Head injuries are one of the most common causes of fatality. In the UK, according to the ''HSE UK 2020'' report, being struck on the head by moving, flying or falling objects accounted for 13% of worker deaths from 2014-19, and 10% of all non-fatal injuries in 2019. It is important to choose the correct head gear and use it correctly. In this complete guide to Head Protection, we will over these main topics:
Chapter1: Types of head protection: Bump Cap vs Safety Helmet vs Hard Hat
Chapter2: Difference between industrial helmets and work-at-height helmets
Chapter3: Why integrated head, eye and ear protection?
📝 Chapter 1: Bump Cap vs Safety Helmet vs Hard Hat
Some major industries where head protection may be required include construction, building repair, work in excavations or tunnels, work at heights and work with bolt driving tools. There are three widely used types of head protection.
Industrial scalp protectors (bump caps)
Safety Helmets (Industrial use or at-height use)
Bump caps are a less invasive, lightweight cap with an inbuilt impact-resistant padded shell to protect wearers from minor head bumps and lacerations, but not from falling or flying objects. You should use safety bump caps when there is a risk of impact between the head and stationary objects such as low ceilings, the underside of a vehicle (for mechanics, especially) and overhead piping.
Hard hats are made of rigid material such as a polymer to protect wearers from high impact bangs, knocks or hits and offer stronger head protection than a bump cap does. They’re cleverly designed to allow the force of any impact to be spread across the head without transmitting it to the wearers skull. They are used to resist penetration, falling objects and extreme heat, so commonly found on building sites.
Safety helmets and hard hats are usually interchangeable in some countries like the UK and some European countries. Some countries, however, state the difference between them - The primary purpose of a hard hat is to protect the head from objects falling from above. Safety helmets do not only shield against falling objects, but certain models (Type II) can offer increased protection from impacts to the side and back of the head.
📝 Chapter 2: Industrial Helmets vs Work-At-Height Helmets
A qualified industrial helmets are certified according to EN 397 and ideal for ground work, limiting the risk of strangulation if the helmet is snagged while a user is on the ground. Some industrial helmets also provide electric shock protection, perfect for electricians and those working near live wires.
A qualified helmet for working at height are EN 12492 certified, also known as mountaineering helmet, requiring the chinstrap to keep a helmet on one’s head during a fall, limiting the risk of losing the helmet during a fall.
✓Ground Work ✓Industrial, etc
✓Tower Climbing ✓Rope Access ✓High-rise Construction ✓Mountaineering, etc
25kg>Release>15kg; to release at a fairly low load to avoid strangulation
Resistance>50kg; to secure helmet on one's head during a fall
📝 Chapter 3: Integrated Head, Eye and Ear Protection
Based on our manufacturer's research, 250 UK interviewees were asked to rank (between 1 and 10) the key factors when selecting PPE. They continue to place considerable importance on:
Comfort: 55% stated 9-10 in importance
Compatibility: 45% stated 9-10 in importance
Style: 19% stated 7-10 in importance
It is obvious that users want to feel more confident that their PPE (i.e. safety helmets, eyewear, face protection, and ear defenders) are compatible with one another. Therefore, many manufacturers have considered head, eye and ear protection integration. On the market, we can find safety helmet combos and safety helmets with multiple slots for visor/earmuff attachment. Here are some examples.
Safety Helmet Combo
Helmet with Eyeshield
Helmet with Earmuff & Visor Slots
Earmuffs that Work with Multiple Helmets
Who Needs Ear, Eye and Head Protection?
Some wearers working in challenging environments like welding workshops and forestry need comprehensive head protection, meaning viewing 'the head' as the total head including brain, eyes, ears, face, chins etc.
Working around trees does not only involve a danger of heavy, hard things such as branches falling out of the tree and onto your head, risk of damaging your ears, eyes and face can happen especially when using power tools. So it is important arborists/ need the total head protection
For electrical workers, in addition to electrical shock proof helmets, companies have developed helmets visors and accessories to protect against arc flashes, ensuring insulation when in contact with live wires. An arc flash means there is a sudden release of electrical energy through the air caused by a fault in a electrical circuit, leading to a rapid rise in temperature.
Workers in high-noise conditions
Earmuffs are a common form of hearing protection for workers across all industries especially in high-noise environments. With options that can be attached to hard hats and with an easy on and off design, hard hats with earmuffs are favoured by many industrial workers. However, not all earmuffs are created the same. When choosing earmuffs, the key factor is the level of hearing protection against your working environments.
Are there any hazards like the following ones on your job site? Long-term exposure to certain hazards, like chemicals and micro particles, can lead to underlying eye diseases that may not present symptoms in workers for years. Want to keep wearing prescription glasses while conducting day-to-day work? A significant proportion of solutions are designed to allow prescription glasses to be worn underneath the integrated safety eyewear to increase likelihood of usage.
Projectiles(dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
Chemicals(splashes and fumes)
Radiation(especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
Bloodborne pathogens(hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids
📝 Chapter 4: Signs You May Need New PPE
Does a hard hat have an expiry date?
A short answer is no. When it comes to replacing new gear, many people ask for hard hat life span. Most manufacturers have recommendations on helmet and suspension lifespans which are between 5 and 10 years. (Popular brands such as KASK and Petzl offer long-life safety helmets which lifetime is 10 years from the date of manufacture.) However, the service life highly depends on the environment, application and use, the PPE might need replacing as often as every two years.
Signs of hard hat damage
Some visible signs of hard hat damage, such as cracks, dents, or holes, are easy to see and are obvious reasons to remove the hard hat from service. But even scores or scuffs on the surface might signal that it’s time to retire it. Here are some common damages:
Cracks, dents, and punctures
Fading, chalkiness, and discoloration
Loss of flexibility or too much flexing
Torn, broken, or otherwise damaged webbing components
Care and maintenance tips
You can help prolong the lifetime of your products and avoid premature wear of them. Here are some tips for a good start:
✓ After use in a salty environment (seaside), rinse with fresh water ✓ Wash helmets in lukewarm soapy water, then rinse thoroughly with fresh tap water ✓ Use only household face and body soap ✓ Avoid proximity to heat sources such as direct sunlight ✓ Store your equipment in a well-ventilated area ✘ Do not use a high pressure water sprayer ✘ Do not sit on a helmet ✘ Do not compress your helmet in a pack ✘ Do not store your gear in a damp place where mold can develop
📝 Chapter 5: Colour Code Guide
Based on the Build UK organization, the safety helmet colour scheme should be implemented on all new construction sites, and existing construction sites where practicable. Here is the safety helmet colour guide produced by the organization for sites to adopt from January 2017 onwards:
Black : Supervisor
Orange : Slinger/Signaller
White : Site Manager, Competent Operative, Vehicle Marshall (distinguished by the wearing of a different coloured hi vis vest)
Blue : All those coming to site who do not fall into any of the above categories