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June 17, 1999

Workers in logging industry most at risk for severe head injuries

TUMWATER - Workers in the logging industry are at the greatest risk of suffering traumatic head or brain injuries on the job, according to a new study by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

A number of the construction industries also had some of the highest rates, according to Work-Related Traumatic Head and Brain Injuries in Washington.

The study examined 852 claims for traumatic head or brain injuries that Washington workers filed from 1990 through 1997. Labor & Industries manages the state's workers' compensation system. The department provides coverage for about 163,000 employers and 1.5 million workers.

The study did not include claims for self-insured businesses, which employ about 900,000 workers in Washington.

Besides finding the riskiest industries and occupations for the injuries, the study also found:

  • Truck drivers accounted for nearly 12 percent of the injured workers the study examined.
  • An average of 106 claims for injuries in all occupations were filed each year at an average annual cost of $14 million.
  • The average cost of a claim was $135,000.
  • The injured worker missed an average of 400 days of work and spent 67 days in a hospital while recovering.
  • Falls accounted for 44 percent of the injuries.
  • Men suffered 90 percent of the injuries.
  • Six percent of the injuries resulted in death.

A traumatic head or brain injury, according to the study, was defined as a skull fracture, concussion or other brain injury that required a worker to be hospitalized within seven days of the incident.

The study also found that:

  • Logging-industry workers suffered the injuries mostly after being hit by wood items.
  • Roofers suffered the injuries primarily from falls.
  • Road-construction workers suffered the injuries mostly from falls and motor-vehicle collisions.
  • The most common time for the injuries was between 7 and 9 a.m.

The study recommends two key methods to prevent the head and brain injuries:

  • Reduce or eliminate the exposure to the hazard -- by designing the hazard out of the process or by using enough distance or guarding to prevent worker exposure.
  • Reduce the energy associated with the hazard -- by reducing fall heights, reducing vehicle speed, etc.

"When these options are not adequate to fully protect workers from the hazard, training, administrative controls and personal protective equipment should be used," the study says. "Traumatic head and brain injuries place a large burden on the injured worker, their family, employer and society."

A summary of the report is available on the Internet at /sharp in the publications section. A copy of the report can be ordered by calling 1-888-667-4277.

For more information about the report, contact Martin Cohen, 360-902-4957, or e-mail: cohm235@lni.wa.gov

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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