A recent study I read about provided some interesting, yet alarming information about health and safety incidents in the construction industry. According to a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report, traumatic brain injury (TBI) on construction sites is common despite the use of hardhats.
Although hardhats are a common fixture in construction and are intended to keep construction workers safe, they do not always prevent traumatic brain injuries.
We all know that personal protective equipment is the last line of defence against hazards in the workplace, of which hardhats are one, never the less they are used on every construction site, or at least they should be. PPE and hardhats don’t really prevent incidents from occurring but they do minimise or prevent the risk of serious injury. Despite their widespread use, that does not mean that they are one hundred percent reliable in preventing TBIs, according to the American Centres for Disease Control.
TBIs are common when the head sustains a blow or a bump or a penetrating head injury, causing an injury that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Although these injuries can be severe or mild, it is important that we are aware of ways they can be caused and avoided because as the CDC points out, hardhats sometimes aren’t going to completely protect you from injury.
The reason we need to address hazards that may lead to TBIs is because these injuries may affect the injured person for the rest of their lives or may even be life threatening. Some do resolve themselves over time but this is not always the case.
The first thing that site controllers and employers should ensure is that workers are utilising hardhats all the time on the work site. Even though they may not be 100 per cent effective in preventing TBIs, without them the risk is much greater.
A study of U.S. workplace-related TBIs published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found the construction industry had the highest number of TBIs on the job. This excerpt from an article on http://www.bisociety.org explains:
Investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Division of Safety Research used data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injury (CFOI), coupled with the Current Population Survey, to determine that the construction, transportation and agriculture/forestry/fishing industries account for half of all workplace TBI fatalities.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average and has the dubious distinction of the worst risk for TBIs. Hazards for construction workers include falls, trench collapses and scaffold collapses, all of which can lead to TBI. OSHA estimates 25,000 injuries and as many as 36 deaths are caused by falls on stairways and ladders on construction sites during a typical year.
The American OSHA then issued a call for workers to wear head protection when there is the potential for objects falling from above, bumps to the head from fixed objects or accidental contact with electrical hazards – here in Oz the hazards we face in construction are much the same, which is why we too should heed this advice for head protection.