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It's Brain Injury Awareness Month: Are you protecting your employees?

Brain Injury Awareness Month recognized each March, brings attention to the prevention of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and promotes strategies to improve the quality of life for persons living with TBI and their families.

TBI’s caused by an impact or force to the head or body or a penetrating injury to the head, affect millions of U.S. persons each year.

  • Workers over 65 years old were almost 4 times more likely than workers 25–34 years to have a fatal TBI. (CDC)

  • Nationwide 17% increase in the rate of fall-related TBI deaths during 2008-2017 and the largest increases occurred among persons over 75 years of age.

  • Falls, especially from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds, led to over 50% of fatal work-related TBIs

CDC’s STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) initiative includes resources and tools for health care providers to improve identification of patients at risk for a fall, as well as effective strategies to reduce the risk for fall-related injuries, including TBI.

Prevent TBI in your workplace

The most common causes of TBI in the workplace are:

  1. Falls

  2. Motor Vehicle Accidents

  3. Being struck by or against an object

1. Falls

Falls make up about half 48%) of all TBI-related emergency room visits, according to the Center for Disease and Control. Do you have a fall prevention program in place?

Some of the most common fall incidents include:

  1. Ladders, roofs and other elevated surfaces

  2. Slippery surfaces

  3. Cluttered areas

  4. Unstable walking areas

Are you utilizing the following tools to prevent falls?

  1. Hard hats

  2. Harnesses

  3. Guardrails or lifelines

  4. Footwear with adequate traction

  5. Weather-related gear

It is crucial to:

  1. Frequently inspect equipment to ensure it works properly

  2. Make sure everything is up-to-date with OSHA's ever-changing standards

  3. Ensure employees are properly trained on how to use the equipment properly

Being Struck by or Against an Object

93 construction workers died as a result of struck-by accidents in 2016, accounting for 9.4 percent of total fatalities caused by construction hazards according to OSHA in 2016.

Luckily these hazards can be prevented by safety measures, including the enforcement of proper use of PPE such as hardhats. Hardhats lower both the impact force and the electrical shock.

OSHA provides guidance specific to head and eye protection (OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment):

  1. Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.

  2. The employer must ensure that the head protection provided for each employee exposed to high-voltage electric shock and burns also meets the specifications contained in Section 9.7 ("Electrical Insulation") of any of the consensus standards identified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

  3. OSHA will deem any head protection device that the employer demonstrates is at least as effective as a head protection device constructed in accordance with one of the consensus standards identified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section to be in compliance with the requirements of this section.

  4. Ensure that each affected employee wears eye or face protection PPE when he or she is exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

  5. Ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects.

  6. Ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.

  7. Ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation.

Remind employees to comply by setting up checklists

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of hospitalizations due to TBIs and account for 20 percent of these incidents. Additionally, motor vehicle accidents account for the most hospitalizations in adults ages 15 to 44, according to the CDC. In professions where operating a motor vehicle is a regular part of the job, employers must provide proper training for drivers. Workers should be encouraged to practice safe driving habits such as:

  • Wearing a seat belt

  • Following speed limits

  • Avoiding distractions such as texting and driving

  • Staying sober on the road

  • Slowing down and using headlights in inclement weather conditions

  • Monitoring road signs

Additionally, all employers should regularly inspect vehicles, especially before any long-haul trips. Employers should also monitor traffic, construction zones, weather conditions and consider canceling trips during periods of particularly severe weather conditions.

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