Concussions and TBIs: A Building Problem in the Construction Industry?

Despite hard hats and other safety gear in use these days, concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) remain a treacherous problem in the construction industry. If you fall off a roof or off scaffolding, if you are hit in the head with a heavy object or a piece of equipment, or if you are hit by a moving vehicle, you can suffer severe head injuries.

Between 2003 and 2010, over 2,200 construction workers died because they experienced a TBI. Such injuries made up 25 percent of all deaths on construction jobs, and 24 percent of all on-the-job TBI fatalities during that period, resulting in an average of over 275 deaths a year from this one cause alone. Concussions and TBIs are leading causes of death and injury to construction workers, and the construction industry has the highest number of TBIs overall.

TBIs and Concussions in Construction: By the Numbers

Construction-related TBIs are a deadly serious business, as evidenced by the following statistics relating TBIs to construction work:

  • Over half of all deadly occupationally-related TBIs arose from falls, especially from roofs, ladders, and scaffolding.
  • The highest fatal rate of traumatic brain injury occurred among structural iron and steel workers and among roofers. Most deaths were caused by fall-related TBIs.
  • Those who worked for construction companies with fewer than 20 employees were much more likely—two and a half times more likely—to encounter a fatal TBI than those who worked for companies with more than 100 workers. Many companies in this field of business are small.
  • Over-65 workers were almost four times more likely to suffer fatal TBIs than workers aged 25 to 34.

The data is upsetting, to say the least. However, to answer the question posed by the title of this article, fatal TBI rates in construction do appear to be dropping, but remain an enormous problem. Srinivas Konda, an associate service fellow in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research, wrote on the CDC-NIOSH Science Blog, “Construction is a dangerous industry, and its workers are at high risk for TBIs and their life-threatening or life-long consequences. Thus, despite the drop in fatal TBI rates in construction, prevention efforts addressing these injuries continue to be implemented and improved, especially among high-risk workers.”

Protecting Workers from TBIs

Because over half of all TBI deaths are caused by falls, job one is fall prevention. Appropriate training and safety equipment for roofs, scaffolding, and ladders are mandated by law. Fall protection is number one on OSHA’s top ten list of violations. If at all possible, refuse to work under unsafe conditions, or speak up if your employer does not provide the right safety gear.

There are things you can do as well, such as paying attention to safety rules and wearing any necessary safety equipment and harnessing every time. Keeping your mind on the work at hand can also reduce your risk of being blindsided by others moving heavy items around who may not be so careful.

Remember that not all TBIs are fatal. Some can be mild to moderate, and the symptoms, such as memory loss, sleep disturbances, emotional problems, confusion, and difficulty concentrating, can last a year, sometimes more. A TBI can be life-changing. With a workplace injury or workers’ compensation claim, sometimes it is best to consult an attorney for your next step if you have suffered an occupationally-related TBI.

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

State and federal agencies have strict guidelines and regulations to keep construction workers safe while they are doing their jobs. In some cases, employers might ignore these regulations or fail to ensure they are properly followed. In such a situation, a case can sometimes be made for negligence. Where machines or equipment, including scaffolding, are involved, there can also be questions of malfunctions because of manufacturer’s defects or improper maintenance.

With over 30 years’ experience handling workplace injury claims in Indiana, let McNeely Stephenson put their resources to work for you. You may be eligible for compensation to assist you with medical bills and other financial obligations. If you would like to explore your options, contact Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200, or use our online form. The initial consultation is always free.