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05 February 2024

Ensuring workers pick up their hard hat and wear it can be a massive challenge. Here, Vanessa Sirima explores the common factors preventing workers using head protection.

Wearing a hard hat is mandatory in many applications and industries, protecting the safety of individuals in potentially hazardous environments. However, wearing PPE can be seen by users as a hindrance rather than an important safety feature for their workday.

This is typically the learned experience of industrial professionals who’ve found, at times, that some hard hats can bring on headaches, make them hot and sweaty, or often don’t fit properly. At MSA Safety, we believe that the most effective hard hat is the one a worker will want to wear. 

A more comfortable helmet can not only empower workers, but it could also make them feel safer, happier, improve productivity and even boost their confidence allowing them to better focus on the job at hand.

To understand what makes a great hard hat, we need to dissect some key issues associated with common protective headwear solutions on the market today and find out what exactly is deterring users from wearing this vital piece of protective equipment correctly. Here, we outline some of the most common factors which could hinder correct usage of hard hats on site, and how selecting the appropriate hard hat can help to reduce this.

Temperature regulation

From construction professionals operating outside in the scorching heat to mechanical specialists contracted to conduct works in boiler rooms, many industrial workers find themselves carrying out demanding jobs in incredibly warm environments. The combination of heat and physical exertion can make wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) extremely uncomfortable if the appropriate hard hat has not been selected for the workers.

Hard hats can be warm, trap sweat and perspiration can make them fog. To help reduce this, helmets with ventilation should be opted for, these helmets can also be adapted to improve comfort. Sweatbands made from a soft, sweat-absorbing, and respiring material can be incorporated, washed and replaced. 

Equally, wearing hard hats can be just as uncomfortable for workers operating during winter months or in colder environments. Similarly, accessories can be incorporated to aid comfort. Winter liners, for example, can assist with temperature regulation, helping to protect workers from the cold and keep them warmer. In addition, for those working outdoors, helmets with integrated rain gutters may be more practical for workers, ensuring water drains off the bill rather than down the wearer’s neck. 

The type of environment your workers are operating in is an essential factor to consider when choosing the appropriate hard hat for your workers.

All day comfort 

If protective hard hats don’t have a good fit and appropriate straps to keep them in place, they can slip, slide and move around becoming a distraction for workers.

Understandably, this can be a top factor which contributes to workers not wearing their hard hat when it’s needed. Indeed, if a helmet slips down then vision may be impaired and if it needs to be adjusted at critical moments then potentially dangerous tools may not be under a worker’s full control.

Thankfully, there are ways to solve this problem and keep hard hats firmly in place. A six-point ratchet textile suspension will contribute to comfort, enabling the helmets to be adjusted to fit a range of head sizes and genders, thus providing an inclusive and secure fit. This will minimise rattling and slippage, even when users are repeatedly looking around. Equally, a four-point textile chinstrap will also help to reinforce the retention of the helmet on your head.

While comfort, at least in part, stems from temperature regulation and fit, the actual feel of the helmet against your head is also crucial. 

For this reason, soft textile straps and good suspension is invaluable. However, an effective hard hat should also prevent hair pulling, compression headaches, facilitate good airflow, and feature a quality ratchet system for quick, smooth and reliable adjustments.

Appropriate for work applications

Ultimately, hard hats become an extension of your head during the workday. And, in cases of confined or restrained spaces smaller equipment is often more practical. In these applications users can look to acquire models that have a modern dynamic design with a low-profile, compact, sports-styled shell without protruding peaks. 

Of course, the solution depends on the application. Short peak or peak-less safety helmets can be better for workers requiring good upwards visibility, yet standard peaks are better for protecting your eyes from the sun. In addition, non-vented shells should always be used in environments where chemicals or hot liquids may be projected.

In this instance, it’s also important to consider the accessories that are appropriate for certain applications, movements and tasks. If it is hard to tweak the sizes and straps, then any additional features will add little value and may go unused. For this reason, it is important that users can easily adjust the size of their hard hat for a secure fit, even while wearing safety gloves.

Aesthetics

Finally, it is not just a case of what a helmet feels like, but what they look like too. People like to look their best in their personal lives and often at work too. This acceptance of the protective headwear can equate to the worker taking better care of their equipment - which can extend the lifespan of each model and make product investments go further. 

When considering aesthetics, a safety helmet that has a modern, low-profile sporty design is likely to be more desirable than larger, chunkier alternatives. However, you should always look to prioritise the level of protection - because safety should never be compromised for style.

How to choose the right hard hat for you

There are a diverse range of factors to consider from suspension, soft textile materials, vented or non-vented models, to heat regulation accessories, size and aesthetics.

Appropriately selecting the model and relevant accessories could provide many benefits. Not only can the right hard hat help to improve the safety of your staff, but it can also aid in increased confidence, contribute to a happier workforce, and boost productivity by enabling workers to work more efficiently.

Vanessa Sirima is marketing manager industrial head protection, EMEA at MSA Safety. For more information, visit msasafety.com 

 
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