Trends in ... head and face protection
A construction worker is on the ground floor of a house being built, hanging drywall. Above him, another worker pounds away on the roof. Without warning, the at-height worker unintentionally drops a tool he was using, which hits the ground-floor worker in the head on its way down. Fortunately, the worker who was struck is wearing an appropriate hard hat as directed by the manufacturer – which is not as common as it should be.
“Just because you’re wearing head protection doesn’t mean you’re protected,” said Jeremiah Wangsgard, technical information manager for West Valley City, UT-based Petzl. “Many of the recorded helmet misuses are due to an improper fit and a lack of product education. It’s necessary to wear a helmet that’s appropriate for the job at hand because one type of helmet might not be suitable for all jobsites. For instance, a Type 1 Class C helmet is rated for top impact and offers no dielectric protection. However, if the work was then to transfer to a high-voltage jobsite, that helmet is no longer the appropriate [personal protective equipment] because it is not rated to Class E.”
Stacey Simmons, product manager for industrial head and face protection products at Cynthiana, KY-based Bullard, agrees. “Workers need to be aware of the specific work function of their head or face protection products to be sure they meet their work requirements and protect against specific hazards,” Simmons said.
In the ongoing effort to keep workers safe, “helmets are constantly being updated to incorporate additional features and benefits,” Wangsgard said. “Many of these may be unnoticeable to the average worker – lighter-weight construction and materials, and more comfortable, low-profile designs – but will result in a more user-friendly product.” He added, “Helmets can now adapt to fit an array of protection and lighting needs from ear and eye protection to sun skirts and radios.”
Simmons said that listening to what the end users are telling them is top priority for manufacturers when designing products. “A recent example of this is a new hard hat design that offers workers a removable and replaceable visor to help increase their peripheral vision and avoid workplace hazards overhead,” she said.
According to Mark Stanley, president of Stanco Safety Products in Atlanta, TX, “Newer technologies make compliance much easier, and workers are not inclined to take risks because of discomfort or lack of optical clarity. Vision is optimized and the FR fabrics are more breathable. Misuse of outdated technology can be eliminated with an equipment upgrade.”
Simmons spoke of wearables: “Wearable technologies such as RFID and biometrics are on the horizon in the safety market,” she said. “These hands-free wearables can monitor vitals along with exposure limits to harmful elements/chemicals to help measure a worker’s proximity to danger zones.”