Better Head Protection on the Construction Site

Better Head Protection on the Construction Site

Photo Credit: Skanska USA

Helmets are the New Hard Hats

In an effort to offer the best head protection on the Jobsite, and to set an example to their clients, United Alliance now supplies their Consultants at risk of falling with Helmets instead of Hard Hats. 

This changes has come after reading multiple studies on the unique safety features offered by helmets over hard hats.

When selecting the type of protection from head trauma, Marc Bianco, EVP of Technical Services at United Alliance Safety Services, reviewed the options and recognized that employees need the best vision in order to see hazards before they cause injury to our client’s employees. For that reason, Bianco chose a model with integrated retractable eye protection. 

This type will help prevent the eye protection from being scratched and enable consultants to see better over their head.  In the event of a fall, Bianco believes that these hard hats will better protect employees from head trauma if they do fall from an elevated location.

Conventional hard hats are designed to protect from objects falling from overhead, but not from a fall. More and more construction sites are moving toward a helmet style that resembles those which rock climbers and tactical rescue personnel wear when there is a risk of falling. 

The new helmet design features a chin strap and side protection.  When someone falls hard hats often fall off and are of no protection.  Moreover, employees are more likely to hit the side of their head than the top, so side protection is important. 

The Case for Helmets

As noted in a recent article from Construction Drive; falls are the No. 1 cause of death in the industry, representing more than half of fatal work-related traumatic injuries. Not only that, construction workers sustain more traumatic brain injuries than employees in any other type of U.S. workplace, according to a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study. Also noted was when an employee slips, trips or falls, his or her hard hat can come off before it’s needed most, on impact.

Skansa USA is making the move. After a successful trial run of Kask helmets on a Washington, D.C., project, Jason Timmerman, environmental health and safety director at Skanska USA Commercial Development, evaluated the helmets in 2017 while compiling feedback, with results published a white paper titled: Assessing Next-Generation
Construction Helmets

Timmerman noted it took people some time to warm up to the change, but once they did, the reviews were positive.  One benefit of the helmet is the optional, retractable visor, which satisfies OSHA requirements for eye protection and alleviates the need for safety glasses, Timmerman said.

Safety Comes with a Price

One reason there may be a slow rate by the industry to adopt the new helmet is price.

As noted by Pine Bush Equipment Team – For head protection, an OSHA rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.100) requires employers to provide head protection equipment that meets or exceeds the industry consensus standard ANSI Z89.1 issued 2009. The agency also requires employers to provide safety equipment free to workers.

Hard hats meeting the consensus standard can be bought for less than $20 each.

Advertised prices for most helmets meeting the standard start at around $110, depending on the specific model. Adding a flip-up visor could be an additional $50. Bulk discounts would reduce costs, but competition also has the potential to lower costs. Kask and the French-based Petzl are among the few companies offering helmets meeting the ANSI Z89.1 requirements.

For United Alliance’s Marc Bianco, however, the decision was easy.

“Our consultants are at a slight risk of falls from roof decks and scaffolding as part of their audit responsibilities, and we want to make sure they are the best protected from top and side impacts”, says Marc Bianco, EVP of Technical Services at United Alliance Safety Services. “We also need to be the safest employees on the jobsite”.

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