Head and Face Protection

Trends in ... head and face protection

‘Proper understanding of the protections and certifications’ necessary

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought faceshields and masks into the general public’s consciousness. But to safety professionals and workers in many industries, face protection is hardly new.

Safety+Health talked with some experts in the field of head and face protection to hear what issues their customers are coming to them about, innovations and what’s coming up.

The basics

First, when it comes to head and face protection, “both employers and workers need to have a proper understanding of the protections and certifications for head and face protection products to ensure these match with the applications they are being used for,” said Justin Morris, product specialist for industrial head and face protection at Bullard, headquartered in Cynthiana, KY.

Then, workers “need to wear their [personal protective equipment] exactly as the manufacturer has specified to help prevent injuries.”

Next comes visibility. “There has been recent awareness around the importance of visible head protection,” said Michel Goulet, national sales manager for West Valley City, UT-based Petzl. “Manufacturers are producing more fluorescent colors and reflective sticker options. Visibility on the jobsite is important when working around moving machinery, street traffic or operating heavy equipment.” 

Finally, “With more than half of fatal work-related traumatic injuries being a result of falls, workers are becoming more aware of the dangers of slips, trips and falls,” said Zach Richman, senior product manager for Brookfield, WI-based Milwaukee Tool. “Helmets not only protect the top of the head (like a traditional hard hat), but they also protect from side impacts.”

The specifics

What’s the difference between Type I and Type II helmets? Type I helmets are tested for top protection, Goulet said, while Type II are tested for both top and lateral impact protection.

“Type II helmets are becoming more popular in certain high-risk environments where protection against severe side impacts from swinging loads or falling objects are possible,” he said.

Added Morris: “We have often heard from customers that they like the newer climbing style helmets because they offer side impact protection. However, these helmets are typically Type I and do not pass ANSI standards for side impact protection (Type II). Although it may seem like it, foam in a hard hat does not necessarily mean it provides side impact protection, and you must look for Type II on the label to be sure.”

The future

As with many things these days, technology is working its way into head and face protection.

“Smart PPE is … being looked at in a variety of ways,” Morris said. “Having the ability to monitor employees’ health, including heart rate and temperature, are advancements that can protect workers. Additionally, the integration of [augmented reality] and [virtual reality] technology into eye and face protection is something we are expecting to see in the future to assist in the protection and efficiency of the workforce.”

As for Richman, he said Milwaukee Tool is “seeing more and more users buying hard hats and helmets with integrated faceshields. This not only assists with [physical] distancing to prevent against COVID-19, but faceshields also provide better coverage of the face against debris.

“We’re also seeing an increase in attention to [ultraviolet] protection, especially with hard hats. Users are starting to look for more options that provide sun visors or sunshades, and/or moisture-wicking features.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • First aid/emergency response/AEDs

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