Head protections is a vital part of a company’s safety program. An impact to the head can become a life threatening injury very quickly. Not all tasks will have a direct overhead danger (like falling bricks), but it is equally important to protect from energized parts, moving objects, and physical contact with stationary parts.
1926.100 Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.
It is difficult to assign a number to head injuries that could have been prevented. It is difficult to force people to wear hard hats. It is difficult to build a safety culture and create habits. The point of this Toolbox Talk is to provide a description of the types and styles of head protection, and the importance of a positive safety culture.
Types of Hard Hats
Hard Hats fall under the rules of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is tested and listed by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is where the actual data comes from, providing the strength and material specs. Compliant head protection should be listed with “ANSI Z89.1-2014”.
The OSHA rule 29 C.F.R. 1926.100 also states that employers must provide head protection equipment that meets or exceeds the industry standard ANSI Z89.1. Employees can use their own hats as long as they meet or exceed the employer’s requirements.
ANSI Type I: Protects against impact to the top of the head such as a falling object, walking into a fixed object, or making contact with an overhead power source.
ANSI Type II: Protects against impact to the top and side of the head. This often looks like a climbing helmet and has a chin strap or ratcheting device to keep it snug on the head.
Each type has 3 classes:
- Class E (electrical) provides protection to withstand 20,000 volts
- Worn by electrical utility workers, and construction workers where contact with electrical service is likely.
- Class G (general) provides protection to withstand 2,200 volts
- Class C (conductive) does not provide protection from electricity.
- A Type 1 Class C hardhat is the standard plastic hardhat used by construction workers that protects from impacts but not exposure to electrical hazards.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Clean your hat using mild soap and water
- Store as recommended by manufacturer
- keep out of direct sunlight like on the back dash of your car
- keep away from excessive heat (like in the trunk)
- Inspect for damages regularly
- Replace when damaged
- Paint your hardhat
- Stickers are OK as long as they do not prevent you from spotting damages
- Use solvents that deteriorate plastics
- Alter or modify – no drilling holes for more ventilation
- Wear backwards (unless manufacture allows)
- Wear ball cap under your hardhat (interferes with the suspension basket)
Creating a Safety Culture
In a company with a strong safety culture, it is very easy for new employees to adapt to wearing hard hats. When everyone is given the proper device, and understands the importance of using it, the positive culture will spread. Think about how professional it looks when an entire construction site is wearing hard hats – VS – how unprofessional it looks when only a few (or worse, no one) are wearing them. Put those two companies side by side and ask yourself who want to work for.
There will always be people that complain about their hard hat. It is important to remember that PPE is not protecting you from catastrophic events, but more so the minor injuries that take your focus and time away from the job.
“I’m working by myself, is a plane going to fall out of the sky onto me?” – No it’s not, and I don’t think the hardhat would help you in that case anyways. But you are installing materials and using tools above your head, so if that block of wood comes down and hits you, it will hurt, you may even bleed a bit.
“I’m just here to clean the inside of the house, I don’t use big tools” – Correct, and the gutter installers are just here to work above the front door. They are focused on their task, not on you coming in and out. We all wear hardhats when there is an overhead danger present.
Questions for you
- Do you know what Type and Class your hardhat is?
- Do you know how to store and maintain your hat?
- What job duties do you have when you need to wear your hard hat?
Here are some more Toolbox Talks related to PPE: Foot Ware, Safety Glasses, Personal Fall Arrest