Hardhats to Helmets: Why Helmets?
The iconic construction hard hat, a symbol of pride for the construction worker, has changed very little in 50 years. Developments in the understanding of the causes and prevention of debilitating and often fatal head injuries is leading to a revolutionary change in the way we protect our people from head injuries on the jobsite. The classic hard hat is about to change forever.
Why change from hard hats to helmets?
Helmets offer superior protection for construction workers. Traumatic Brain Injuries are responsible for 25% of all construction fatalities, and many life altering injuries. These safety helmets are inspired by the best features of hard hats for construction and head protection for sports such as rock climbing and cycling. They incorporate energy-absorbing liners, and other technologies to ensure the head is better protected from impact. These helmets can help the construction industry reduce these fatalities and injuries.
How are the helmets different than hard hats?
The helmets provide two key features compared to a hard hat that will help protect our people:
- An energy-absorbing liner to significantly improve protection from impacts and penetrations to the Top Sides, Front, and Rear of the helmet.
- A chin strap to assure that the helmet will stay on during a slip, trip, or fall.
What are the weaknesses in a traditional hard hat?
There are some basic principles that the standards organizations and industries of many countries have recognized and have begun to address:
- Hard hats fall off often and can’t be relied on to be there when people really need them; in a fall. Hard Hats fall off from even simple movements like leaning over. Hard Hat lanyards exist because we anticipate the hard hat is going to fall off, and we want to prevent a larger incident from the dropped object.
- Hard Hats are only designed to address impacts and penetrations to the crown of the helmet. They are not engineered to offer protection from impacts and penetrations elsewhere on the helmet.
- Hard Hat standards focus on what happens when an object impacts the hard hat, but not conditions like a head impacting an object during a fall.
Where else worldwide has this type of helmet been adopted and why?
Many countries around the world have directly adopted or been inspired by the EN industrial helmet standards of the UK and European Union. These standards address items such as head protection in a fall and hard hat retention.
Such helmets are found across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. ANSI standards used in the U.S. do not include such requirements. Nonetheless, helmets that meet a combination of ANSI and the same EN standards are being adopted across many major U.S. Contractors. Gilbane, Skanska, Clark Construction, Balfour Beatty, and many more have moved their personnel to helmets like this and are starting to encourage or require the use of these helmets for the specialty contractors working with them.
What is the response if customers/owners object to the use of helmets?
The helmets meet all requirements of ANSI Type 1, Class C, G, and some cases E, helmets. This means they satisfy all OSHA requirements and meet or exceed the performance of existing hard-hats. Though they might look different, there is not a technical reason a customer/owner could object to the use of these helmets.
Can you get a company logos on a helmet?
Is the chin strap required to be engaged?
Chin straps secure the helmet to your head and ensure that the helmet does not come off your head during a slip, trip and fall. In addition, the chin strap will keep the helmet on your head should you bend over frequently to do your job. Manufacturers require the chin straps to be engaged.
Can we put stickers on our helmets?
Stickers may be permitted, but the guidance provided in the OSHA Standard Interpretation to Ms. Johanna Cohan dated 10/27/2009 must be followed: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2009-10-27
Do we still need hard hat lanyards?
No. If the helmet and chin strap are properly fitted to the individual, a hard hat lanyard is not necessary. The helmets are designed for work at heights, and the chin strap system is designed to retain the helmet through various working conditions and in the event of a fall.
Aren’t helmets much more expensive than hard hats?
Currently, helmets are significantly more expensive than hard hats. Significant orders have seen reductions in cost for bulk purchasing. The total amount of heads protected by helmets relative to hard hats is currently low but growing. As helmets gain greater acceptance and the number of heads protected goes up, it is expected the price will drop. In addition, there are many new helmet vendors coming into the market, which is expected to make a helmet purchase more cost-effective. Finally, the cost of a helmet relative to other safety equipment (such as fall protection equipment) is comparable or less, and provides protection against traumatic brain injuries, which result in significant, life-altering changes to the injured employee and very high cost to the employer and insurer.
As an employer, why should I make the change? OSHA says ANSI TYPE 1 is acceptable, and my workforce is transient.
While ANSI Type 1 hard hats are acceptable to OSHA, they do not provide side impact and penetration resistance of helmets, nor do they have an integral chin strap to keep the helmet in place during a fall event. It is important to note that so many recreational and sports activities utilize helmets and up-to-date technology to prevent head injuries (such as football, bike riding, skiing, horseback riding, hockey, mountaineering, baseball, lacrosse for example), while construction utilizes 60-year-old hard hat technology. Construction is a hazardous profession and head injuries do occur. It is incumbent on employers to provide a safe work environment for the employee, and providing helmets to the workforce, even if transient, shows care for the well-being of the employee, which generally results in improved safety and job performance.
We don’t work at heights, why do we need helmets?
Our collective experiences as construction companies and independent research indicate that falls can and do occur from the same or low levels. Helmets can provide protection from head injuries by utilizing shock-absorbing materials and an integral chin strap to keep the helmet on the head, regardless of the distance of the fall.
In addition, helmets provide protection against side impact and penetration, which ANSI Type 1 helmets do not.
Aren’t helmets hotter than hard hats?
Recent studies (see Research and Development link here to this section of website) indicate that helmets are no hotter than hard hats, and indeed may be cooler due to the insulating properties of a foam liner. Helmet design generally incorporates accommodations for air flow and ventilation to reduce interior temperatures.
What accessories will be available for use with helmets? Are aftermarket accessories available?
There are many accessories customized to fit with safety helmets. These may include the following:
- Face shield brackets compatible with plastic and mesh face shields.
- Fold up earmuffs attached to the helmet.
- Headlamps with hooks to retain the head lamp strap integrated in the helmet.
- Clear and mirrored visors that act like a partial face shield.
- Communication equipment.
- Welding accessories.
What Technical and Performance Standards do these helmets meet?
While there are variations in the technical and performance standards that are currently available in the market, helmets generally conform to the following:
- ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 Type 1 and
- EN 12492- Generally meet the Shock Absorbing (clauses 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, and 18.104.22.168) and Penetration (clause 4.2.2), while some helmets may meet all applicable EN 12492 clauses.
- ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 Type 2 (ANSI Type 2 helmets may also meet the EN 12492 standard)
Does a helmet work with my full face and half face respirator?
Yes, but just like a hard hat, you must put on in the proper order. Respirator on, adjust straps and fit, helmet on, secure chin strap, adjust straps and ratchet on suspension.
What is the life expectancy of a helmet? Are there durability concerns?
The helmets have a five to ten-year recommended service life, depending on manufacturer. Wear parts could be replaced during this life span. A helmet could experience a reduced life from various factors such as impact, chemical exposure, sun exposure, misuse, etc.
What are the maintenance requirements?
Helmets require periodic cleaning, proper storage when not in use, and a minimum annual inspection to verify it’s still suitable for use. Suspensions, if incorporated should be replaced annually. Some helmets also feature a UV indicator which indicates when the plastic shell has been exposed to enough UV radiation to remove from service, regardless of time in service.
Are there replacement parts available?
Parts are generally available as individual components.
What are the helmet size ranges?
A helmet can generally accommodate almost all head sizes with ratcheting adjustment to dial in fit anywhere along that range.
Are the helmets lighter or heavier than our current hard hats?
Field trials indicate the helmets are generally seen as more comfortable than a hard hat. Typical hard hats weigh approximately 400 grams while helmets generally weigh 450-500 grams.