Head Protection

Trends in ... head protection

Protecting workers’ heads from hazards is a serious responsibility. Example: NIOSH data shows that, from 2003 to 2010, a quarter of all work-related deaths in the construction industry were caused by a traumatic brain injury. Workers in many other industries are at risk for head injuries, too.

What can safety professionals do?

Different levels of protection

It’s important to understand the differences between the types and classes of head protection. Zach Richman, group product manager of personal protective equipment for Milwaukee Tool, explained:

“Head protection classification is referred to by a ‘type’ and a ‘class.’ ANSI Type 1 reduces the force of impact resulting from a blow only to the top of the head. ANSI Type 2 reduces the force of lateral impact resulting from a blow from the side or to the top of the head. The ‘class’ refers to the various levels of protection from electricity being that Class E (electrical) is proof-tested for 20,000 volts, Class G (general) is tested for 2,200 volts and Class C (conductive) does not offer electrical protection.”

Stephanie Garner, product manager at Radians, added: “Know the standards! It’s very easy for customers to cite a standard or requirement, but helping them understand the ‘why’ is something that’s often overlooked.”

Joe Brandel, business development manager for North America, Industrial Safety Market, for Mips, said that an understanding of concussions is needed as well. “Many serious injuries and even fatalities could potentially have been prevented if workers were wearing the proper head protection. Employers need to provide the proper head protection for each situation, based on risk factors, and workers need to understand how to wear and use them correctly. This includes a deeper understanding of the common causes of concussions, such as rotational motion, and the role that proper head protection plays in workplace safety.”

A new way of looking at head protection

Discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion have increased in recent years. They apply to head protection, too, said Tim Gallant, product director for Ergodyne. “The conversation around DEI has significantly evolved in the workplace, and that’s informing the way some manufacturers are approaching head protection. One example is the consideration of fit with a broader range of hairstyles – larger natural hair, ponytails, dreadlocks – throughout the design process. Bump caps have benefited greatly from this thinking. The old rigid plastic salad bowls from back in the day have progressed to highly engineered inserts – breathable, lightweight and pliable enough to fit with and on an infinite amount of headwear and heads. PPE makers … are adding details like flexible wings in key areas and hinged openings that allow hair to escape out of the back of the bump cap and lay flat to ensure a proper fit.”

The most important element

What do the experts say is the most important element to consider with head protection?

“Few things in worker safety are more fundamental than properly fitting PPE,” Gallant said. “Whether it’s a bump cap, safety helmet or hard hat, it needs to fit properly to do its job.”

At the end of the day, he added, “Workers should feel emboldened to advocate for their safety and employers should feel like they can work with their PPE manufacturer to help workers get the solution they need.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Foot protection
  • Safety tools/tethers and knives

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