Workplace safety has always been a top issue for employees and employers alike. Employees are actively seeking companies that support their well-being, and employers are striving to provide the best benefits and resources possible to ensure success and safety on the job, including insurance, proper training and the right equipment. Offering these benefits is a win-win. Companies actually save by working to ensure their teams’ safety, but how much exactly? Research from Liberty Mutual Insurance shows that workplace injuries can cost U.S. businesses more than $1 billion a week.
Safety Across Industries
Across heavy industries, workplace safety has always been at the forefront of people’s minds, with specific roles dedicated to safety on job sites. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets safety standards and provides resources like educational programming to ensure the well-being of workers. They require personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn on-site, which, in heavy industries, means more than just a mask. This can include high-visibility vests, eyewear and—most notably—a hard hat.
Hard hats were originally designed to prevent injuries caused by objects falling from above linearly—a straight-on impact to the head—but didn’t take into account rotational forces. Most accidents are commonly a result of slips and falls, which involve rotational forces upon impact that can carry a greater risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is an occupational hazard that the construction industry sees more than any other industry in the U.S., and the hard hat is the first line of defense. The primary hard hat patent was filed in 1927, and today hard hat makers continue to strive for the best safety technology.
The Fight Against TBI
Making the investment in workplace safety upfront can help in the long run. From medical bills that can wind up costing $600,000 to $1.8 million per case to the physical and emotional toll on the injured employee, their family, and co-workers, the true cost of a TBI is high. Taking all preventative actions possible keeps everyone’s best interest at heart.
Today, hard hat companies are working to provide a better option of head protection, utilizing their own systems, technology and design. Companies are taking specific aim in the fight against traumatic brain injury (TBI) and working to strategically take the hard hat from the 1900s into the modern day.
Modern climbing-style helmets are being promoted as safer alternatives to traditional hard hats as they provide some side impact protection and chin straps for helmet retention during a fall. However, almost all safety helmets have only an ANSI Type I rating, indicating that they are only tested for direct hits to the helmet crown, but not to the sides. Side impact protection is particularly critical during falls, which are responsible for 68% of all work-related TBI cases in the construction industry, while falling objects hitting the crown of a helmet cause only 12% of work-related TBI.
Even more important, several new helmets have dedicated technologies to absorb rotational force, which is known to be the principal cause of concussions and brain injury. While testing of rotational forces is not yet a required part of test standards for safety helmets, some companies go beyond the standard and introduce novel technologies that hold promise to reduce the incidence and severity of work-related brain injury.
MIPS is both a technology and a company that licenses their multidirectional impact protection system (MIPS) to several safety helmet producers. The MIPS consists of a plastic sheet that helps the head to slip inside the helmet during an impact to mitigate some rotational forces. My company is a supplier of a line of hard hats that are designed with all-around protection in mind and optimized with WaveCel technology. Their designers made sure they were Type II rated and that they provide rotational force mitigation to maximize protection, which is something all innovators in the field should focus on to maximize protection.
Hard hat technology has come a long way, and it’s critical to do the research to determine which hard hat meets your team’s specific needs. Improving the quality of protection provided by a hard hat not only benefits the main wearer but extends to the whole company.
Tips For Selecting A Hard Hat
Workplace safety is not a one-and-done type of deal and is not limited to any one industry. As workplaces constantly shift and evolve, the safety measures taken must change too.
Here are some tips on what to consider when choosing a hard hat, in particular:
- Type II Certification:Most hard hats and safety helmets are Type I certified. However, Type I hard hats defend against vertical impacts only, while Type II provides that plus additional protection from lateral impacts, making Type II the more desirable choice.
- Hard Hat Style:There are two basic styles: hard hats and safety helmets. The safety provided by a helmet does not depend on the style, but on their actual rating (Type I or Type II). Chin straps should be added, when possible, to retain the hard hat or helmet position.
- Attachments & Accessories:Jobs may call for different hard hat attachments and accessories; therefore, selecting a hard hat that is compatible with whatever you may need is a great investment in the long run. Whether it be a chin strap, a face shield, earmuffs or more, the hard hat you purchase should be able to meet your needs.
- Comfort:The average workday is eight hours long, so choosing a comfortable hard hat is essential to keeping workers both safe and happy. Read the reviews and ask for a sample to test when you can.
Lastly, your first time purchasing a hard hat won’t be your last. Damaged safety gear will not keep you safe, always buy a new hard hat after an accident. Outside of an accident, it’s recommended that users replace their hard hat on average every two to five years.