TBI In the Workplace – Still a Major Concern
What’s the most effective way to prevent a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Don’t hurt your head, obviously, but accidents happen — and so does negligence. Steel battle helmets worn by soldiers in World War I led to the use of hard hats in certain industries, but workers can’t simply wear hard hats all the time. Alarmingly, as much as 30 percent of injury deaths involve a TBI. Here in the United States, falls cause nearly 50 percent of all TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Falls are also the second most common cause of private-sector construction worker deaths. TBIs are a real danger to workers and can result in a variety of significant physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral effects. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has attempted to reduce workplace risks by standardizing safety. For example, OSHA defines a fall hazard as “any condition on a walking-working surface that exposes an employee to a risk of harm from a fall on the same level or to a lower level.” For employees in general industry, the threshold height is 4 feet, while the construction industry faces a 6-foot threshold, and the scaffolding industry features a 10-foot threshold. Although OSHA does not require fall protection for portable ladders, it has recently updated its timeline requirements for fixed ladders, stating that if they’re over 24 feet, they must come with a personal fall arrest system or comparable ladder safety system. These rules don’t do any good if they are just written in a pamphlet that no one reads. That’s why there are provisions for fall hazard training. Proper training must be taught by a qualified person who knows about the nature of hazards, how to recognize them, and how to reduce them. Requirements also include installing, maintaining, and inspecting personal fall arrest systems, as well as proper techniques for hook-up, anchoring, and tie-off. The likelihood of falls on the same level can be minimized by reducing clutter in the workplace. Just like at home, it’s easy for things to be overlooked (such as debris and equipment), and then it’s only a matter of time before someone trips. Consider following the rule of S.A.F.E. “S” stands for “surface,” which means careful consideration of changes in elevation, contamination, and general composition of what’s under workers’ feet. “Attention” means mindfulness of the risks and being able to avoid distraction. “Footwear” is a big one, as it can mean the difference between safety and injury. Proper ankle support, for example, should be taken seriously, as well as toe protection and maximum traction. Finally, the “E” stands for “environment,” which is awareness of the need to make adjustments for factors such as weather and lighting. Employers are required to follow OSHA standards and make those standards and instructions clearly visible to employees. Diligent enforcement of these rules, as well as overall compliance when it comes to the workplace environment, are the responsibility of the employer. If you’re a worker, there’s a lot about safety that you probably don’t know, such as how hard hats are supposed to be maintained and stored. These are the kinds of things that are the responsibility of employers. Going to work should not be a dangerous experience. If you are trying to put your life back together after a work-related TBI, believe that someone else’s negligence caused your or a family member’s TBI, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the workers’ comp attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. In addition to cases handled in Macon, we are prepared to handle claims on behalf of clients in Dublin, Warner Robins, Milledgeville and other Georgia communities. Contact us by calling (478) 742-3381 or by filling out our online form.