Construction workers are at high risk of traumatic brain injuries.
Construction is an inherently dangerous occupation, and the potential for head injuries is particularly high. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), almost a quarter of all construction worker deaths are due to traumatic brain injuries, making it the third most common cause of death in the construction industry.
Proper head protection is essential for construction workers because it can help prevent head injuries from falling objects, electrical hazards, and other potential dangers on a construction site. Head injuries can be severe and even fatal, so workers must wear protective headgear such as hard hats to reduce the risk of injury.
"You can see some head injuries, such as cuts, burns and bruises," says CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, according to a recent Safety+Health article. "But you cannot see a brain injury. These injuries happen when you are hit so hard that your brain bounces and twists inside your head."
Common head injuries in construction
Head injuries are one of the most common types of injuries that can occur on a construction site, including but not limited to:
Lacerations: Lacerations, also known as cuts, can occur when a worker is hit in the head with sharp objects or tools. These wounds often require stitches and can result in severe complications if not treated properly.
Abrasions: Abrasions are caused by friction resulting from scraping or rubbing against a hard surface. This type of injury is particularly common in workers who are not wearing protective headgear.
Fractures: Fractures occur when a worker receives blunt force trauma to the head that's powerful enough to break one or more of the bones in the skull. These injuries can range from mild to severe depending on the intensity of the impact and can lead to long-term complications such as vision loss, hearing loss, and brain damage.
Concussions: Concussions occur when a worker's head is violently shaken or jolted. These injuries can have long-term effects on a person's cognitive and physical health.
Types of head protection
Head protection is intended to help prevent external and internal injuries. ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 provides a consensus standard for head protection, last revised in 2019, that OSHA adopted in its 2012 revision of the agency head protection rule.
The standard rates head protection by type (Type 1 only protects from blows to the top of the head, Type 2 protects from blows to the top and sides) and class (Class G for low-voltage conductors up to 2,200 volts, Class E for high-voltage conductors up to 20,000 volts, Class C provides no electrical protection).
In the construction industry, safety officials stress the importance of always wearing head protection due to the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries suffered by construction workers. For example, head protection is necessary to protect workers when falling off a roof, not just from objects falling on it.
That's because while fall arrest systems can stop workers from falling, they won't protect the worker's head in the event of a fall from height. That's why wearing head protection should not be a choice of when to wear it but instead an understanding of why to wear it.
The importance of fit and maintenance
Fit and maintenance of a hard hat are essential for safety while on the job. Unfortunately, poor fit is often given as an excuse for not wearing head protection, but with proper attention to the following points, you can ensure that your hard hat fits appropriately:
- Adjust the head harness to leave a gap of 1 to 1.25 inches between the hard shell and your head.
- Ensure the hard hat doesn't fall off your head when you bend over.
- Situate the hard hat with the bill facing forward.
- Clean the hard hat with mild soap and water as needed.
- Regularly inspect the hard hat for cracks, gouges, or stress discolorations.
It's worth noting that stickers on hard hats should be avoided, as they may impede inspections. Likewise, wearing a hood, stocking cap, or baseball cap under a hard hat may interfere with the fit.
OSHA and CPWR stated that hard hats marked with a reverse donning symbol can be worn backward. Additionally, CPWR recommends wearing hearing and eye protection designed for the specific head protection being used. Finally, instruction manuals accompanying head protection should be kept to improve training programs.
Contact a construction accident lawyer if you've been injured in NYC
Head protection is critical to help prevent injury to construction workers, but accidents still happen. Often, construction workers are severely injured due to the negligence of a construction company, general contractor, or site manager.
If you were injured in a New York City construction accident, it's important to understand your legal rights and options. At Keogh Crispi, P.C., we know what it takes to get results for injured New Yorkers.
For example, in one case, we secured $1.6 million for a construction laborer who suffered significant head injuries, including a TBI, in an accident. Discover what our law firm can do for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.