Traumatic Brain Injuries in Construction

The greatest number of fatal and non-fatal traumatic brain injuries (TBI) happen among U.S. construction industry workplaces. Between 2003 and 2010, roughly 2,210 workers suffered from TBI death. The results represented 25% of construction fatalities and 24% of all occupational-related TBI fatalities within the same period.

Despite this, there is some good news.  Fatal TBI rates in construction decreased each year by more than 6% between 2003-2010. This decline might have also attributed to the overall decline of work-related deaths and a decrease in worker hazard exposures.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers looked deeper into TBI deaths in construction during 2003 to 2010 in the United States.  Researchers laid out their findings of the study in the 2016 report in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Here are some key points:

  • Small company workers more likely (2.5 times) to die from TBI than larger companies.
  • Males are more likely to die from TBI than females.
  • Older workers are more likely than younger workers to have fatal TBI.
  • Higher fatality rate for TBI among foreign-born workers.
  • Structural iron, steel workers, roofers have highest rate of fatal TBI, which most TBI deaths are related to falls.

So, how do we prevent and protect workers from TBIs? Employers must encourage individuals in construction to work safely and use correct equipment. Examples include: wearing slip-resistant footwear, obeying warning signs, and taking precautions on unsteady surfaces.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard. Every employer is required to ensure employees wear a protective helmet. Helmets must be able to resist penetration, absorb shock from impact, and protect against electrical sources.

Federal regulations provide recommendations with specific measures for safe fall prevention and protection. Walking and working standards require employment location to be in clean and sanitary conditions.

Reducing rates of TBI injury or fatality rely on collaborative approaches to health and safety of the workplace and workforce education.

For more information on how to protect yourself and workers, take OSHAcademy’s free online course 709 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).