Traumatic brain injury deaths highest for small company construction workers

By Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM July 13, 2016

trauma2As you might imagine, the construction industry has the greatest number of both fatal and nonfatal traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in U.S. workplaces. A total of 2,210 construction workers died because of a TBI from 2003 to 2010. That’s a rate of 2.6 per 100,000 full-time workers. The deaths represent 25 percent of all construction fatalities and 24 percent of all occupational TBI fatalities during the same period.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently took a close look at deaths from TBIs in the U.S. construction industry from 2003 to 2010. Here’s what they found:

  • Workers in small construction companies (less than 20 employees) were more than 2.5 times more likely than those in larger companies (100 employees or more) to die from a TBI.
  • Older workers (65 years or older) were almost 4 times more likely than workers 25 to 34 years old to have a fatal TBI.
  • The TBI fatality rate was significantly higher for foreign-born than native-born workers.
  • Falls—especially from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds—led to more than 50 percent of fatal work-related TBIs.
  • Structural iron and steel workers and roofers had the highest fatal TBI rate, mostly from falls.

Armed with the data above, safety, health, and insurance loss control professionals can work to prevent fatal TBIs in construction. A nationwide construction-fall-prevention campaign—launched by NIOSH, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and CPWR (Center to Protect Workers’ Rights)–The Center for Construction Research and Training—seeks to raise awareness by encouraging construction workers to work safely and use the right safety equipment for heights, such as on roofs, ladders, and scaffolds. More information about the fall-prevention campaign is available here.

To prevent falls from ladders, a NIOSH smartphone application provides visual and audio signals and safety tips for safe ladder positioning.

Construction worker injuries are just one of the topics covered in scores of news and technical reports that Verisk Insurance Solutions’ Engineering and Safety Service (E&S) recently sent to subscribers. We offer a wide variety of risk control information, with topics vital to our loss control audience. Our experts provide reports and technical services to subscribers on fire protection, workers' compensation, industrial hygiene, commercial vehicles, product liability, general liability, and other topics. You can distribute many E&S reports to policyholders to help educate them on sound risk control. For more information about E&S, click here or download our brochure.


Mary E. Russo

Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM is a liability manager for Engineering and Safety Service at Verisk Insurance Solutions.