Study Identifies Jobs with Highest Rates of Traumatic Brain Injuries

For most of us, injuries in the workplace are little more serious than paper cuts or accidents with the stapler.  However, a new study has compiled a list of considerably more dangerous jobs – those that come with the highest risk of traumatic brain injuries.Every year, an estimated 1.7 million people suffer from head injuries or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

For those who survive, TBI can disrupt brain function in incredibly detrimental ways.  Long-term impact can include changes in cognition, language and emotion, including irritability, impulsiveness and violence.

Until now, work-related TBIs have not been well documented.  To gather information on the issue, researchers compiled data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injury as well as numbers from the Current Population Survey.

They found that the leading causes of fatal TBI were motor vehicle (31%), falls (29%), assaults and violent acts (20%) and contact with objects or equipment (18%).

The most hazardous occupations were construction, transportation, and agriculture/forestry/fishing industries, which together accounted for nearly half of all TBI fatalities.

While the construction industry had the highest number of TBIs, the logging industry had the highest TBI fatality rate (29.7 deaths per 100,000 people a year).

Men suffered fatality rates 15 times higher than women, and workers 65 and over had the highest TBI fatality rates of all workers.

“While TBI is an important topic for public health researchers, there has been a lack of attention paid to the investigation of brain injuries occurring in the workplace,” said lead investigator Hope Tiesman, PhD. “With limited resources available for occupational safety and health programs, the identification and targeting of high-risk populations, including older workers, should be a priority for industry.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  It used data from 2003 to 2008.