June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada!
We use our brains for every single thing we do – whether those actions are conscious and voluntary – such as making a cup of coffee, or unconscious and involuntary – such as breathing, our brains are constantly working to help us survive and thrive. Your brain is the most powerful tool you possess, but it is not invincible and therefore it is necessary to take every precaution to keep your brain safe in everything you do. June is a month in the year that is dedicating to spreading awareness about brain injuries – from the mild to the severe – and to educate individuals about how they can decrease their risk of acquiring a brain injury. Click here for information and resources on how you can get involved in spreading brain injury awareness.
The Facts About Brain Injuries
Studies show that more than one million Canadians are living with a brain injury of some degree, and that number increases daily, with the number of serious brain injuries in Canada sitting at around 165,000 per year. This number does not include concussions or unreported cases (Brain Injury Canada, 2018). An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is defined as an injury to the brain which is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative (2018). Acquired Brain Injuries are often viewed as a silent epidemic, as many people are unaware of how common, life-threatening and debilitating these injuries are. Here are some more facts you may not have known about Brain Injuries in Canada:
- Brain Injury is the number one killer and disabler of people under the age of 44
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) represent approximately one-third of all injury-related deaths
- Brain Injury risk is two times greater in males than females
- 50% of all acquired brain injuries come from falls or motor vehicle accidents
- Brain Injuries can impair cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural functioning
- Concussions are considered a mild type of brain injury – without proper attention, the damage to your brain from a concussion can worsen and become permanent damage with long-term consequences
- Concussions are the most common form of brain injury acquired in the workplace (2018)
Employee Prevention Strategies
There is no cure for Brain Injuries – there are only rehabilitation and recovery strategies. Once an individual sustains a brain injury, it never fully goes away – the individual may adjust to their new living situation and appear to be “back to normal”, however that injury is still there and puts the individual at further risk for more damage (Adamovica, 2018). At Gowan Consulting, we know that prevention is key for minimizing risks – not just for a safe and healthy workplace, but also in life. Here are a few every day tips to prevent risk, followed by workplace prevention strategies:
- Always be wary of your surroundings – if you are in a new environment, always be aware of potential risk
- If the activity calls for it – wear a helmet! Outside of falls and motor vehicle accidents, physical activities are a leading cause of brain injuries – this includes bicycling, hockey, football and many more
- If you have sustained a concussion – take it easy! Individuals who have suffered a concussion are at greater risk for a more serious acquired brain injury. Attempting to go back to work or physical activity before you have recovered from a concussion can cause further damage resulting in long-term negative effects
- Follow the safety precautions in place every where you go – for example, if you are visiting a conservation area that advises against going near the edge of an unstable cliff
- In the workplace – know your safety plan – if you are required to wear protective equipment, make sure you are properly equipped and know the risks associated with your job
- Use the proper equipment for all tasks in the workplace – this includes using proper stepping stools and ladders as opposed to chairs
- Know your rights – if you feel unsafe doing a particular job, unless it is stated otherwise in a job contract, you have the right to refuse work (2018)
What Employers Need to Know
All workplace injuries are preventable, and as an employer you need to be informed of safety precautions and ensure your employees are following protocols in place for safety reasons. The four most common workplace injuries include: electrocutions, falls, being caught in or between something, and getting hit by an object, all of which can result in a brain injury (Results You Deserve, 2017). The best way to prevent head injuries in the workplace involve identifying potential hazards and mitigating exposure, however if an employee receives injury to their head in your workplace, you can follow the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to determine the severity of the injury (2017). The scale involves three main criteria: verbal response, eye opening and motor response (2017):
- 1 = none (generally means they are unconscious)
- 2 = sounds but no words (groaning, yelling)
- 3 = incoherent words (saying words but not forming sentences, making no sense)
- 4 = confused conversation (making sentences that make no sense, not on topic)
- 5 = normal
- 1 = eyes not open (unconscious)
- 2 = in response to acute pain (only open eyes when touched, pinched, etc.)
- 3 = in response to the sound of a voice (open eyes to acknowledge being spoken to)
- 4 = spontaneous (blinking as normal)
- 1 = none (unconscious)
- 2 = rigid posture with arms and legs straight, head and neck arched back (conscious and in pain)
- 3 = abnormal posture with arms bent toward chest, fists clenched (conscious, trying to relieve pain)
- 4 = whole body pulls away from pain (attempt to get away from physical contact)
- 5 = moves affected extremities away from pain (normal response)
- 6 = normal (regular posture, no pain)
The numbers shown above are used to tally up a score to determine severity of injury. The lowest a person can score is a 3, which means they are unconscious and you should call an ambulance immediately (2017). A score of 13-15 is considered a minor bump on the head – the person is most likely okay and may need some extra monitoring, a score of 9-12 is considered a moderate injury, and anything below 9 is considered severe (2017). In any case, an individual who has a head injury at work should report it immediately, document the incident and seek medical attention if necessary. As an employer, it is crucial you look out for the following warning signs of a concussion if an employee gets a head injury at work:
- Cuts or abrasions
- Memory loss
If your employee has any of the above symptoms following a hit to the head, seek professional medical help immediately.
We are striving to be the leading providers of sustainable health and disability management in the workplace. We genuinely care and want your business to be healthy and safe, resulting in more productive employees. Our team of Ergonomic Specialists can perform a comprehensive assessment of the work, workplace and worker to determine work-related risks. The resulting report will help an employer know how risky conditions are caused and how they can be prevented.
Not all brain injuries are fatal or completely debilitating, and many individuals with acquired brain injuries continue to work following their injury. We have a team of highly trained Occupational Therapists who can help individuals who have acquired brain injuries in the workplace. Whether it’s a matter of an accommodation, return-to-work, or a functional cognitive assessment, our team works in collaboration with employers to ensure all employees are set up for success and maximum productivity.
If you would like further information on our services, please contact us!
We would love to work together for your healthy business!
Adamovica, Mila. (2018, January 26). Preventing Occupational Head Injuries. Retrieved from https://www.pksafety.com/blog/preventing-occupational-head-injuries/
Brain Injury Canada. 2018. Brain Injury Info. Retrieved from https://www.braininjurycanada.ca/acquired-brain-injury/
Results You Deserve. (2017, May 20). Use Your Head: Workplace Safety to Prevent Head Injuries. Retrieved from https://resultsyoudeserve.com/blog/use-head-workplace-safety-prevent-head-injuries/
Brain Image retrieved from google.ca/images/brain
Head Protection Image retrieved from google.ca/images/headprotection