From the desk of Matthew McCord, M.S., CRC, Consultant – Mobility Team
Whether it feels like you are spinning or the world around you is moving, vertigo can certainly be disorienting to experience. This sensation can be caused by many different medical conditions, from a trauma to the head to sharp changes in blood pressure. However, the accommodations that may be helpful are consistent across these various conditions. They fall, no pun intended, into two main groups: accommodations to help prevent someone from falling and accommodations to minimize harm when someone falls. Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case a pound of harm minimization, let’s first review accommodations to help prevent someone from falling.
Preventing a fall in the workplace will often largely depend upon what sort of work environment the individual works in. For instance, in an office environment, chairs with rolling casters can lead to falls when the symptoms of vertigo set in should the individual reflexively grasp onto a chair to stabilize themselves. For this situation, reviewing office chairs with brakes and locking casters may be helpful to ensure that the chair will not roll away from the individual in such a situation. Climbing a ladder can also be a cause of concern for someone with vertigo. In this environment, it may be helpful to allow the individual to climb using another piece of equipment, like a rolling safety ladder or an aerial lift. Many of these forms of accommodation may be helpful even for people without a disability in situations where dizziness or loss of balance may be a safety concern.
There is always a risk of someone falling while at work, even when they do not have a disability. However, when someone has a condition that causes vertigo, that risk will be heightened. Because of this, it may be helpful to review some accommodations to minimize potential harm should an individual with vertigo fall while at work. The first option that most people look to is padded edging. This soft padding can cover things like the corners of desks or tables to help protect the individual should they fall and hit those areas. Other options that may be appropriate depending upon the job the individual performs are fall alert devices or two-way radios. These options can be particularly helpful for positions that require the individual to work during times where the number of staff on-site is low, or if the individual needs to survey outdoor areas where other workers are unlikely to happen upon them should they fall and injure themselves.
If you would like to review additional resources pertaining to accommodations for vertigo, please feel free to review the following JAN webpages: