Product Focus: Head/Face protection

Trends in ... head/face protection

Keeping workers safe and comfortable

Head and face injuries can be as minor as a scratch on the cheek or a small bump on the head, or as devastating as a traumatic brain injury. No matter the severity, any head injury is one too many. According to the 2015 edition of the National Safety Council chartbook, “Injury Facts,” 65,320 head injuries involving days away from work occurred in 2012.

What’s new

Accessories that help keep workers safe and comfortable are trending in the head and face protection field, notes Stacey Simmons, product manager for industrial head and face protection products at Cynthiana, KY-based Bullard. “Specifically, integrated accessory systems that ensure workers are fully protected against changing hazards, included falling objects, flying sparks, chemicals, or excessive heat, are becoming more popular,” Simmons stated. “Some of these systems combine a hard hat with a visor, vinyl brow pad or neck shade protector.”

Gary Klee, product manager – above the neck, and Joseph I. Chrys, safety market manager for Latham, NY-based Protective Industrial Products Inc., also spoke of the emerging trend of head and face protection accessories. “With an increasing frequency, end users are purchasing PPE accessories for their head protection, which provides a more comfortable and efficient solution,” they stated in a joint email to Safety+Health. “These accessories include eye protection, hearing protection and face protection that can easily be attached to the hard hat.” Klee and Chrys also pointed to a recent improvement regarding wheel ratchet adjustment for head protection, calling it one of the “greatest benefits to the end user.”

Hard hats vs. bump caps

Knowing the difference between a hard hat and bump cap can be tricky, but Katie Mielcarek, marketing manager for Cleveland-based Gateway Safety Inc., hopes to clear things up. “OSHA says that when working in areas where there is potential for injury from falling objects, employers must provide head protection that meets ANSI’s Industrial Head Protection Standard: ANSI Z89.1-2009,” she stated, adding that employers need to understand how the standard relates to the type of PPE they provide their workers. Mielcarek noted that workers often believe that a bump cap is sufficient protection, but that bump caps and safety helmets are not equal forms of protection. “Bump caps are not required to meet any qualifications under ANSI Z89.1, and are therefore not proven to provide the same impact protection as a quality safety helmet,” she said. “For a helmet to be compliant with the ANSI Z89.1 standard, it must pass several tests, including force transmission, apex penetration and flammability tests.”

So when can workers wear bump caps for protection? Andy Olson, associate product director for St. Paul, MN-based Ergodyne, states that “in applications where the primary hazard is ‘worker-generated impact,’ hard hats can provide a level of protection that goes beyond what is needed for situations where the injury risk is confined to bumps, bruises, cuts, or scrapes from overhead hazards.” In these situations, Olson noted, workers may consider a bump cap because they are “lighter, cooler, more breathable and far more stylish than a traditional hard hat.” However, he said bump caps should never replace a hard hat when hard hats are required for a particular application.

Avoid mistakes

Simmons stated that a common worker error is improperly wearing hard hats backward. “Users should check the inside of their hard hat for the reverse donning symbol,” she said. “If it is present, then the suspension should be reversed so the sizing mechanism is in the back of the head at all times and the shell brim is facing backwards.” Simmons said doing so will ensure the hard hat will protect the worker as intended. Additionally, Simmons recommends that workers regularly inspect their hard hats for damage and wear.

Klee and Chrys noted that sometimes simpler is better. “If a product is difficult or confusing to use, it may not be worn at all,” they cautioned. “Ultimately, protection can only be effective when it’s being worn.”

Coming next month ...
Fall protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association