Construction workers and traumatic brain injury

Ohio construction workers often must perform their work on scaffolding, roofs, tall ladders and other precarious places. Consequently, they face a substantial risk of falling and hitting their heads. Any head injury can be serious, and some result in a traumatic brain injury.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, a traumatic brain injury is one where the brain becomes dysfunctional because an external mechanical force collided with the head. Whether the contact was by means of a blow or a penetrating wound, the resulting brain damage can have catastrophic consequences for the victim.

The most common cause of TBIs is a fall. The farther a construction worker falls and the sharper or harder the surface on which he or she lands, the greater the risk for a serious head injury. Even if there is no open wound and the worker shows no obvious signs of injury, he or she nevertheless should be transported to a hospital as quickly as possible. It is critical that trained medical personnel assess the injury, conduct the proper tests, arrive at a correct diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment to minimize the effects of the worker’s head injury.

TBI symptoms

For medical purposes, TBIs are categorized as mild, moderate and severe. Symptoms may be immediately apparent, but could take days or weeks to appear. Symptoms of a mild TBI can include any of the following:

  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness, dazedness, confusion or disorientation
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus

Any of these symptoms also may occur in a moderate or severe TBI, but the victim may exhibit other symptoms as well, including the following:

  • Agitated and/or combative behavior
  • Increasingly bad headaches
  • Worsening confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty waking up from sleep
  • Convulsions and/or seizures

Going back to work

Whether, when and to what extent a construction worker who received an on-the-job TBI returns to work is difficult to predict since each TBI is unique to the person who sustained it. The Brain Injury Association of America recommends that returning to work should be a gradual process. The worker should speak with his or her employer about the possibility of working shorter hours at first and being assigned a lighter workload.

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