Employers need to be proactive about reducing the risk of on-the-job brain injuries
Any work injury can have a significant effect on the injured worker’s life and career, but few are as devastating as traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A concussion or other brain injury may require a lifetime of treatment and permanently impair the victim’s ability to work.
Tens of thousands of work-related brain injuries happen every year, and most are preventable. The stakes are high, and employers are responsible for protecting their employees.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
A TBI is an injury that affects how the brain works caused by an outside force. Most TBIs are caused by blunt force trauma, whether that’s the head hitting an object (or the ground) or an object hitting the head. That said, contact with an object isn’t actually required; any sufficiently violent forward and backward movement of the head can cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull.
Less frequent are penetrating head injuries caused by an object such as a piece of metal piercing the skull, or by skull fractures that send pieces of the skull into the brain. In some workplaces, these types of injuries can be caused by machinery, falling objects, or explosions that propel objects at high speed.
How can employers prevent traumatic brain injury?
The risks of TBI are elevated in some industries (e.g. construction and manufacturing), but brain injuries can happen anywhere, and every employer needs to be mindful of brain injury prevention.
In particular, employers need to address the following causes of TBI.
The leading cause of TBI-related hospitalizations, falls can happen in any workplace. Employers need to keep walkways clear of trip hazards, clean up spills to prevent slip and falls, maintain railings, and provide adequate lighting.
A heavy object that strikes the head can cause serious injury. Employers need to clean up tools and other debris that could fall on workers.
Work-related vehicle accidents
While employers can’t control other drivers on the road, they can mandate sober driving for their employees and enforce distracted driving policies. Company vehicles must be maintained and inspected for safety. Employers also need to be mindful of road conditions and avoid sending out workers on non-essential trips during inclement weather.
Violent assaults can cause brain injury, and employers need to maintain adequate security on their premises to minimize this risk.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used in environments where the risk of a brain injury is high. Hard hats can protect the head from falling objects, and footwear with good traction can reduce the risk of slip and falls. PPE needs to be properly stored and maintained to provide adequate protection for workers, and employers need to train their employees on when and how to properly use each protective device.
What are my rights if I sustained a brain injury at work?
Depending on the extent of your injury and the nature of your job, a brain injury may put you out of work for some time, or possibly permanently. Ohio’s workers’ compensation system pays for the full cost of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment for your brain injury, which may include in-home care and other long-term services. It also pays two-thirds of your average weekly wage for as long as you are out of work, and additional benefits if your brain injury causes you to be permanently disabled.
Depending on the cause of your brain injury, you may also be able to file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against a company other than your employer. For instance, if your injury was caused by a subcontractor or vendor, you may be able to sue the other company, and if your injury was exacerbated by defective PPE, you may be able to sue the equipment manufacturer. These types of claims can compensate you for losses not covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering.
The key is to get an attorney on your side who understands Ohio’s unique workers’ compensation system, understands Ohio law, and has the resources to move your case forward while you focus on healing. The Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys at Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A. have over 150 years of combined experience advocating for Ohio workers throughout the workers’ compensation process. Contact us today for a free consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Dayton, Cincinnati, Springfield, and Troy.