Wearing head protection is of grave importance in a variety of industries, and especially in places where work at height is executed. Traditional hard hats, however, pose a great problem when working at height. While these hats may provide protection from falling objects, they can fall off in the event of a fall. An employee without a helmet who falls can hit their head against the structure of which they fall and sustain severe injuries.
Where there is a risk of injury to the head, workers should be protected by their employers. The first step would be to minimize the risk. Falling objects, for example, can be prevented by installing toe boards on scaffolds. Still, there will be situations where the hazards cannot be eliminated. In that case workers should wear a safety helmet to protect them.
Safety helmets should resist penetration by falling objects and absorb the shock of a blow. Most helmets are compatible with an array of additional accessories, such as safety glasses and hearing protection. These should not compromise the safety of any of the equipment.
As each person’s head is different the protective headwear should be adjustable to ensure a proper fit. After all the safety gear should not bind off a person’s head or wobble because it’s too big.
Safety check and maintenance
Before use make sure that the helmet has no previous damage. Look for cracks, dents or other signs of wear. Helmets with cracks, deformations and/or perforations should be taken out of service and be replaced. If a safety helmet has suffered an impact, replace it! Even if the helmet shows no visible signs of damage.
To ensure that safety helmets are not compromised keep them away from chemicals that can damage the plastic outer shell. This means it is not advised to use (most) stickers on a helmet. Also be mindful of storing helmets in direct sunlight, as exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also damage or deform the shell.
Head protection for working at height
What helmet is most suitable depends on the situation. The traditional hard hat, for example, may not be the right safety helmet for those working at height. These safety helmets, often used on construction sites, can fall off a worker’s head in case of sudden movement (such as a slip, trip or fall). Should this happen when a worker falls then they can get serious head trauma. For example, a worker is executing work at height on a construction site. They are attached to an anchor point with a lifeline and full body harness. They come too close to the edge and fall off. Their equipment will arrest their fall, but they may swing into the structure, or hit their head in the plunge. A safety helmet, inspired by the helmets used for mountaineering or rope access work, with a chin strap will keep the protective gear firmly in place, protecting the worker even if they fall. Thus reducing the chance of a serious head injury.
Safety helmets are the new standard
Traditional construction hard hats are becoming less and less common for working at height. A couple of years ago some large general contractors started using safety helmets instead of hard hats. This has prompted subcontractors to also make the switch. The positive stories from one company, influence the other. And thus safety helmets emerge as the standard to ensure safety and prevent costly injuries.
Safety helmets protect people from serious, sometimes permanent, life-changing injuries and death. Employers should provide workers with proper head protection, but workers should wear it as well. We’ve put together a downloadable poster that you can hang up to encourage workers to wear their safety helmet.