On-the-Job Concussions Impact More than NFL Players

Doctor Examining a Potential Traumatic Brain InjuryOver the past few years, the news has been filled with reports about the dangers National Football League (NFL) players, professional wrestlers and others face from repeated head injuries on the job. Earlier this year, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which was once believed to present a risk primarily to boxers, was discovered in 110 of 111 deceased NFL players whose brains were examined by a neuropathologist.

There’s no longer any question that the repetitive head traumas suffered by many professional—and even student—athletes poses a significant health risk to players. However, chronic traumatic encephalopathy isn’t the only serious risk associated with concussions and other head injuries, and professional athletes are far from the only people who are at risk on the job. In particular, construction workers in Texas and across the country suffer serious head injuries at a significant rate.

Head Injuries Among Construction Workers

During a recent four-year period, NFL players reportedly suffered an aggregate average of 242 concussions annually, in practice and games combined. Meanwhile, in the construction industry, about 275 workers die each year from head injuries sustained on the job.

Of course, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. There are many more construction workers in the United States than there are professional football players, and in much of the country construction is a year-round industry. However, these hundreds of deaths deserve a share of our attention, particularly when you consider that:

  • Construction worker deaths account for nearly ¼ of all occupational traumatic brain injury (TBI) fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • The construction industry also sees the greatest number of work-related non-fatal traumatic brain injuries annually
  • A significant percentage of construction-industry TBIs are preventable with simple safe workplace precautions
    This last point bears emphasis.

While the type of impact that causes concussions in NFL players, boxers, and certain other athletes is inherent in the conduct of the sports—at least, under current rules—a significant percentage of construction worker head injuries and deaths occur because employers don’t follow the rules.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Of course, not all concussions, or even TBIs, are fatal. However, employees who have suffered series head injuries on the job may suffer long-term consequences. Often, these injuries are career-ending, and have a serious impact on quality of life. Traumatic brain injuries vary depending on the area of the brain affected and the severity of the injury. Some possible symptoms of TBI include:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Visual impairment
  • Loss of hearing
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings
  • Balance problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory loss

Some traumatic brain injuries require lifelong medical treatment.

Protecting Construction Workers Against Traumatic Brain Injury

Falls are the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the construction industry, and more than half of fatal construction-related TBIs result from falls.  Yet, year after year, failure to provide required fall protection leads the list of violations cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). And, nearly all of these citations occur within the construction industry.

During the 12-month period ending September 30, 2017, OSHA issued 6,316 citations for violations of the duty to provide fall protection. 6,219 of these citations were issued within the construction industry, for a total of more than $29 million in fines. And, the situation isn’t improving. Between 2013 and 2015, there was an 11% increase in deaths from workplace falls to a lower level.

OSHA has made a significant push for fall prevention safety, but industry compliance leaves a lot to be desired. For the 2016 fiscal year, failure to comply with fall protection training requirements made the top-ten list for the first time, with more than 1,500 citations.

Recovering for Injury or Death Due to Unsafe Working Conditions

Injured workers in Texas have access to benefits and compensation through the state’s worker’s compensation system. A worker’s compensation claim does not require a finding of negligence, which makes it easier for the injured worker or the family of someone killed on the job to receive compensation. However, worker’s compensation does not offer the range of possible damages that a personal injury lawsuit might.

In some cases, an employee injured due to unsafe working conditions may have recourse against someone other than his employer. For example, a construction worker may be employed by a sub-contractor on a job, while the general contractor has responsibility for workplace safety measures such as placement of fall-prevention barriers in work areas more than 10 feet above the ground. In this type of case, the injured construction worker may be able to pursue more extensive claims against the responsible third party.

Determining who may be liable for damages suffered in a construction accident and whether the employee may be entitled to more than worker’s compensation benefits can be complicated. Consulting an experienced work injury attorney should be your first step. You can get started right now—just call (713) 932-0777 to schedule a free consultation.

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Author

Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005. He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017-2019, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give educational talks and media interviews regarding personal injury law issues..