Head protection is required across every aspect of construction, especially in places where there is a risk of being injured by falling objects, collapsing structures, protruding extensions, or when working in areas of restricted headspace.
In industries where work at height is common, a helmet should be worn to protect your head should a fall occur.
In the 28 years since the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations (since modified by the PPE at Work Regulations) were introduced, countless severe head injuries and deaths have doubtless been prevented by head protection, also known as hard hats.
Choosing the correct head protection or hard hat is one of the most important decisions you will make when working in construction, and industries where there is a risk of objects falling on the head. Hard hats come in a wide variety of styles to suit different applications and personal preference. Variations of the standard hat are available with the options of:
– A full peak for shielding the eyes from solar glare
– A reduced peak when the worker is required to look up (for instance when climbing ladders)
– A rain gutter for protection against bad weather
– Ventilation holes to help keep the wearer cool in hot weather
– Replaceable sweat bands on the inside of the helmet
– A chinstrap for extra security and fit when the wearer is climbing, stooping or working at height. This is especially important in some areas, as a chinstrap will keep it on your head if you fall
– A chinguard and visor to protect against potentially hazardous materials flying upwards
– Built-in eye protection in the form of safety goggles or a half-face visor
– Integrated hearing defenders, or helmet-mounted earmuffs
Hard hats that comply with BS EN397:2012 are tested to withstand impact from pointed lead weights that are dropped onto the top of the hat. To help protect the skull from impact, beneath the hard outer shell of the helmet a skull cradle is suspended that should adjust to fit snugly to different head shapes and sizes.
Between the helmet and the cradle is a 12mm air gap. The rule is that the falling object should not penetrate the outer shell, and any dent the falling object makes should not exceed the gap between the outer shell and the skull cradle.
To ensure your safety, and to make sure the helmet you’re wearing does its job, there are a few things you can do.
– Check hard hats regularly for cracks, dents or other damage
– Replace hats if damaged or after their shelf-life expires (usually between two and five years, depending on level of use and manufacturer guidelines)
– Keep hard hats clean using warm, soapy water, not solvents or abrasives.
And a few things you shouldn’t do. Never:
– Store materials in your hard hat
– Store hard hats where they may be exposed to direct sunlight (the parcel shelf of a car, for instance) as ultraviolet rays can damage the plastic outer shell
– fix any stickers to the hard hat or write on it (some materials may be weakened by certain chemicals and adhesives).