Hard hats for Construction Site Workers: Know the facts

By Winnie Maina | Tuesday Jul 10, 2018

A construction worker removes his hard hat because he is too warm. An engineer refuses to wear head protection, as she has “never been hurt before.” A utility worker thinks hard hats make him look silly and removes his every chance he gets.

All of these situations are dangerous. Head injuries can result in traumatic brain injuries and death. 

Helmets will not completely prevent the injuries but will minimize the impact of one.  Employers need to provide the employees with this protective gear and make it compulsory for the workers to wear them at the construction sites.  Surveys conducted show that the workers who sustained head injuries did not wear head protective gear. 

Workers should also be trained on the importance of wearing the helmets at the construction sites.  Some workers will refuse to wear the helmets siting that they are heavy and are an obstruction to them performing their duties not knowing the risk they face if an accident occurs when they are not wearing the helmets.  The training should also include the right type of helmets and the correct way to use them and also how to make sure they are in good condition.

The ILO Safety and Health in Construction Convention, 1988 gives the provisions below on personal protective equipment and protective clothing to ensure the protection of workers at site.

  1. Where adequate protection against risk of accident or injury to health, including exposure to adverse conditions, cannot be ensured by other means, suitable personal protective equipment and protective clothing, having regard to the type of work and risks, shall be provided and maintained by the employer, without cost to the workers, as may be prescribed by national laws or regulations.
  2. The employer shall provide the workers with the appropriate means to enable them to use the individual protective equipment, and shall ensure its proper use.
  3. Protective equipment and protective clothing shall comply with standards set by the competent authority taking into account as far as possible ergonomic principles.
  4. Workers shall be required to make proper use of and to take good care of the personal protective equipment and protective clothing provided for their use.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the United sates Department of Labour requires that hard hats should:

  • Resist penetration by objects
  • Absorb the shock from a blow to the head by an object
  • Be slow to burn
  • Be water-resistant

In addition OSHA recommends the following tips for caring for hard hats;

  • Clean and inspect hard hats daily. Hard hats with cracks, perforations or other deformities should be removed from service immediately.
  • Know that paints, paint thinners and certain types of cleaning agents can weaken a hard hat’s shell, as well as reduce its electrical resistance. Consult the hard hat’s manufacturer if you are unsure what products you can use.
  • Do not apply labels or insert holes into a hard hat – doing so can damage its protective capabilities.
  • Refrain from leaving protective headgear in direct sunlight, as sunlight and extreme heat can damage them.

The three industrial classes of hard hats, according to OSHA, are:

  • Class G - General Helmet: These hard hats provide protection against impact and object penetration. Their voltage protection is limited to 2,200 volts.
  • Class E - Electrical Helmet: Class E hard hats deliver the most protection against electrical hazards (up to 20,000 volts). Additionally, they protect against impact and penetration hazards from falling objects or objects flying through the air.
  • Class C - Conductive Helmet: For lightweight impact protection and more comfort, Class C hard hats are the way to go. However, OSHA points out that these offer no protection against electrical hazards.

Another type of head protection, known as a “bump cap,” is intended for workers in areas that have low head clearance. However, OSHA states that bump caps “are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI-approved.”

Source: Safety+Health

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