Brain injury awareness month a reminder for hard hat use

All it takes is a jolt to the head to damage the most critical organ in your body – the brain.

This is the message the Brain Injury Association of America is promoting in March as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. The potential for traumatic brain injury in the construction industry is the reason why hard hats are required at most worksites.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration – in accordance with regulation standard 1910.135 – requires employers to ensure each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is potential for injury to the head from falling objects. The agency also requires hard hats designed to reduce electrical shock hazard to be worn near exposed electrical conductors that could contact the head.

The type of protective helmet worn by construction workers is also important. OSHA mandates helmets purchased after July 5, 1994, comply with the American National Safety Institute standard Z89.1. This defines protective helmets as either Type I, top impact, or Type II, top and lateral impact.

Type I helmets function by using a shell and suspension. The rigid, lightweight shell is designed to deflect objects that hit the top of the helmet. The suspension is engineered to hold the shell in place on the head, but more importantly, the suspension works with the shell to absorb most of the impact energy when something hits the top of the helmet.

Type II helmets provide the same protection as Type I, but with extra protection against off-center or lateral blows. A hard shell, suspension and some type of impact energy absorption mechanism – such as a foam impact liner – work together inside the shell to give added protection.

The BIAA estimates at least 1.4 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. Of these, 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized and 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department.

Many of the millions of people who have suffered a brain injury are permanently disabled – at least 5.3 million in some estimates.

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Symptoms of traumatic brain injury
The complexity of the brain means every injury is different. Some symptoms may appear right away. Other symptoms may not show up for days or weeks, according to BIAA.

The difficulty in spotting some brain injuries makes it hard for people to recognize or admit they are having problems.

Here are a few symptoms of possible brain injury:

  • Headaches or neck pain that won’t go away
  • Difficulty with mental tasks such as remembering, concentrating or making decisions
  • Slowness in thinking, speaking, acting or reading
  • Getting lost or easily confused
  • Feeling tired all the time, having no energy or motivation
  • Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping)
  • Light-headedness, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Urge to vomit (nausea)
  • Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds or distractions
  • Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Ringing in the ears

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at [email protected].