Construction Workers Are At Increased Risks For T.B.I.
Posted on September 25, 2019 in Blog
Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.) is one of the leading causes of death in the construction industry. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (N.I.O.S.H.), 2,210 construction workers died from a T.B.I. between 2003 to 2010. These fatalities represented 24 percent of all occupational T.B.I. fatalities, and 25 percent of all construction fatalities reported in the same time frame.
Construction workers face considerable hazards on the worksite that could cause a devastating head injury to occur. With September recognized as National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, this is the perfect time for employers to educate their workers on the prevalence of T.B.I.s in the industry, and to take extra safety precautions to prevent these catastrophic injuries on the job.
The Facts About T.B.I.
More than 2.5 million people in the United States sustain a T.B.I. every year as reported by the Brain Trauma Foundation. These types of injuries can lead to permanent disabilities and life-alternating consequences; unfortunately, a substantial number of patients do not survive.
T.B.I. is classified as a type of acquired brain injury caused by a traumatic external force such as a blow or jolt. The severity of these injuries can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the location of the injury and the amount of damage sustained:
Mild: A worker with a mild T.B.I. may experience a loss of consciousness, experience attention and balance issues, headaches, dizziness, and/or vision problems. Concussions are common examples of mild T.B.I. injuries.
Moderate: A worker with a moderate T.B.I. will present as lethargic in addition to the symptoms of a mild brain injury. They may only be able to keep their eyes open enough to stay awake. Symptoms generally last more than a few minutes after the initial injury.
Severe: A worker with a severe T.B.I. will typically be in a coma state for more than six hours, losing all consciousness. Workers may experience significant impairments after waking from comas after a severe injury. Tragically, some patients never regain consciousness or brain function.
The symptoms of T.B.I. do not always show up right away, nor do the deficits. A patient could be in recovery for years before another consequence from the injury impacts their life. Workers with these injuries are often in treatment and rehabilitation services for years, decades, or even for the remainder of their lives.
Construction Accidents Leading To Brain Injuries
According to the N.I.O.S.H., more than 50 percent of all fatal T.B.I.s reported in the construction industry were caused by falls. The most deadly types of falls included workers falling from roofs, ladders, and scaffolding.
Injury reports also showed workers sustaining a T.B.I. when struck in the head by a heavy or moving object. There were two types of incidents where accidents commonly occur:
Moving Machinery: Construction sites are busy places with multiple machines moving around at once. When safety protocols are not followed, a worker can be struck in the head by heavy moving components such as buckets, lifts, booms, cranes, or materials that are being transported around the site.
Falling Objects: Construction workers often work at elevated heights with building materials suspended high in the air. When these materials become loose, they can cause life-threatening injuries to unsuspecting workers below.
Workers Who Are Most At Risk
In 2016, the N.I.O.S.H. released a new report after closely analyzing the fatal T.B.I. accidents in the construction industry in the eight-year study from 2003 to 2010. There were several risk factors that made some workers more susceptible to T.B.I.s than others, including:
Small Companies: Workers who were employed for small construction companies with less than 20 employees were 2.5 times more likely to die of a T.B.I.
Male Workers: Male construction workers were seven times more likely than females to sustain a fatal T.B.I. on the job.
Older Workers: Construction workers over the age of 65 were four times more likely to die of a T.B.I. than workers between the ages of 25 to 34.
Migrant Workers: The study showed workers who immigrated from other countries were slightly more at risk than their co-workers for sustaining a fatal T.B.I.
Construction workers could also be more at risk for T.B.I.s depending on their trade. Structural iron and steelworkers, as well as roofers, had the highest rate of fatal T.B.I.s throughout the industry. They also had the most T.B.I. injuries related to falls due to their job duties, often putting requiring them to work at dangerous heights.
T.B.I. Significantly Impact Families
At the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, we’ve seen first hand the global implications that T.B.I.s can have on workers and their families. The initial trauma of the injury and physical pain of recovery is often the first struggle. Some instances require workers to undergo high-risk surgeries and procedures that can extend their feelings of pain for months as they recover. Other workers may experience chronic headaches and pains related to the injury that can be difficult to pinpoint and treat.
On top of the physical pain, medical bills and costs for therapies, easy intervention strategies, and assistive devices such as wheelchairs, place a financial burden on families who are already suffering the loss of a worker’s income. When a worker is in recovery from a T.B.I., early care is crucial to the success of future recovery. Some family members are forced to leave their employment to care full-time for their loved ones. Others pay outstanding costs to ensure their loved one has the best outside care. Both avenues can lead to financial strain that can cause families additional stress.
From diagnosis to long-term recovery, T.B.I.s are overall emotionally and psychologically draining for workers and their families. T.B.I. patients can experience a loss of cognitive functioning, memory lapse, or even a change in personality. These effects are devastating for families who are trying to support their loved ones and for the workers who are attempting to cope with a new life after their injury.
How To Prevent T.B.I. On The Job
Brain injuries are preventable when safety practices are set in place on the job. Every worksite in the construction industry can do their part to reduce the risk of T.B.I.s by following these simple safety steps highlighted by Industrial Safety and Hygiene News:
Wear Head Protection: Hardhats are a worker’s first line of defense. Employers should encourage their workers to wear their hardhats whenever on the job. Make sure your employees are wearing protection that is appropriate for their job duty, free from damage, and that properly fit their heads- one size does not fit all.
Reduce Fall Risks: Reduce fall risks around your worksite that could cause a T.B.I. accident to occur. Install safety netting and guard rails to keep workers from falling from elevated heights. Also, make sure you are providing safety harnesses on the job that properly secure workers in place.
Secure Materials: When working on scaffolding or other elevated platforms, secure any loose materials to prevent falling debris. Employers should also have a safety plan in place for workers on the ground level to prevent injuries and fatalities from the possibility of falling objects.
Stay Alert: Watch out for co-workers when operating machinery. Use a spotter to direct worksite traffic away from any machine hazards that could cause a worker to get struck in the head.
New York City Construction Accident Attorneys
T.B.I.s are life-altering injuries that are entirely preventable with the right training and care. At the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, we have been fighting for New York City workers and victims of unnecessary construction accidents for over 60 years. If you or a loved one have sustained a serious construction injury, our knowledgeable and experienced accident attorneys are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation to review your case and your rights.
“September is National Traumatic Brain Injury Month.” Health Beat. (Retrieved September 19, 2019) https://jamaicahospital.org/newsletter/september-is-national-traumatic-brain-injury-month/
“Frequently Asked Questions.” Brain Trauma Foundation. (Retrieved September 19, 2019) https://www.braintrauma.org/faq
Konda, Srinivas. “Traumatic Brain Injuries in Construction.” National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (Retrieved September 19, 2019) https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2016/03/21/constructiontbi/
“Construction workers at highest risk of traumatic brain injuries.” Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. (Retrieved September 19, 2019)https://www.ishn.com/articles/106029-construction-workers-at-highest-risk-of-traumatic-brain-injuries