Concussions increasingly make today’s news headlines, especially in athletes playing high-impact sports like hockey or football. But concussions don’t only happen on the field or in an arena — they are being reported more often in the workplace, too. And they can be complex and costly to treat.
Concussions on the rise
From 2012 to 2014, SFM saw a 48 percent increase in concussions that caused injured employees to lose time from work.
At SFM, nearly 79 percent of reported concussions have been related to slips, trips and falls, strikes to the head, or motor vehicle accidents. Common examples of strikes to the head include boxes falling off shelves or employees being struck by students, patients or coworkers.
In the general population, the average age concussions occur is 29. Of those in the workforce, most concussions occur on the ends of the age spectrum — in either older teens and young adults, or older adults. With more people choosing to retire at a later age, employers with aging workforces are seeing an increase in concussions related to slips and falls.
Concussion symptoms and treatment
Physical symptoms of concussions may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, balance and visual problems, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and light, tingling and numbness, or the feeling of being in a daze. Workers may report feeling mentally foggy or slowed down, having difficulty concentrating, being forgetful or confused, answering questions slowly or repeating questions.
Concussion sufferers may be irritable, sad, nervous or more emotional than normal. They may be drowsy, sleep more or less than usual, or have trouble falling asleep.
With proper diagnosis and management, most people with mild concussions recover fully. While most cognitive issues related to mild concussions resolve within a week, in some cases symptoms linger for weeks or months, making it challenging for some injured workers to go about their normal daily activities or return to work at full capacity. Because the duration, symptoms, diagnostic testing and treatment in each case is so varied, concussions can be very complex and costly to treat. The average lost-time concussion claim costs $33,000.
Prevent concussions among your employees
To prevent concussions in the workplace, encourage employees to take the following precautions:
- Remove tripping hazards. Make sure walkways and workspaces 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 surfaces.
- Use handrails when taking the stairs.
- Avoid standing on chairs, desks or tables. Use a step stool instead.
- Use caution when working from heights. Never stand on the top two steps of a ladder.
- If a job requires wearing a helmet, make sure it’s properly fitted and in good condition.
What to do in the event of a head injury
If a head injury does occur, and you’re an SFM policyholder, calling the SFM Work Injury Hotline at 855-675-3501 is the best way to report the injury and make sure the injured employee gets the proper care.
Getting a thorough evaluation by a doctor who is trained to assess and treat concussions is crucial.
The injured employee may be encouraged to rest and may initially need to reduce physical and cognitive exertion. In some cases, reducing work during the initial stages of healing may help the employee’s recovery. A shortened work day, adequate breaks and fewer tasks and responsibilities may be needed for a while. To protect the employee’s safety after a return to work, no driving, heavy lifting, working with machinery or work from heights is recommended for a period of time.
Repeated evaluation of the injured worker’s symptoms and cognitive status will help guide further care.