On Research

The "On Research" blog has been discontinued, but Safety+Health now publishes Q&As with Journal of Safety Research contributors under that name.

Preventing TBI among young workers

July 30, 2013

We usually hear about traumatic brain injuries occurring on the football field or the battlefield, but athletes and soldiers aren’t the only ones whose jobs may put them at risk for TBI.

A new study published in the Journal of Safety Research examines the significant financial and health-related costs associated with TBIs among young workers in the state of Washington. Using data from the Washington Trauma Registry and workers’ compensation claims, researchers identified 273 work-related TBI cases involving workers 16-24 years old between 1998 and 2008.

“It was surprising that young workers – some as young as age 16 – experience these injuries while working,” lead researcher Janessa Graves, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle, told me.

About one-third of the cases were not linked to a workers’ comp claim. Among those that were, the median cost for medical treatment was $16,426 when TBI was the only injury, and $41,167 for cases in which TBI was accompanied by other trauma. Falls were the primary cause of injury, followed by motor vehicle traffic and struck by/against object.

The financial expense, not to mention the potential impact on a young (and still developing) brain underscores the need for employers to provide proper instruction and protection for young workers.

“If we can prevent [TBIs] we can ensure that young people keep gaining experience and stay safe at the same time,” Graves said. “I think it’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure young workers are performing duties that are appropriate for their age.”

Along with having mechanisms in place to prevent injury, she suggested that employers teach workers what to do when an injury – even a minor one – occurs.

Her study is an important reminder at the time of year when many young people are working summer jobs.

The opinions expressed in "Research Spotlight" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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