How to Manage Concussions in the Industrial Setting
by: Shelby Pocius MS, LAT, ATC, CEAS III, ITAT, PES, NASE-CSS
Concussions that occur in the industrial setting are like those that happen in athletics. Athletic trainers are equipped to safely handle and manage those cases until they can resume normal activity as we are in the athletic world. Concussions in the workplace occur from incidences like slipping on the wet floor or something falling from shelving and hitting an employee in the head.
Unfortunately, unlike traditional athletic training settings, there typically is not any baseline concussion testing completed. Industrial athletic trainers typically do not witness the event, it is reported to them either as an occupational injury or nonoccupational injury. Depending on where the employee was injured dictates who is responsible for the return-to-work decisions.
If it is a workplace or occupational injury, it is a recordable event, and the employee is treated on worker’s compensation. Once a physician has cleared the employee, the athletic trainer would ensure a safe return to work.
If the injury happened at home and is a nonoccupational injury, the athletic trainer could oversee everything. Industrial athletic trainers provide a lot of education to employees about a wide variety of topics, stretching, and concussions so that when injuries occur, they are quickly reported.
In the return-to-work process employees must listen to their body and must slowly increase intensity over time. In the workplace, we have the employee work for a period followed by a specific break period. The period that the employee is working increases over a few days.
During this time, the athletic trainer is communicating daily with the employee, their supervisor, and the site safety manager. Everyone must be on the same page, to ensure a proper and safe return-to-work is completed.
The goal is for the employee to build back up to working their standard shift with standard breaks. As an employee progresses back to full duty, the athletic trainer will continue to monitor any special considerations there may be in the employee’s position.
For instance, anyone who works in sanitation is constantly in odd positions under, between, over equipment. There are also many times where these employees are not properly balanced on two feet during their shift. Or a driver who must unload a truck full of material outside and then bring the material inside for the customer. If an employee is describing dizziness, they may not be safe to return to their full sanitation or driving position.
In these situations, it is vital that the industrial athletic trainer work with site leadership to create alternative jobs that the returning employee can do so they can continue to work while continuing to heal from their injury such as being responsible for moving empty boxes or completing computer inventories.
Ensuring that a safe, proper return to work protocol is completed is important. Every concussion affects everyone differently and it is vital that we ensure an employee has completely healed from the injury. Concussions happen and athletic trainers, regardless of the setting they are in, are equipped to handle safe returns.
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