A Guide to Safety Helmets
There are many working environments where the wearing of safety helmets is a usual part of the protective equipment issued to employees. Industry sectors where there is a risk of physical injury, particularly to the head, include construction, power, mining and forestry.
Risks in these types of workplaces are ever-present, and employers try to mitigate the possibility of injuries occurring by managing a work environment well and providing personal protective equipment (PPE). Risks can’t always be eliminated, especially from falling objects, which makes the use of safety helmets an important part of ensuring the safety of workers as much as possible.
History of hard hats
Shipbuilding appears to be the first industry where hard hats were used, as dock workers were in constant danger of being hit by falling objects. The use of hard hats – later to be known by the term safety helmets – moved into the construction industry, and they are now a standard piece of safety equipment worldwide.
In the vast majority of cases, the law requires head protection on construction sites due to the risk of injuries. Risks can be minimised by using scaffolds with toe boards to prevent objects from falling, but nothing on a construction site is failsafe.
To comply with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992, employers, after they have carried out a full risk assessment, must ensure all workers are provided with suitable head protection and instruct them to wear it whenever risks are present.
Any head protection should be in good condition and thrown away if damaged. It should fit the worker and should be worn properly. If hearing protectors are also required, the safety helmet should not prevent these from being worn.
Perhaps most important of all, safety helmets should be sourced from a reputable supplier, such as Seton, as there are fake ones on the market that will not provide the protection required.
Types of hard hats
There are two main types of safety helmet and many options to choose from in the marketplace.
In general, protective helmets should:
- Absorb the shock of a blow
- Resist penetration by objects
- Be resistant to water and burn slowly
- Come with instructions that explain how to adjust and replace the helmet’s suspension and headband
Industrial safety helmets are the most common and basic form of PPE and have to comply with European regulations. They will have the following components aimed at good protection for the head: shell, harness and headband. The outer shell is made from polyethylene, with the inner harness having a system of strips made from polyethylene or woven bands. The headband has adjustment mechanisms that can change its wearing height and its length to increase stability when worn.
High-performance industrial safety helmets are used in sectors such as mining and construction where there is a high risk of head injuries. They are designed to provide an increased level of protection regarding shock absorption, sharp object impact and vertical and lateral impacts.