Brain injury isn’t just an occupational hazard, it’s something that can happen in everyday life and may even be tied to other conditions.
Early in 2022, comedian Bob Saget of Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos fame fell in an Orlando hotel room and died from his injuries. It made the national news and spawned renewed awareness about the seriousness of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Saget’s death reinforces the fact that a serious fall can happen to anyone at just about any time.
According to CDC, these types of brain injuries are most common among older people. Those aged over 75 account for almost one-third of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths. While age is certainly a factor, it’s not the only one. A new study is also looking at the relationship between TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But what’s more, those employed in some industries face more potential exposure and risk.
Not surprisingly, this includes the construction industry, where people are often working on ladders or scaffolding, around heavy equipment and in places where materials are being moved. Falling—or being struck by something—are often contributing factors to traumatic brain injury. Sadly, these kinds of injuries can be life-threatening at worst or life-changing at best, and the road to recovery can be a long one. That’s why workplace safety is so important.
Construction Safety Risks Outweigh All Other Industries
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent 100% of traumatic brain injuries on the job, but having a safety-first approach makes a real difference.
The construction industry has become safer over time, but it still carries an outsized risk of injury related to other industries. According to a study by the Center for Construction Research and Training that reviewed on-the-job injury statistics over time, “the injury rate in construction has declined steadily since 2003 but was still 29% higher than all industries combined in 2019.”
That’s an overall positive trend, but it still highlights the real risk of injury for those in construction. In some areas, the trend is worsening. The same report found that falls to a lower level at construction sites actually increased 41% in the last eight years of available data.
OSHA statistics may explain this sobering statistic. In 2021, three of the five most frequent OSHA citations were for violations related to potential falls, with overall fall protection being the most common.
- Fall protection: 5,271 violations
- Respiratory protection: 2, 521 violations
- Ladders: 2,018 violations
- Scaffolding: 1,943 violations
- Hazard communication: 1,939 violations
Violations around fall protection didn’t just top the list in 2021. They’ve been the most common issue for over a decade. Of course, not all these violations were on construction sites but at least some were. And that means there’s significant room for improvement.
Construction Companies Must Remain Vigilant
So, the bad news is that some construction companies haven’t applied the appropriate and required focus on workplace safety, which has likely resulted in some preventable brain and other injuries.
The upside is those much-needed improvements in workplace safety around preventing falls, increasing ladder protection and addressing scaffolding accidents will help safeguard construction workers from a variety of injuries.
A key to better workplace safety is providing and reinforcing training. When construction companies stress safety training it becomes part of the day-to-day culture. This is especially vital for those workers with less experience on the job as most construction accidents are associated with employees under 35.
One way to make training less expensive and time-consuming and more accessible is to leverage an online learning management system (LMS). This learning technology can enable you to offer employees safety and other training without having to schedule classes, arrange for a trainer and find a physical location. It’s accessible via a mobile device, and it can track and retain the completion of legally required courses. Using the power of an LMS to deliver more and better training is one way construction companies can leverage HR technology to make the industry safer.
With any construction-related injury, prevention is always light years better than cure. When the injury is serious and potentially life-threatening, like TBI, minimizing risk is job one. Safeguarding worker safety should always be top of mind and a new year provides a good opportunity to revisit the topic with workers.