White Card Update: Head Injuries All Too Common on Construction Sites

Photo : Ell Brown

Construction workers know all too well the dangers that they expose themselves to each day in order to make a living. Many workers in the construction industry go their whole lives without suffering serious injuries however there are also those who frequently sustain serious injuries. The difference between the two is not only the employer’s commitment to safety but also the workers own adherence to safety procedures and regulations.

Sometime injuries on site are as a result of co-workers negligence and these situations highlight the need for employers to instil a culture of safety on site and hold workers liable when the proper safety procedures are not followed.

A motto of “Safety First” should exist on all building sites in order to instil in workers the importance of safety.  Think of the alternative?  Head injuries, burn injuries, severe wounds, spinal cord injuries, traumas, dislocations, blinding injuries and hearing loss are just a few of  the possible outcomes that may threaten workers on a construction site daily. Unlike other professions where injuries are limited to certain parts of the body (for example office workers who are exposed to computers may suffer eye damage), construction workers entire bodies are at risk.  Let’s look at just some of the head injuries that can affect and forever change a construction worker’s life.

Head Injuries

Sadly construction workers heads are at risk from a variety of hazards, falling objects like tools or excavation buckets, workers falling and hitting their heads etc. that is why personal protective equipment is a legal requirement and must be provided by employers at no cost. Workers have a responsibility to wear a hard hat at all times on site even when not engaged in dangerous activities. Sadly these PPE are not 100% safe and there are some injuries that even hard hats cannot stop.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

When the brain sustains a sudden trauma it may cause irreparable damage to the brain. Sometimes workers may have sustained this type of trauma and may be unaware of it. Some of the symptoms these workers should look out for are persisting headaches, vomiting, nausea, convulsions, seizures, confusion or loss of consciousness. These types of injuries may cause disability in the long run and may also include cognition problems, communication problems or mental health problems. Some doctors even warn that long term side effects could include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, similar to the diseases suffered by boxers later on in life from repeated blows to the head.

Closed Head Injuries

Quite often workers drop tools, debris and equipment from higher heights, hitting workers below causing what is commonly referred to as blunt force trauma. A concussion is an example of this type of head injury.  It causes temporary disorientation in the victim who loses awareness momentarily because the cerebrospinal fluid doesn’t cushion the brain from the skull during the impact. Like with boxers, the more repeated the injury the more lasting the long term effects.

Another type of injury that can result from a head injury is a severed nerve. When the head sustains a blow, swelling can occur which causes a severed nerve. The consequences of this type of injury may be irreparable in severe cases. There is the chance it may cause paralysis of a limb/limbs and/or a loss of sensation. This may be a huge inconvenience to a worker and costly to the company especially because construction workers rely on their bodies to make a living.

Severe cases of head trauma can result in the worker falling into a coma, which is a deep state of unconsciousness. Although the worker is technically alive, they are unable to move or respond to their environment.

Although the thought of one of these injuries is frightening and something workers would rather not contemplate, they occur each day on construction sites across Australia. By making safety a priority employers and workers can ensure these do not occur on their sites.