join us.