In April 2016, the National Football League settled a lawsuit that will cost them upwards of a billion dollars in compensation to retired players who suffered brain injuries as a result of the hazards of their profession. At the heart of the lawsuit against the NFL are Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). These injuries are a disruption to the normal functions of the brain as a result of an impact to the head. TBIs don’t just occur in the NFL. Up to 7 percent of all traumatic head and brain injuries are occupational injuries. A study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that certain occupations are more susceptible to TBIs than others—the construction, transportation, and agriculture/forestry/fishing industries record nearly half of all TBI fatalities.
The lawsuit alleged that the NFL was negligent in protecting its employees, was aware of the dangers of head trauma, and didn’t adequately educate and protect its workforce. So, it’s important that businesses get in front of this issue and be proactive in both educating and protecting their employees from the dangers of TBI. Here are just a few things you might consider as you develop a plan to aid in the prevention of TBI in the workplace.
Ensure that each employee working near a worksite with the potential for falling objects and/or flying debris is wearing adequate head and eye protection. OSHA requires workers wear head protection when there is the potential for falling objects from above, a reasonable risk of bumps to the head from fixed objects, or any sort of electrical hazards. Make sure that all head protection worn complies with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards for Industrial Head Protection and is frequently checked for nicks, scratches, and/or cracks to determine when it might need replacing.
Know who is at risk
It is worth doing the research and knowing what groups might be at risk for workplace injuries in your industry. The transportation industry is a particularly risky industry for workers between the ages of 18-25 and older than 55. Whereas the construction industry is particularly risky for younger workers. By being conscientious of what groups might be at a higher risk for workplace injuries you can better ensure that your workers have all the tools and knowledge necessary to remain healthy and safe.
Be proactive in workplace maintenance
Not all TBIs are the direct result of a blow to the head from an object. More than direct impacts to the head, falls are the leading cause of TBI in the workplace. According to the Brain Injury Institute, “approximately 20% of TBI related workplace injuries occur from falling on surfaces that are uneven, wet, or have an out-of-place object.” Keeping your work area clear of clutter, using anti-slip coatings on floors, and/or wearing footwear designed to mitigate slipping can help in reducing falls. As an employer, the safety of your employees is your #1 priority. The greatest danger they and ultimately face is complacency and a belief that because something hasn’t happened yet, it probably never will. Investing in the proper safety equipment and ensuring that all employees are trained and conscientious about safety is an important part of limiting your liability and ensuring that your employees can continue to live happy and healthy lives.
If balancing regulation and risk management seems like a full-time job, you’d be right. Here at ALTRES, we’ve developed a Safety and Risk Management Department dedicated solely to helping clients manage workplace safety and prevent risk. Our team offers a variety of consultation services that can help your business remain compliant with both state and federal regulations.