Archive for March, 2024

Construction Workers Are Prone To Traumatic Brain Injuries

Close up of a construction worker wearing a hard hat.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) impair brain function and can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild TBIs, or concussions, may manifest as headaches, nausea, speech issues, and sensitivity to stimuli. Moderate to severe TBIs could lead to extended unconsciousness, severe headaches, confusion, seizures, and even coma. These injuries often occur in construction accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TBIs cause 176 American deaths daily, with 64,000 fatalities in 2020. Between 2003-2010, the construction industry saw over 2,000 TBI deaths. This made up a quarter of construction fatalities and 24% of all occupational TBI deaths, according to NICOSH research.

What are the leading risks of brain injuries in construction?

In the construction industry, workers face heightened TBI risks due to falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs. Impacts with falling objects are also a leading cause of construction TBIs. A study from Injury Prevention in 2015 revealed that employees at smaller construction companies (with less than 20 workers) are 2.5 times more likely to experience fatal TBIs than those at larger firms. Workers in steel, structural iron, and roofing are especially at risk.

How can head injuries in construction be prevented?

Mitigating TBIs on construction sites requires rigorous safety protocols, conducting risk evaluations, and offering comprehensive training. Employers are required to ensure a safe working environment under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

For example, hard hats serve as a fundamental defense against head injuries and help protect against other numerous hazards. Neglecting to wear or using damaged hard hats increases injury risks. Employers must supply appropriate safety equipment and enforce the installation of guardrails and safety nets to minimize fall hazards.

NIOSH, OSHA, and The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) have collaboratively initiated a fall prevention campaign. This initiative aims to enhance safety for workers on roofs, ladders, and scaffolds. The campaign highlights the importance of using safety harnesses, guardrails, lifelines, and the rigorous inspection of fall protection equipment.

This initiative stresses choosing the right ladder, maintaining three points of contact, ensuring the ladder is secure, and always facing the ladder during use. Scaffold recommendations focus on using fully planked scaffolds, proper access, ensuring scaffolds are plumb and level, completing all guardrails, securing stable footing, and conducting thorough inspections before use.

What should I do after sustaining a TBI on the job?

After sustaining a TBI on a construction site, it’s crucial to get immediate medical attention and report the incident to your employer. No matter how minor or severe your TBI is, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl is committed to helping injured workers get the benefits they deserve while they recover. We understand how complex filing a workers’ compensation claim is, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

We can ensure that your paperwork is properly filled out and filed. We’ll also advise you on the best practices for building a strong workers’ compensation claim and advocate for fair compensation on your behalf. Our law firm serves injured workers and their families across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To learn how we can help you, contact us online or call us for a free consultation.

Combating Ergonomic Hazards in Construction

Engineer With Back Pain Injury After Accident At Construction Site

Ergonomic hazards don’t just exist in the office; they are a common risk faced by construction workers (and workers in other industries). Ergonomic injuries often impact joints, tendons, nerves, and muscles. These injuries develop gradually over time. For example, a worker who wears uncomfortable footwear may eventually develop long-term musculoskeletal disorders.

The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in construction highlights the importance of integrating ergonomic safety measures. This could safeguard against both immediate dangers and the cumulative impact of ergonomic hazards.

Work injuries from ergonomic hazards

Research by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reveals that ergonomics-related injuries account for nearly one-third of all cases requiring days away from work. Workers’ compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders cost U.S. employers over $20 billion annually. These injuries not only incur high costs but can also prolong recovery times and delay workers’ return to their jobs.

This issue is particularly widespread among electrical contractors. OSHA highlights the increased risk of ergonomic injuries within this group as the workforce ages and the range of work expands. Electrical contractors don’t just work in construction. Today, they also work in building maintenance and data or networking installation, areas where ergonomic hazards are prevalent.

Risk factors that contribute to ergonomic hazards in construction

The five key risk factors of ergonomic hazards in construction include:

1. High force: This involves tasks requiring substantial physical effort, such as lifting heavy objects or applying intense grip. High-force tasks increase physical demand and often lead to fatigue and injury to muscles or the skeletal system if repeated or prolonged.

2. Awkward and prolonged postures: Working in positions that significantly stray from a natural posture (e.g., bending, twisting, or reaching) poses ergonomic risks. Electrical contractors often operate in tight spaces or with hard-to-reach equipment, making them susceptible to injuries from awkward postures.

3. Repetition: Repeating the same movements over and over stresses the body. The level of stress is influenced by the number of repetitions, movement speed, muscles involved, and required force. Continuous repetition can result in fatigue and strain on muscles or tendons.

4. Contact stress: This arises when part of the body presses against a hard or sharp surface. Contact stress can cause undue pressure that can impede nerve function and blood circulation over time.

5. Hand-arm vibration: Exposure to vibrations from power tools or machinery can cause discomfort and increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders after prolonged use.

Mitigating risk factors

In construction, effectively managing ergonomic risks involves a careful balance between the workers’ capabilities and the job demands. Recognizing and mitigating risk factors through a comprehensive safety strategy can reduce ergonomic injuries among electrical contractors. This can be done by recognizing and addressing the above-mentioned risk factors.

Implementing effective controls is crucial to mitigating these ergonomic risk factors. For example, the use of mechanical aids such as forklifts is recommended to prevent awkward carrying positions and overexertion in material handling and heavy lifting. Additionally, it’s important to enforce proper lifting techniques through training and visible guidelines. Limits should be set for lifting (a maximum of 50 pounds) to avoid overloading.

Training sessions should highlight correct lifting methods and stress the importance of mechanical aids. Posting signs as constant reminders and designing a work schedule that allows for task rotation can also lead to a safer workplace.

Workers’ comp for ergonomic injuries

If you develop a musculoskeletal disorder or other injury linked to ergonomic hazards on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, navigating the workers’ comp process can be challenging, and if you’re not careful, you could lose out on the benefits you’re entitled to. As such, it’s in your interest to speak to an experienced attorney who can ensure that your claim is properly filed and help you get the full compensation you deserve.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves injured workers throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To find out how our dedicated work injury team can help you, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We have law offices in Fall River and Foxborough, MA, as well as Providence, RI.