Head injuries on the job deserve attention

California law requires employers to provide a program for preventing illness and injury in the workplace. Employers must conduct safety inspections, correct safety violations and provide training. Employees should participate in the worker training component of employers' safety programs and should report to a state agency, Cal/OSHA, if employers do not act to correct unsafe conditions.

Even with adequate safety precautions, workers can become ill or hurt on the job, and California's workers' compensation program then steps in to provide medical and wage benefits. Head injuries resulting in concussions are one type of injury that can result in prolonged or permanent worker disability.

Concussion dangers highlighted

Recently, concussions have received considerable media attention as the plight of professional football players has hit the news. A scientific study published in December 2012 demonstrated a link between repeated head injuries and degenerative brain disease.

It is not necessary that a person be struck violently on the head to become a victim of this disease process. The study analyzed brain samples from 85 deceased people who received more than one mild head injury, including a number of professional football players. Eight out of 10 of the people whose brains were studied had a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This degenerative condition's effects may include depression, memory loss and even dementia.

Besides the football pros, others in the study who tested positive for the brain disorder included boxers, hockey players and high school and college football players.

Head injury on the job

While most California workers certainly aren't hit by football tackles on the job, sustaining a head injury is certainly possible in many workplaces. Any incident in which the worker's head is rapidly accelerated and then stops, or the head spins around quickly, can cause a concussion. Falls and vehicle accidents are some workplace events that can result in dangerous head injuries.

A person who has had one concussion is four times more vulnerable to having a second concussion. The force that is required to cause a concussion diminishes with repeated injuries, and the recovery time increases.

When a worker sustains any head injury in the workplace, it should be immediately reported to a supervisor. Symptoms of a concussion might not be immediately apparent, and when they develop over time, the worker should certainly file a report as soon as it is evident that something is wrong. As shown in the recent study, even mild head injuries can have a cumulative effect.

Workers' compensation

Reporting a head injury is the first step in making a claim for workers' compensation benefits. The workers' compensation program takes care of medical treatment expenses and may provide wage replacement if an employee is unable to return to work for some time after a head injury.

To protect a workers' right to workers' compensation benefits, it is necessary to allow the employer to investigate the injury thoroughly. Filing a report within 30 days of an injury is one step that is required in order for the injured employee to receive benefits.

If an injured worker has any questions or concerns about filing for workers' compensation benefits, it is important to find a qualified person to address the issues and provide advocacy. An experienced attorney is an excellent resource who will act to vigorously defend the worker's rights throughout the workers' compensation process.