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Top protection

07 March 2022

A recent webinar from MSA Safety on head protection saw Marc Jenkin provide a wealth of knowledge to help you make a fully informed decision when choosing the best head protection for your workforce. Kelly Rose reports.

HEAD PROTECTION, like all PPE, is something that we cannot compromise on. Your head is integral to absolutely everything we do and who we are. The brain is a complex and fragile system with over 100,000 miles of blood vessels and 100 billion neurons. Not only is it used to think, we also use it to move, eat, breathe, have feelings, memories, and even dream. That's why our heads deserve the absolute best protection at work.

Making sure your workers have the right head protection is essential and Health and Safety Matters was joined by Marc Jenkins from MSA Safety for a webinar giving you all the information you need to make the right head protection choices. For anyone that missed this event, it is available on demand. 

Looking at RIDDOR dating back to 2018/19, over 6,000 head injuries were reported, which is 9% of the total that were reported that year. A huge 75% of that resulted in the employee being taken out of work for seven or more days. So given that many workers choose not to wear their hardhat or at least not wear it correctly, these figures highlight that their decision to not wear head protection can be catastrophic. Injuries can be short term and long term – ranging from concussion, memory loss, facial scarring, paralysis, as well as fatalities.

Marc said, “It's every employer's responsibility to outfit their workers with an appropriate hardhat wherever hazards to the heads exist. And appropriate also means that hardhat which delivers features that will fade in a workers acceptance.

Injuries can also be costly for companies too. The reputation of the company is at stake, there can be rising insurance costs, the ability to win further contracts can be affected and there can be long-term damage to the brand. According to HSE, a fatal employee accident will cost a business just shy of £100,000.

10 points to consider

  • Comfort factor – a comfortable helmet is much more likely to be worn than one that doesn't fit properly. There are many factors that can improve comfort and Marc goes in to considerable detail regarding this on the webinar.

  • The design – There are lots of safety helmets on the market made of different materials and different design features and making the choice is fairly complicated. Decisions should include the material the hard hat is made from, vented or non-vented, shape, peak, whether you need a rain gutter and UV indicator. 

  • Ease of use – remember the easier a safety helmet is used, the more likely it is to be worn. Ease of use can include a quality suspension, offering quick adjustment to the size of your head when even when using gloves. It could also include how easy it is to maintain or replace a suspension slap back, are chin straps simple and easy to adjust even when your hands are cold? You should also consider whether or not accessories is simple to attach and detach. 

  • Accessory ready – you can enhance your safety, comfort and ability to adjust to an evolving working environment. It goes without saying you should only use accessories which are compatible and certified with your helmet. This slide considers chin straps, visibility, badge holders and seasonal accessories.

  • Do you need to protect more than your head? Safety helmets often serve as a safety platform and the platform can include all kinds of different PPE to perform in conjunction with your head protection. For example, ear defenders or face shields. When using face shields, always make sure that all of the components including the helmet carrier and face shield will be tested and approved to working in combination with one another.

  • Style – increase the chances that your hard hats are going to be worn by ensuring that the wear of feels good wearing it.

  • Customisation - Logo printing helps promote your business in the field that you're associated to. Use helmet colours to your advantage to identity by roles and responsibilities on site. Retro-reflective stickers can be used to identify workers positions and help improve the chance to be seen in dimly lit conditions. Never use stickers which haven't been approved by your manufacturer and nor should you ever write or paint on a helmet as this can affect the performance of your hardhat.

  • Shelf life and expected service life. Always check this as it can vary by manufacturer and can normally be found inside the peak of the hardhat. You should visually inspect the hardhat before every use. Suspension should be replaced every 12 months. Once your hardhat has reached the end of its life it can be recycled.

  • Know the standards. All helmets should be CE marked and until the 31st of December 2022 the CE mark and UKCA marked hardhats will be accepted. As of 1st January 2023, only the UKCA mark will accepted. The standards that Marc explains included:

    • EN397 is an industrial safety helmet standard that will protect the wearer against falling objects and the consequences thereof such as brain damage or skull fracture. The mandatory tests are shock absorption, resistance, the penetration, resistance to flame and chin strap anchorage.

    • EN50365. That's electrical insulating helmets for use on low voltage installations. And that's going to protect against electric shocks and prevention of dangerous electric current passing through passing through to the hat.

    • EN12492 are for helmets used in mountaineering. This is a leisure standard and it's not a working standard.
      Marc says, “Compliance is not enough for us at MSA and this should be a given regardless of the quality of the manufacturer. EN397 was written back in 1995 and itself was adopted from an ISO back in 1977. Here at MSA we pride ourselves in developing PPE that not only meets the bare minimum standards, but significantly exceeds them.”

  • Involve those who wear the helmets in the decision making. If workers choose it they will be more likely to wear it. 

This is a very interactive webinar and there plenty of information on which hardhat to select for different applications, such as confined spaces, working at height and electrical activities. There was also an extensive question and answer session at the end, which is extremely informative. Catch up on demand at https://tinyurl.com/yc5fdh3c

Marc Jenkin is industrial sales manager at MSA Safety. For more information, visit www.msasafety.com