In many industrial working environments, for example, mining, power, construction, and forestry, the risk of head injury to workers is constantly present. The most serious risks are physical injuries, which can be as a result of the impact of a falling object or collision with fixed objects at the workplace. Due to the nature of these work activities, it is not always possible to eliminate such risks with just appropriate organisational solutions or collective protective equipment. Therefore, the only way to ensure the safety of workers is by using safety helmets. The type of helmet will depend on the specific nature of the physical risks that have been identified in the risk assessment undertaken for the activity. This article provides information for users of protective helmets as well as employers and OSH engineers. It includes information on definitions and gives the requirements for different kind of protective helmets that offer protection against physical risks.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) means all equipment which is intended to be worn or held by people at work and which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety, and any addition or accessory designed to meet that objective. All PPE should be used as a last resort to reduce the risk taking into consideration that the risk will not be eliminated.
Safety helmets are one of the most frequently used forms of PPE. Safety Helmets will protect the user’s head against:
- Impact from objects falling from above, by resisting and deflecting blows to the head.
- Hitting fixed dangerous objects at the workplace
- Lateral forces – this would depend on the type of hard hat selected. Traditional hard hats are not designed to protect users from impacts to the front, side or back of the head.
- Open flame, molten metals splash, electric shock, high temperature – this would depend on the standard of the hard hat selected for example a standard hard hat will not protect against an electric shock.
In general, protective helmets, or hard hats, should:
- Resist penetration by objects.
- Absorb the shock of a blow.
- Be water resistant and slow burning.
- Come with instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and headband.