What to do With a Head
Injury at Work

24% of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are work related injuries (Colantonio et al., 2016), yet concussions in the workplace are often overlooked. Concussions in the workplace are most commonly caused by falls, getting struck in the head by falling objects, or motor vehicle accidents.
Compared to other work related injuries, concussions are very complex and can result in time lost from work. That’s why it’s critical for injured workers to get immediate care from healthcare providers who are specially trained in diagnosing and treating concussions from workplace injuries.

Head Injury At Work LP Illustration

What is workers compensation?

Workers compensation, commonly known as workers comp, is a type of insurance held by an employer that provides monetary support to employees with work related injuries for medical expenses and lost wages. Find healthcare providers who specialize in workers compensation cases.

What are the most common causes of work-related injuries?

The 3 most common causes of work-related injuries are:

  1. Overexertion
  2. Falls, trips, and slips
  3. Contact with objects and equipment

These three types of injuries account for more than 84% of non-fatal, work related injuries resulting in time lost from work.
The 3 most common causes of concussions in the workplace are:

  1. Falls, trips, slips
  2. Being struck in the head with an object
  3. Motor vehicle accidents

These injuries may be caused by tripping on clutter, slipping on a wet surface, falling from an elevated surface, being struck by falling objects, etc.

For Employers

For Employees

For Healthcare Providers

For Employers

If an employee gets a head injury at work, it’s important to get them immediate concussion treatment and work with them to file a workers compensation claim. Refer to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for specific standards you must follow to ensure workers’ safety.

What to do if an employee gets a head injury at work

  • 1. Be Prepared. Have a protocol in place for when one of your employees gets a head injury at work.

  • 2. Respond Immediately. If an employee gets a head injury at work, refer them for specialized concussion treatment. Refer your employee to a healthcare provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating a concussion sustained in the workplace here under Workers Comp category.

  • 3. Create a Work Injury Report. Keep a written record of the incident including equipment, pictures, and witness testimony.

  • 4. Provide Workers Compensation Forms. If an employee gets a head injury at work, help them file a workers compensation claim with the company’s insurance provider.

  • 5. Be Patient. Once an employee is cleared to return to work by a qualified healthcare provider, they may require some concussion accommodations such as reduced hours or avoiding certain tasks.

How can work related injuries be prevented?

No matter how much you prepare, accidents can still happen. But taking these precautions can help prevent work related injuries and protect your employees:

  • Have a protocol in place for concussions in the workplace
  • Ensure employees are physically fit to perform a task before assigning it to them
  • Avoid employee fatigue by having adequate staffing levels
  • Have ongoing concussion safety training
  • Keep the workplace tidy and free of tripping hazards
  • Erect guardrails and install safety nets
  • Provide adequate training and ensure the employee understands the task
  • Mandate inspections
  • Encourage employees to report hazards

How can employers help facilitate successful return to work for their employees?

  • Provide concussion baseline testing to all employees as part of onboarding.
  • Have a process for physician referrals after an employee sustains a head injury.
  • Have a written company policy for return to work.
  • Implement the accommodations suggested by the employee’s healthcare provider.
  • Be patient if employees’ quality of work is decreased upon their initial return to work.

For Employees

What should I do if I’m injured at work?

  • 1. NOTIFY your supervisor of the injury immediately.

  • 2. COMPLETE any workers compensation forms.

  • 3. SEEK medical treatment from a healthcare provider trained in return to work after a concussion. Find workers compensation doctors here under Workers Comp category.

  • 4. RETURN to work only when your healthcare provider clears you to do so.

When can I return to work after a concussion?

You should not go back to work until you’ve been cleared by your healthcare provider to do so. Your healthcare provider will then create a tailored return to work treatment plan focused on getting you back to your work-specific activities. While concussion recovery is different for everyone, most people are able to return to work in 1-2 weeks after their concussion. If symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks, you may require further concussion evaluation and treatment.
Once your healthcare provider clears you to return to work, they will provide suggested work restrictions and accommodations that may include reduced hours and avoiding certain tasks. Since you will likely still be experiencing concussion symptoms, it’s important to listen to your body and not overexert yourself. Doing the following can help you manage your symptoms when returning to work:

  • Take frequent rest breaks
  • Establish a daily routine
  • Allow yourself extra time to complete tasks
  • Do tasks that require more energy in the morning, or whenever you feel your best
  • Try to get a good night’s rest
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are struggling to manage your concussion symptoms at work, you may need ongoing intervention from a trained healthcare provider.

For Healthcare Providers

When should a patient return to work after a concussion?

  • 1. Initial physical and cognitive rest

  • 2. Talk to patients about the benefit of returning to work

  • 3. Talk to patients about their workplace environment

  • 4. Return to work part time with appropriate accommodations

  • 5. Progress as appropriate

  • 6. Return to work full-time without accommodations

What’s the difference between Return to Work and Return to Workplace Environment?

Return to Workplace Environment refers to the environmental factors of a patient’s job. This includes lighting, noise, meetings, etc. On the other hand, Return to Work refers to the cognitive and physical activity required by a patient’s job. This includes operating machinery, doing computer work, etc. These two processes should be treated as separate entities when returning a patient to their normal activities.

What are the predictors for successful return to work?

There are a few factors that affect how successfully a patient will return to work:

  • Educational level
  • Extracranial injuries
  • Gender
  • Workplace specific factors
  • Acute Concussion Evaluation (ACE) domains

What is vocational rehab?

As a healthcare provider, your job is to identify the patients’ deficits and create a vocational rehab plan. Vocational rehab refers to the process of returning individuals with a health problem to their workplace environment. Depending on the patients’ deficits, the vocational rehab plan after a concussion may include balance training, vision therapy, vestibular therapy, etc.

What workplace accommodations should be set after a concussion?

Accommodations will depend on the patients’ job duties as well as their level of symptoms. Formal work accommodations may include:

  • Modified job duties
  • Modified work hours
  • Change in position
  • Lessen commute / work remotely
  • Time-off flexibility for medical appointments
  • Allowance for breaks
  • Environmental accommodations

How can ImPACT neurocognitive testing be used to support return to work decisions?

Healthcare providers can use ImPACT post-injury testing to get a snapshot of the patient’s neurocognitive status after a head injury. The clinical report provides objective data that can help determine treatment pathways, justify accommodations to employers, shield from liability, and monitor recovery.

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