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Trends in ... head/face protection

October 1, 2012

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Innovations and information

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

Safety companies in the head and face protection industry continually try to stay on top by producing new, safer products. “Over the last several years, the market for eye and face protection has become increasingly competitive, attracting a number of new suppliers,” said J.P. Sankpill, president and CEO of Lenexa, KS-based U.S. Safety/Parmelee Industries Inc.

New innovations

One new type of head/face protection technology focuses on the product’s shape. “Recently, faceshield visors have taken on new shapes (including aspheric and toric), promising to provide better protection to the extremities, while reducing size and weight,” said Kevin Beckerdite, product manager for Cranston, RI-based Fibre-Metal Face Shields, Honeywell Safety Products. He added that this type of design makes it easier for a worker to move his or her head from side to side, allowing for more viewing space.

Katie Mielcarek, director of marketing for Gateway Safety Inc. in Cleveland, also noted this trend. “Traditional-style faceshields are rectangular in shape, which can result in an awkward fit and gaps when a worker shifts his or her head down to view small parts,” she said. “These openings allow debris to fly up underneath the visor, which can cause serious injury.” To help avoid this, she recommended contoured-shaped visors that provide a better fit.

Safety experts also point out the diversity of hard hats on the market today. “Hard hats are now available in a wide range of shell materials and suspension types,” said Katie Twist-Rowlinson, product manager for welding helmets and hard hats at Smithfield, RI-based Honeywell Safety Products. “It’s important to choose a shell whose material will withstand the environment that you’re working in, such as high-heat applications, as well as meet the dielectric rating required to protect from any potential electrical hazards in the work environment.”

In an email interview with Safety+Health, Susan Pingree, product line manager, eye/face protection, and Mackenzie Peters, product line manager, head/hearing protection for MSA, located in Cranberry Township, PA, focused on the importance of knowing exactly what kind of hard hat is needed for a specific task. “Having a selection of hard hats in varied sizes improves safety,” they said. “A helmet that fits an individual worker’s head proportionately provides much better protection, not to mention an added level of comfort for the wearer.”

Dangers of misuse

Mielcarek recognizes that challenges exist regarding worker compliance. “When it comes to wearing a safety product for hours on end, getting worker buy-in can be a challenge,” she said. Mielcarek recommended looking into features that provide extra comfort, such as lightweight and adjustable systems. “By considering modern face protection solutions that fit workers securely and more comfortably, employers will find the employee compliance battle just a little easier to fight,” she said.

Pingree and Peters noted that using the wrong head/face protection can have devastating consequences. They strongly urge both employers and employees to research personal protective equipment and then continually inspect it for damage. “It is also important to grasp that all hard hats are NOT created equal – some offer top impact and other lateral,” they said. “Some protect during high-heat applications, while others provide high visibility in low-light applications. It is of the utmost importance that the wearer identifies their individualized needs prior to choosing their PPE.”

A commonly repeated idea by safety experts is that workers should seek help if they are unsure of their equipment. “Be sure to work with your site’s safety supervisor to understand the hazards present in your job environment and to select the proper hard hat for that environment,” Twist-Rowlinson said. Pingree and Peters recommend consulting with a safety officer for the best information, or even the manufacturer. Perhaps Sankpill sums it up best in regard to worker safety: “Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month ... Plant safety and Safety tools and knives

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