In recent years, concussions in professional athletes have received significant media attention. However, concussions can occur anywhere, including in the workplace. Statistics reveal that the number of time loss claims for work-related concussions increased by 371% in Ontario from 2004 to 2013. This increase is likely due in part to increased reporting and awareness of this injury. However, research shows that there is a general lack of understanding about concussion and how it is managed at the workplace.
What are concussions?
A concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury. It is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move back and forth rapidly. 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, however if a concussion results in a loss of consciousness it is considered a “critical injury”, an injury that is life threatening. Concussion may result in an altered mental status that affects cognitive (e.g. thinking, memory, learning) and physical performance. Symptoms after concussion usually resolve within weeks but can persist.
How do concussions occur?
Concussions occur when the brain is injured after a traumatic event, such as a blow to the head. However, you do not have to hit your head to suffer a concussion. 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, hazards that may cause a fall, slips and trips, and vehicle collisions can result in injuries that can lead to concussions.
In Canada, the highest rates of workplace concussions are in the transportation, storage, government, and primary industries (e.g. forestry, fishing, and mining). The most common cause of workplace brain injuries overall are falls, being struck by or against an object, and motor vehicle collisions. However, the main causes of work-related concussion vary by industry and occupation.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a concussion include a new onset of one or more of the following symptoms, but are not limited to:
- loss of consciousness
- headache (or a sensation of pressure in your head)
- nausea or vomiting
- 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.
Some 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 any of the above 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 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 making 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.
The following tips may help prevent concussions in the workplace:
- 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 surfaces.
- Keep shelves and storage areas and your work space clean and organized to avoid falling objects.
- In a warehouse or storage facility, 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 other types of rugged terrain.
- Do not stand on chairs, desks or tables, but rather use an appropriate step stool, access platform, or ladder to avoid falls.
- Use caution when working from heights. Know how to use fall protection and fall restraint equipment.
- If a job requires wearing a hard hat, make sure it’s appropriate to the job, properly fitted, and in good condition.
- Report all unsafe conditions to the nearest supervisor.
Note: This article was developed in part in consultation with “Traumatic Brain Injury in the Workplace: Innovations for Prevention study team” funded by a grant by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Please visit www.abiresearch.utoronto.ca.
- Guidelines for mild traumatic brain injury and persistent symptoms, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (PDF)
- Program of care for mild traumatic brain injuries, Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- By the Numbers: 2013 WSIB Statistical Report, Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Concussion resources, Parachute Canada
- Preventing Falls From Slips and Trips e-course, CCOHS
- Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1.
- Brain Injury Safety Tips and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Tips & Tools
This time of year many workers, new and experienced, are back at work with power mowers getting lawns back into shape and keeping them maintained. Whether as part of your job or when at home, mowers may seem simple enough to operate but there are serious hazards that come with operating any power tool.
Operating power mowers can be risky business. When you are mowing the lawn you are at risk of cuts and amputations, bruises and abrasions from plants and trees, burns from hot engines, electric shock or electrocution from contact with live electrical parts or electric power lines, and slips and falls from working in wet and/or cluttered areas.
Here are some tips for the safe use of power mowers to review heading into grass cutting season.
Before you start the work, read and follow the instructions in the manufacturer's operating manual, and ensure your supervisor has fully trained you on how to operate the mower. Your supervisor should show you how to use the mower, and observe you working with it until satisfied that you can operate it safely. Be aware of the mower's safety features, including how to stop the mower quickly in case of an emergency.
What to wear
Wear high-cut, non-slip safety toe footwear with reinforced soles. Approved head protection helps when working under low branches and can deflect falling objects. A wide-brimmed hat, proper sunglasses, and comfortable clothing can provide protection from prolonged time in the sun. Wear sturdy gloves with a grip, hearing protection, and do not wear loose or torn clothing.
Fill the fuel tank before starting a job, while the engine is cold. If the engine has been running, shut off the engine and allow it to cool. Position yourself comfortably so that you can refuel without slipping and remove the fuel cap slowly, holding it at the semi-locked position until pressure is released. After filling, allow the nozzle to empty by keeping it in the filler opening for a few moments after shutting off fuel flow. Replace the fuel cap after checking to see that its venting is not clogged.
If you spill any fuel on equipment, wipe it up and allow any residue to dry before starting the engine. If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll. Quickly remove the blazing garment, or drop to the ground and roll slowly, or wrap yourself in a blanket.
Do's and don'ts of operating a power mower:
- Know the controls and how to stop the machine quickly.
- Inspect the mower before starting. Make certain that the blade is sharp and secure.
- Ensure that shields and other guards, such as the rear drag shield and discharge deflector, are in place and working properly.
- Keep hands away from the blades.
- Keep people away from the work area. Mowers can hurl objects in any direction.
- Clear the work area of rocks, bottles and debris that might be thrown by the blades.
- Watch for hidden hazards such as holes, roots, drain pipes and insect nests.
- Proceed slowly into tall, heavy grass to avoid choking the mower or stalling the motor.
- Set the mower at the highest cutting level when operating on rough ground.
- Ensure blade-stopping controls are effective. Adjust as necessary.
- Mow across slopes. Your feet are less likely to slide under the mower. Also the mower cannot roll back.
- Disconnect the spark plug wire before sharpening, replacing and cleaning.
- Do not reach under the machine.
- Do not touch hot motor parts.
- Do not spray cold water on a hot engine.
- Do not make wheel height adjustments while the motor is running.
- Do not leave blades rotating when crossing gravelled area.
- Do not leave a running mower unattended.
- Do not remove the grass catcher or unclog chute with the motor running.
- Do not mow when surfaces are too slippery for you or the mower.
Landscaping - Riding Lawn Mowers OSH Answers Fact Sheet, CCOHS
Groundskeepers Safety Guide, CCOHS
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has announced the winners of the annual It's Your Job! Youth Video Contest.
The video contest challenged high school students across the country to use their creativity to produce an original video that could be used in social media to illustrate to younger workers the importance of working safely on the job. Contestants and their schools had a chance to win cash prizes, provincial/territorial and national recognition, and national entrants were also eligible to win the Fan Favourite award.
Twenty-four entries were accepted for national consideration from eleven provincial and territorial contests. The videos entered into the national contest were judged by a panel of three judges: Steve Horvath, President and CEO, CCOHS; Shirley Hickman, Executive Director, Threads of Life; and Amber Kells, a workplace injury survivor.
The winning video from the national contest was shown at the national launch of North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week in Saskatoon. In addition, during NAOSH Week, the public were invited to vote online for their Fan Favourite among the 24 entries. Voting took place via CCOHS' Young Workers Zone website and Facebook page.
The winners and links to all of their videos are posted on the Young Workers Zone.
The winners of the 2015 It's Your Job! Youth Video Contest were:
First place: "Rewind"
Brycen Roy, Trenton High School
Second place: "Dangerous Game of Dress Up"
Dakota Breau, Sanford Collegiate
Third place: "Heat"
Brooke Fusick, Wood Street Center
Fan Favourite: "A Second Thought"
Joel Kereluke and Luke Halyk, Foam Lake Composite
Foam Lake, Saskatchewan
- The It's Your Job! Youth Video Contest was held from the fall of 2014 to April 2015.
- Winners of the national judging category received $2,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place, and each winning school received a matching prize.
- The winner of the Fan Favourite category received $1,000.
- The online Fan Favourite voting contest was held from May 2 to May 10, 2015 via CCOHS' Young Workers Zone and Facebook page.
- The Canadian public was invited to vote for their favourite video from among the 24 entries. In total, 51,792 votes were cast.
- Rewind - First place national winner
- Dangerous Game of Dress Up - Second place national winner
- Heat - Third place national winner
- A Second Thought - Fan Favourite winner
- It's Your Job! Youth Video Contest
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts feature encore presentations on summer job safety and vibration hazards.
Feature Podcast: Summer Job Safety
Young and new workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace injury or illness, with many of the injuries occurring in the first month on the job. The reasons vary, however employers, parents and workers each have a role to play to help young and new workers stay safe on the job. Listen and learn what you can do.
The podcast runs 3:37 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Podcast 2: Vibration Hazards in the Workplace
While the human body is built to be mobile, it was not meant to vibrate. In small doses, vibration is harmless. Unfortunately, mechanization has introduced significant vibration hazards to the workplace. Although injuries and illness from vibration are preventable, the effects of regular and frequent exposure to vibration can be disabling and permanent. This podcast discusses causes and symptoms of hand-arm and whole body vibrations, and what employers and employees can do to address the risks.
The podcast runs 6:14 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Workplace Health & Safety Matters
Workplace Health and Safety Matters is the blog of Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. In his latest blog post, Steve shares his adventures and personal insights about Nunavuts strategic, collaborative and opportunity-driven community.
Dont go hunting alone if you want to come back with something.
Those words were shared with me by an Inuit elder in Iqaluit during a casual conversation about relations between the community, mining industry and government up in Nunavut. For me it painted a vivid portrait of a perspective on the role of community, culture and the spirit of collaboration in balancing mutual goals and individual needs.
Their community involvement model is strategic, collaborative and opportunity-driven. Their sense of cooperation is broad and inclusive built on common purpose and communication between the partners and the whole community. A common understanding is sought before agreements are made that defines a systemic approach supported by tools, education and empowered by the Federal and Territorial governments. Consequently, the local community and resource companies have both learned to engage and adapt for shared success – an effective framework for CCOHS own collaboration efforts across jurisdictional and sectorial lines.
My time up in Nunavut was brief, but educational and perspective-altering. My conversations with people revealed their deep respect for the environment and its potential to provide for the future. They have understood this for generations, and now it extends to the resources below the earth. The community in Nunavut is resolute and united in a process that balances integrating economic considerations with Inuit values based on their sense of stewardship for, and belonging to, the land.
All in all, it was a reminder for me that it is only through collaboration and alignment of values that we will truly achieve collective success.
Read Steve's blog, Workplace Health and Safety Matters.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2015, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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