Hard hats are most generally associated with construction, but there are tons of industries that require head protection due to the nature of the job. Aside from construction, there are many Washington State industries that have hazards from above including working on ports, fishing boats, and logging. However, some of the industries are less diligent about hard hat use, resulting in potentially serious head injuries.
The real threat of head injuries should not only prompt employers to enforce hard hat rules, but should inspire workers to habitually wear them. The reason is that one of the worst, deadliest, and costliest injuries is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A simple washer for example, falling about 30 feet, will generate a force of 61/2 pounds on impact! That’s enough to potentially pierce the skull.
Brain Injuries on the Job
People who suffer brain injuries on the job often find themselves on a long road to recovery. Depending on the severity, they may need to learn how to speak, walk, and even feed themselves. Regardless, even the most simple brain injury could result in physical and mental therapy to treat memory problems, behavioral changes, depression, and personality changes, all associated with TBI. This is not to mention the chance of a seriously shorter life directly linked to survivors of TBI.
But this can also be linked to the type of injury. You see, the human skull is not perfectly round so the brain not only spins as a whole but some parts within it spin at different rates. This sets up additional shear forces inside the brain itself. This stress within the brain results in tearing of nerve fibres and tiny veins within the brain. This is called Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI).
Types of force associated with head injuries:
Linear Force – Caused by a straight and direct impact (such as when a ball hits a wall without rotating); it consists firstly of blunt compression (the hit) and then a reaction (the bounce) causing direct injury to the point of impact and potential further injuries following a straight line into the brain.
Rotational Force – Causes the head to rotate around its point of articulation at the top of the spine as it is hit.
Hard Hat Safety
A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of accidents and injuries on a national level showed that most workers who suffered head injuries were not wearing head protection. The majority of workers were injured while performing their normal jobs at their regular worksites.
The BLS survey further found that in most instances head injuries occurred when the injured worker’s employer had not required usage of head protection even though there was a chance of head injury. Of those workers wearing hard hats, all but 5% indicated that they were required by their employers to wear them.
Researchers noted that the majority of workers who wore hard hats habitually at work believed that hard hats were a practical requirement for safety on their jobs.
According to the report:
- Nearly half of the accidents involving head injuries, employees knew of no actions taken by employers to prevent such injuries from recurring.
- More than one-half of the workers were struck on the head while they were looking down and almost three-tenths were looking straight ahead.
- A third of the unprotected workers were injured when bumping into stationary objects, such actions injured only one-eighth of hard hat wearers.
Duty of Care
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1983, the employer is required to show a Duty of Care when there is a reasonable threat of head injuries in the workplace. They must identify the threats and take measures to protect employees, including requiring or providing hard hats.
They must require hard hats when:
- There is a possibility that a person may be struck on the head by a falling object.
- A person may strike their head against a fixed or protruding object.
- Accidental head contact may be made with electrical hazards.
Washington Brain Injury Lawyer
When a worker is hurt on the job, L&I is appointed with the task of investigating the accident to determine if there are any safety issues or violations by the company that facilitated the personal injury and subsequent workers compensation claim. The worker goes through the process of filing a claim and generally they receive benefits within 14 days of the industrial accident, but sometimes, for some reason or another they may be denied. That’s when the worker needs help from an experienced legal professional.
If you or someone you know suffer a serious personal injury at work due to improper procedures or a hazardous workplace then you need a skilled attorney with experience in the procedures of workers compensation to get you the compensation you deserve. Call Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.