If you work in the construction or transportation industry, in agriculture or forestry or any business that requires the use of machinery and working from a height, preventing head injuries in your employees will be one of your top priorities.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) can occur when there is an impact to the head, a jolt – such as a whiplash injury – or by penetrative damage by an object such as falling masonry. The outcome for TBI victims varies. Some injuries are mild and the body can self-heal with the right care. A mild concussion causes confusion and nausea and vomiting. A more severe injury may cause symptoms like memory loss, changes in personality, mood swings or the development of long-term health disorders like epilepsy in previously healthy people. At the most severe end of the spectrum, TBI’s can result in unconsciousness, mental retardation or death.
Every year in the USA, there are 275,000 hospitalizations for TBI’s of all causes and of these, 52,000 people lose their lives.
Work Related Traumatic Brain Injury
Researchers for The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the Division of Safety Research in Morgantown, West Virginia, studied the trends of fatal occupational TBI’s in the U.S between 2003-2008 and determined that the fatality rate for workers from TBI was 0.8 per 100,000 workers each year. 15 times more men were affected than women, possibly due to the fact that men are more commonly occupied in industries where there is the most risk of a TBI. The construction industry, agriculture, forestry and fishing businesses accounted for nearly half of all TBI fatalities. The leading cause of death has now shifted from motor vehicle accidents to falls and one of the reasons for this may be the rise in employment of people over the age of 65.
Older workers are more susceptible to falling due to the effects of aging so special attention needs to be given to ensure the safety of older workers.
How to Protect Your Workers
Ensure that all your workers attend regular health and safety briefings and that they remember safety procedures set out by your business and any regulatory authorities.
For those in construction and other high risk industries, ensure that your workers wear protective headgear when working at height or when at risk of falling objects.
Make sure you check all protective helmets for signs of damage. A damaged helmet may not protect your worker in the event of a fall.
Make sure your workers wear protective headgear that fits them correctly. Poorly fitting helmets may not protect in the event of an accident, just like incorrectly fitted baby car seats won’t. The helmet has to be secure.
Cheap headgear can be inferior. Make sure you purchase quality headgear that has been subject to safety and durability testing so that you can have peace of mind that you are doing everything you can to ensure the safety of your workers. You can make sure your headgear complies with ANSI/ASSE Z89.1-2009 or The American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. Complying with these standards will establish the requirements for penetration protection and impact protection as well as electrical insulation protection.
If your workers are at risk of flying debris, chemicals or inhalants, make sure they all wear high quality eye protection glasses or visors, as required by law in OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment legislation.
If your worker wears glasses make sure any eye protection you buy for him or her has the prescription lenses included so that they don’t have to wear their regular glasses while on the job. Glasses can present a risk of penetrative injury in an accident but a worker who cannot see properly presents an even greater risk.
Frequently check in with your older workers to ensure that they can still do the tasks you employed them to do at the start of their contract, especially if they have been having problems with illness. Offer workplace medical benefits such as an annual physical examination.
Organize shifts in a way that may minimize the risk of falls for older workers. Allow more frequent breaks for the worker over 65.
Make sure you service and update your machinery and make sure it is the latest kind. Newer machinery has been safety tested to the latest standards and will have the latest safety features to help prevent accidents.