What is head protection?
Head protection is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is used to safeguard the scalp and in certain cases, the jaw. Head protection is necessary as it protects the worker from the objects and debris falling from above, which prevents the worker from hitting their head when there are low hanging objects, or even prevent over-heating when staying under direct sunlight. It should also be worn when electrical risks and burn hazards are present.
In general, head and eye protection do not cover the face. Noise or hearing protection and breathing protection are distinct types of PPE that are not covered by head protection. However, any item that protects these areas from impact damage and burns is referred to as head protection.
Importance of head protection
The most critical and vital asset to safeguard on any industrial jobsite is your head. The human brain is sensitive and susceptible to impact, collision, bumps, and shock. Because the brain is so fragile, it can be harmed by both contact and compression with the inside of the skull. As a result, head protection works similarly to the crumple zone on your vehicle, absorbing energy and spreading it out over time. One of the most prevalent causes of fatal damage in accidents is head injury. Choosing the perfect head protection and then using it correctly, will safeguard both your health and your budget. Head protection equipment must be paired with other PPE such as eye protection, gloves, safety shoes etc. when necessary.
On the job site, worker safety is always the first concern, and head protection is a critical component in protecting employees from falling debris, low-hanging items, and electrical threats. In every case when head protection is required, a hard hat should be worn. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), falls from a height accounted for 47 percent of predicted annual average injuries in the construction sector from 2017/18 to 2019/20, with a further 12 per cent of injuries caused by being struck by moving, flying, or falling objects. Of the 142 people that died in workplace accidents in 2020/21, 35 were killed by falls from great heights, and 17 were killed by being struck by moving, flying, or falling items.
Hard hats should, on average:
- Deflect strikes to the head and resist penetration
- Have a shock-absorbing suspension system
- Protect against electrical shocks by acting as an insulator (when warranted)
- Be resistant to water and burn slowly
- Shield your head, face, neck, and shoulders
“investing good money buying good quality equipment that ensures the safety of the workers is important”
Head protection standards
When things or debris may fall from above, a worker may strike their head against a fixed object, or if there are electrical risks present, head protection should be worn. These situations are common on construction and industrial sites. Many of these locations require head protection, even if active risks are not obvious. Workers should inspect their hard hats or helmets on a regular basis, following a guide such as our hard hat inspection template. The workers should be able to distinguish the quality of the equipment before they use them. This ensures that the security is in good working order. Investing good money buying good quality equipment that ensures the safety of the workers is important.
Every helmet must meet the criteria of European Standard BS EN 397 and must have the following information imprinted or moulded on it according to Qatar Construction Specifications Section 11, Part 2.3.09:
Number of BS EN 397 European Standards
- The manufacturer’s name or identifying mark
- The year and quarter in which it was produced
- Helmet type (as designated by the manufacturer) – this will be written down
- The shell as well as the harness
- Size or range of sizes (in centimetres) – this must be written on both the shell and the cap
- ISO 472 abbreviation for shell material (e.g. ABS, PC, HDPE etc.)
Choosing the right fit and maintenance
A good helmet is the greatest approach to protect your head at work. Workers, on the other hand, will not wear a helmet that is uncomfortable or does not fit properly. As a result, choosing a comfortable, well-fitting helmet is critical.
When it comes to protective headgear, the optimal fit should allow for some breathing space so that air may move freely. Using helmets which can be adjusted according to the size and shape of head is optimal. A sliding mechanism that allows you to adjust the tightness of your helmet is a frequent feature. When determining your fit, look for a position where the hard hat feels secure but not too tight.
Make sure your strap is tight but not overly so. Maintain sufficient space between your head and helmet by adjusting the harness suspension.
Signs of defects
Look for any cracks on the outer part. When the hat is struck, slammed, or knocked, damage such as cracks or chalking might lead it to shatter.
“every helmet must be marked according to Qatar Construction Specifications Section 11, Part 2.3.09”
Use a mild soap and warm water to clean your hard helmet. Abrasive cleansers may cause surface damage and weakening of the shell. Store your head protection away from contaminants, dirt, and debris that might harm the helmet. Keep your helmet away from direct sunshine and extreme heat. Sun and heat can damage the harness’ exterior shell and cause it to degrade over time.
Replacement over time
When to change your hard hat is determined by usage, time, and judgement. When or before the protective capability of a helmet is severely reduced, it should be changed. When deciding on a replacement, consult with the helmet’s manufacturer. Most manufacturers have precise guidelines about when to update your hard hat. A safety helmet has an average lifespan of two to five years. Finally, if your helmet is showing signs of severe wear and tear, it’s time to replace it.
Safety helmet requirements
The following are physical and performance requirements for safety helmets (including testing).
Shock absorption test
A 5kg rounded striker is dropped from 1m onto the head of the helmet. The force delivered to the head form must not be greater than 5000N. (5kN).
Resistance to penetration test
A 3kg pointed striker is dropped on the crown area, with the striker not permitted to make contact with the head form.
Reduction to flame test
When exposed to a flame for 10 seconds and then withdrawn, the shell must not catch fire or self-extinguish within five seconds.
Every helmet that meets the standard must contain the following information on the shell in a visible location:
- The European Standard Number (in this case EN 397)
- The manufacturer’s name or identification mark
- The year and quarter of production (as a date stamp)
- Helmet type – this should be indicated on both the shell and the harness
- Size or size range (in centimetres) indicated on both the helmet and the harness
- An abbreviation for the shell material (e.g. ABS, HDPE)
“choosing the proper head protection or hard helmet is one of the most critical decisions you will make”
Different types of hard hats
Choosing the proper head protection or hard helmet is one of the most critical decisions you will make when working in construction or other sectors where items may fall on your head. Hard helmets are available in a range of styles to suit various uses and personal preferences. Variations to the conventional hat include the following options:
- A full peak to protect the eyes from sun glare
- A lower peak when the employee is compelled to gaze up (for example when climbing ladders)
- Ventilation holes to keep the user cool in hot weather
- Removable sweat bands on the interior of the helmet
- A chinstrap for increased security and fit while the wearer is climbing, stooping, or working at height
- Integrated hearing defenders or helmet-mounted earmuffs
- Built-in eye protection in the form of safety goggles or a half-face visor
The following are things you should never do if you want to ensure the full life of your head protection.
- Store materials in your hard helmet
- Store your hard hat in places where it may be exposed to direct sunlight, such as the parcel shelf of a car, as UV radiation can harm the plastic outer shell
- Attaching any stickers or writing on the hard hat as some chemicals and adhesives can degrade materials
Head protection in the hierarchy of controls
The hierarchy of controls is a risk-management mechanism in the workplace. The hierarchy of controls is a step-by-step strategy to risk elimination or reduction of risk and ranking controls from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and least reliable protection.
Under the hierarchy of controls head protection by using hard hats comes under the last control measure the personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is something that employees use or wear to reduce risks to their health and safety. Personal protective equipment reduces exposure to the harmful effects of a hazard, but only if workers appropriately wear and use the PPE.
Using administrative controls and personal protective equipment to limit hazards does not control the danger at its source. Administrative controls and personal protective equipment rely on human behaviour and supervision, and are thus ineffective in reducing hazards when used alone. Use administrative controls and personal protective equipment only as a last option when no other feasible control measures are available as an interim solution until a more effective technique of managing the risk is introduced to boost the efficacy of higher-level control measures.
“PPE reduces exposure to the harmful effects of a hazard, but only if used appropriately”
Helmets are designed to last up to five years from the date of first usage or retrieval from storage. It should be highlighted that mobile employees who leave their helmets on the rear parcel shelf of their cars in direct sunlight should be informed that this direct exposure to the sunlight can cause progressive brittleness. If the helmet is used in a harsh environment or suffers from extreme wear and tear, its lifespan will be reduced.
A safety helmet is an essential aspect of the job. It protects your head from an accident, shock, and serious harm. Simply told, good head protection may save your life! Wearing a hard helmet may seem strange at first, but with a few modifications, it will become second nature. Most importantly, the correct helmet will safeguard a vital asset… your brain. As you prepare for the day’s work, remember to put on your hard hat to protect your head and return home safely at the end of the day.