Traumatic brain injuries in the construction industry

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Traumatic brain injuries in the construction industry

California construction workers are at substantial risk for receiving a traumatic brain injury while at work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the highest number of workplace TBIs, both fatal and nonfatal, occur in the construction industry. Between 2003-2010, over 2,200 construction workers died from TBIs, representing more than 25 percent of all construction fatalities.

The Mayo Clinic defines a traumatic brain injury as a head injury that causes brain dysfunction. While all head injuries are potentially serious, even when they appear to be minor, TBIs and their symptoms are classified as follows:

  • Mild TBI – may cause temporary loss of consciousness, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of balance, blurred vision
  • Moderate TBI – may cause convulsions, seizures, loss of coordination
  • Severe TBI – may cause profound confusion, slurred speech, coma, even death

Workers most at risk

Although all construction workers are at risk for receiving a TBI due to their often hazardous working environments, the CDC reports that some workers are at higher risk than others, including the following:

  • Workers who are age 65 and older are about four times more likely to suffer a fatal TBI than workers who are 25-34.
  • Workers who were born in another country are at significantly higher risk for a fatal TBI than native-born Americans.
  • Workers who are employed by small construction companies, those with fewer than 20 employees, are over 2.5 times more likely to suffer a fatal TBI than workers employed by a company with over 100 employees.

Falls are the most common cause of TBIs, although being struck by a moving vehicle and/or by falling debris also regularly results in TBIs. Any California construction worker who receives any type of head injury should receive immediate emergency treatment and be transported to a hospital. Doctors need to run tests in order to arrive at a correct diagnosis of the severity of the injury. The sooner appropriate treatment begins, the more likelihood that ill effects can be minimized.

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