Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of any safety program. Head injuries can cause serious injuries or even death, with over 84,000 head injuries in 2014 alone. Wearing the proper head protection is an important step in preventing head injuries and can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards as well as electrical shock and burns.
Take a look at the photo of the two men working below.
Do you find anything wrong with this picture?
The man on the left is wearing a baseball cap under his hardhat which may make the hardhat not work as designed and the man on the right is clearly not wearing the proper head protection. The bucket on his head does not give him the adequate protection he needs and also limits his peripheral vision and range of movement. The bucket is a poor alternative to the proper head protection and this employee should be have the proper equipment he needs to avoid injuries.
According to OSHA, proper head protection or headgear must meet ANSI Standard Z89.1-1986 and hard hats must have a hard outer shell and a shock-absorbing lining. The lining should incorporate a headband and straps that suspend the shell from 1 to 1 ¼ inches away from the head, which provides shock absorption during impact and ventilation during normal wear.
In general, protective helmets or hard hats should do the following:
- Resist penetration by objects
- Absorb the shock of a blow
- Be water-resistant and slow burning
- Have clear instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of suspension and headband
There are many types of hard hats available today and when selecting the proper headgear, employers should ensure employees wear the proper equipment that protects against potential workplace hazards. These hazards include objects that might fall from above, exposed pipes or beams that could be bumped into, head contact with electrical hazards and many others. The best way to ensure proper protection is to conduct a comprehensive hazard analysis to determine the correct type of headgear or hard hat which is broken into three industrial classes:
- Class A hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts)
- Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts) and provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying/falling objects
- Class C hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection against electrical hazards
Some other factors to consider when selecting the proper headgear include the size of the equipment and how to properly clean and inspect the equipment. Head protection that is either too large or too small is inappropriate for use, even if it meets all of the requirements. Protective headgear must appropriately fit each individual and should allow sufficient clearance between the shell and suspension system for ventilation. The headgear should not bind, slip, fall off or irritate the skin. Improper fit can result in injury and is a leading cause of employees removing protective headgear while at work.
Periodic cleaning and inspection will help to extend the life of your headgear. Daily inspections of the hard hat shell, suspension system and other accessories is essential. You should look for holes, cracks, tears or other damage that might compromise the protective value of the hat and below are some other tips for proper maintenance and care.
- Paints, paint thinners and some cleaning agents can weaken the shells of hard hats and may eliminate electrical resistance
- Never drill holes, paint or apply labels to protective headgear as this may reduce the integrity of the equipment
- Do not store protective headgear in direct sunlight, such as on the rear window shelf of a car, since sunlight and extreme heat can damage them
If you notice any of the following defects, you should remove the hard hat from service.
- Perforation, cracking or deformity of the brim or shell
- Indication of exposure to brim or shell to heat, chemicals or ultraviolet light
- Always replace a hard hat if it sustains an impact, even if damage is not noticeable
Head injuries are serious and can be extremely costly to both employees and employers. Ensuring your employees have the proper head protection and training is an important step you can take to reduce injuries in your workplace. Arbill offers high-quality protective headgear and can perform a comprehensive hazard analysis to determine any gaps in your safety program.
Schedule a consultation with one of our safety experts today to learn more ways to ensure the safety of your employees.
Have a Safe Day!