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June 25, 2015

Safety Tip: What to Know About Workplace Concussions

Hard hat area
In recent years, concussions in amateur and professional athletes have received significant media attention. But concussions can occur anywhere, including the workplace. The number of lost-time claims for work-related concussions has increased significantly in recent years, probably due to increased reporting and awareness of this injury. 

Yet there is a general lack of understanding about concussions and how they can be managed at the workplace. This information from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety can help you deal with and prevent concussions in the workplace - or anywhere.

What is a concussion?

trip hazardA concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt that causes the head and brain to move back and forth rapidly. It is possible to have a concussion due to whiplash, or rapid rotation, shaking or jerking of the head or even the body. On a worksite, falls, slips and trips, and vehicle collisions often produce injuries that can lead to concussions.

The main causes of work-related concussions vary by industry and occupation. In Canada, the highest rates of workplace concussions are in the transportation, storage, government and forestry, fishing and mining industries. The most common cause of workplace brain injuries overall are falls, being struck by or against an object, and motor vehicle collisions

Signs and Symptoms

A concussion may or may not involve a loss of consciousness. You do not have to black out or be knocked out to experience a concussion. Some common signs and symptoms include:
  • One pupil larger than the other
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache (or a sensation of pressure in your head)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Seeing stars or lights
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Confusion, drowsiness and an incoherent thought process
Symptoms may not be present immediately after the injury, but may emerge in the subsequent hours or days. It is therefore important to monitor for symptoms several days following a head injury.

How to Manage a Concussion

Workers who experience symptoms after an injury should alert a supervisor and seek immediate medical attention. It is important to consult with a medical professional on how best to manage a concussion. Someone with a suspected concussion should not be left alone or allowed to drive.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with concussions recover fully within a short period of time. In some cases, symptoms linger for weeks or months and make it challenging to resume normal activities or return to work. The ability to return to work can be influenced by co-existing medical conditions and an individual’s concussion history.

Preventing Concussions:

  • Remove tripping hazards. Make sure walkways and work spaces are free of clutter, cords, puddles of water, or anything else that can cause a slip, trip or fall.
  • Use proper signage to alert employees of wet or slippery surfaces.
  • Clean and organize shelves, storage areas and work spaces to avoid falling objects.
  • In a warehouse or storage facility, do not climb shelves, and place the heaviest objects on the floor or the lowest possible shelving.
  • Wear the proper type of safety footwear to prevent falls if you work in slippery, icy or rugged terrain.
  • Do not stand on chairs, desks or tables.
  • Use caution when working at heights. Know how to use fall protection and fall restraint equipment.
  • Ensure proper fit and condition of hard hats and other PPE equipment

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