Traumatic brain injury (TBI) represents around 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States (CDC, 2017). TBIs are caused by bump, blow, or jolts to the brain and from 2002 to 2016, TBIs accounted for 1.7 Million injuries per year. Of these injuries, 52,000 of them resulted in death. Although TBI is generally more prevalent in young and old people, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries estimates that between 4 and 7 percent of the overall reported TBI are due to occupational injuries (Laws, 2015). That accounts for between 68,000 and 119,000 occupational injuries per year. Even the injuries that don’t occur in our workplace can have a drastic impact on underemployment and work productivity loss (Silverberg et al. 2018).
Discussions in HR related to TBI generally center on accommodations for employees with TBI (Overman, 2012) or the hiring of veterans that have experienced TBI (Gurchiek, 2012). It is also worth consideration in Brain Injury Awareness Month what we as HR professionals can do to prevent these injuries from occurring in our workplaces.
A recent 2018 review of interventions to prevent injuries in construction workers provided some very disappointing results. Their team reviewed interventions that included compulsory, educational, informational, persuasive, facilitative, and multifaceted interventions and concluded that these measures have not been adequately evaluated and that “low quality evidence that introducing regulations as such may or may not result in a decrease in fatal and non-fatal injuries” (van der Molen et al., 2018). With this total lack of compelling evidence for a prevention strategy, what can HR really do?
- Model behaviors we want to see in our employees. Wear that hard hat when we are around areas where items may fall on our heads. Secure ourselves properly to prevent falling. While evidence was weak in the van der Molen et al. review, modeling does have an impact.
- Make sure they know “why” we need them to use personal protection equipment or procedures. Adult learners highlight practicality so it is very important that they know why they need to do something or they will not incorporate the change in behavior you wish to see for a safer workplace.
- Consider monetary subsidies which were shown to decrease non-fatal injuries from falls (van der Molen et al., 2018). How can your team tie workplace safety to employee compensation or incentives?
- #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth is held in March of each year. Use it as an opportunity to provide information and educate your teams prevention of these injuries
References and Resources
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention (2017) TBI: Get the facts. https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html
Gurchiek, K. (2012). 'Hire a Veteran' Campaign Debunks Brain Injury Misperceptions. SHRM Blog. https://blog.shrm.org/workforce/hire-a-veteran-campaign-debunks-brain-in...
Laws J. Preventing Occupational and Non-Occupational Head Injuries. Occup Health Saf. 2015 Mar;84(3):24, 26. https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2015/03/01/Preventing-Occupational-Head-I...
Overman, S. (2012) How Employers Gain Access to Talent with Brain Injuries. SHRM Blog. https://blog.shrm.org/workforce/how-employers-gain-access-to-talent-with...
Silverberg ND, Panenka WJ, Iverson GL. Work Productivity Loss After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Feb;99(2):250-256. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.07.006. Epub 2017 Jul 29.
van der Molen HF, Basnet P, Hoonakker PLT, Lehtola MM, Lappalainen J, Frings-Dresen MHW, Haslam R, Verbeek JH. Interventions to prevent injuries in construction workers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD006251. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006251.pub4.