When the movie "Concussion" came out in 2015, brain injuries weren't a part of our public consciousness.
Today, thanks to this and other efforts to raise awareness, concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are widely recognized as a risk for athletes, from professional players to little leaguers.
But athletes aren't the only people who suffer from this invisible injury. TBIs at work are surprisingly common: Between 2003 and 2010, NIOSH found that an average of 315 construction workers died from TBIs each year — and that’s just the construction industry. It has been estimated that approximately 1,200 workers die of TBIs each year.
Those deaths are preventable. During the month of September, National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month offers an opportunity to raise awareness about TBIs and how to recognize, prevent, and treat them.
Heads Up: Brain Injuries at Work
TBIs happen when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain; for example, a football player getting tackled or a construction worker being struck by falling debris. Falls, tools dropped from heights, walking into objects like beams or pipes, and motor vehicle accidents are all common culprits.
What might initially be dismissed as 'just a bump on the head' can quickly turn serious — and a person doesn't have to get knocked out to have a brain injury. This is why immediate medical attention is so important.
Symptoms of a brain injury may show up immediately, or they may take hours or days to appear. The longer it goes untreated, the worse outcomes typically are.
In milder cases, symptoms may clear up within a few days to a week. More severe injuries may result in death or long-term disability. Many people who have had a significant brain injury may experience trouble with thinking skills, mood and behavior, and physical mobility. This can make it difficult for a person with a TBI to return to work.
TBIs also create a burden for employers: According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the average cost of a worker’s compensation claim for workplace head injury is $92,439 in lost wages and medical expenses. Given that there were more than 79,000 nonfatal workplace head injuries in 2019 alone, the costs are staggering. Fortunately there's a lot employers can do to prevent concussions and TBI — starting with participating in TBI Awareness Month.
10 Ways To Participate in Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month 2021
1. Know the symptoms of concussion and brain injuries. A simple acronym to remember the signs of concussion is HEADS:
- Headaches that don't go away;
- Ears ringing;
- Altered, or loss of consciousness;
- Dizziness or double vision.
- Something just doesn't feel right.
Other symptoms of a brain injury can include nausea or vomiting, seizures, problems with speech, sensitivity to light or sound, loss of coordination, and dilation of one or both pupils.
2. Train employees on first aid for head injuries. Mayo Clinic offers some basic information to treat head injuries here.
3. Host a brown bag lunch discussion about brain injuries and how to stay safe at work.
4. Revisit basic hard hat safety. Training topics can include selecting the right type of hard hat for the job, when to wear a hard hat, and how to properly care for their hard hat.
5. Inspect hard hats for cracks, dents, and signs of wear. As a rule of thumb, manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years and replacing the support strap annually.
6. Conduct a walk-around to look for head injury hazards. This includes electrical hazards, objects that could fall from overhead and strike employees, and stationary fixtures such as beams and pipes on which employees could bump their heads.
7. Reinforce safe driving practices. Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of head injuries. Make sure employees wear a seatbelt at all times and don’t talk on their cell phones or text when driving.
8. Prevent slips, trips, and falls. These are another common and preventable cause of head injuries.
9. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary to help employees with brain injuries return to work and do their jobs effectively. It helps to be aware of what these accommodations are. Brain Line has put together a great article on accommodating employees with brain injury.
10. Celebrate National Concussion Awareness Day on September 17.
Next Steps: Download the Free Safety Calendar
Following these safety tips during Brain Injury Awareness Month will help keep your workers safe and injury-free. For more ideas, download Perillon's free annual safety calendar.