Too often, we see these accidents happen. We hear about a worker who says he was wearing his Protective Personal Equipment (PPE), his hard hat, but it had failed him. His safety was put at risk when a 2×4 came crashing down, knocking his hard hat off, leaving his bare head exposed for the rest of the wood to fall on him, knocking him unconscious, and sending him to the hospital.
Hard Hats Versus Safety Helmets
Hard hats have been around for over fifty years, and shamefully their design has changed very little. A hard hat’s design is flawed, leading to many avoidable accidents.
Hard hats are created to protect the crown of the head from penetration or impact but are not made to protect the sides of the head. They tend to fall off from the simplest of movements, like leaning over. Hard hat companies have tried to reconcile this issue by providing lanyards knowing how easily hard hats fall off. Another issue with hard hats is their standard focus is based on objects impacting the hard hat and not the head impacting an object, for example, a person falling off a ladder and hitting their head.
Safety helmets can provide much more protection than a hard hat because of their build. They have a foam liner that absorbs energy and improves protection from penetration and impact from all sides of the head. Helmets also come with a strap that latches below the chin to ensure they stay on during a fall, trip, slip, or if an object impacts their helmet from a height.
Plenty of incredible stories have been told of how a safety helmet saved or reduced an injury in the field. A cement mason was climbing down a ladder and fell twelve feet, cracking the back of his helmet. It may have fallen off if it were a hard hat, and that crack to the helmet could have been his head. The man walked away without injury, the helmet was replaced, and he returned to work the next day.
The Explanation for the Shift from Hard Hats to Safety Helmets
The American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) found that 25% of all construction fatalities or life-altering injuries are caused by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). One-fourth of our construction workers can be protected simply by shifting from wearing a hard hat to wearing a safety helmet. Rock climbers wear these types of helmets to protect their heads from rocks, and cyclers also use helmets to absorb shock if they fly off their bikes. So why shouldn’t we? Why aren’t we?
Construction workers who welcome the use of helmets over hard hats give themselves a second chance at life. Helmets help protect from a rogue tool, cement block, or wood debris falling and protect their head from a bad trip or falling from a height.
Take, for example, Chris Plue’s story. Chris works in the concrete industry and witnessed his drywall co-worker get hit in the front of his helmet with a horizontal scaffold plank. To worsen the incident, the blow knocked him backward to the ground, where he hit his head again. The helmet had saved him not once but twice! His co-worker was left with a back injury, but it could have been a lot worse without his helmet.
ANSI Type I, Class C, G, and some E requirements are met with safety helmets, satisfying all OSHA requirements. Helmets meet and exceed the performance, design, and safety of existing hard hats.
Simply put, safety helmets are safer than hard helmets. Countries worldwide, like Asia, Europe, Australia, and Africa have already adopted the practice. Currently, safety helmets are not a requirement in some countries. Many contractors stick with their routine hard hats, but studies show that safety helmets save lives.
Choose Safety Helmets Over Hard Hats
Counting numbers in just the ASCC alone, at least 30,000 construction workers wear helmets daily, with that number increasing daily. ASCC encourages personnel to leave their hard hats behind and choose safety helmets instead. Safety helmets are not just for the concrete industry but for everyone in the construction industry. They save lives, and the stories are there to prove it. So when the question comes up, hard hats or safety helmets, the answer is always helmets.
Hard Hats to Helmets, American Society of Concrete Contractors
Hard Hats to Helmets Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), American Society of Concrete Contractors
Hoover, J., Transitioning from Hard Hats to Helmets: H2H Initiative Aims to Reduce Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Construction Industry, Texas Contractor