Twenty per cent of all fatal and non-fatal injuries in the UK are head-related, yet head protection accounts for only three per cent of personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases. When head protection is acquired, nearly a quarter of workers are unaware that exceeding the expiry date of a hard hat can reduce its protective qualities. Arco, the UK’s leading safety company, is joining forces with Headway – the brain injury association, and Centurion, head protection system specialist, to raise awareness of the importance of selecting, wearing and maintaining head protection.
Any kind of head injury can lead to debilitating and long-term health issues, so ensuring that head protection is worn and cared for correctly is critical in preventing life changing injuries. Helmet shells are designed to be shock absorbent; however, the material properties used to protect workers can also be sensitive to chemical attack. More than half of workers mark or apply decals and labels to their helmet, unknowingly decreasing its durability by compromising the integrity of the material it is made from. To maintain safety standards, workers should remove any unchecked stickers and sanitise and clean their head protection equipment in a safe environment. Additionally, workers should audit their safety helmet or hard hat for signs of wear and tear and make sure it is in date.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years regardless of external appearance. However, excessive wear and tear in extreme environments such as exposure to high temperatures, chemicals, or sunlight can significantly shorten the product’s life span. When evaluating a time frame for safe usage, workers should conduct risk assessments to consider their unique environment.
Workers should also consider the daily hazards they face in the workplace. The European Standard for industrial safety helmets is EN 397, which provides shock absorption, penetration resistance and protection against impact. An EN 397 helmet is most suitable for workers on the ground, while those working at height should look for additional protection, opting for an EN 12492 helmet.
Alex Turgoose, PPE Product and Procurement Manager at Arco, says, “We are passionate about raising awareness of the correct use of safety equipment. Head injuries are a major problem in the workplace. When selecting head protection, take it seriously, and consider the impact of incorrect choices.”
Chris Tidy, Technical and Training Specialist at Centurion Safety Products, says, “We hope that Hard Hat Awareness Week will initiate a shift in attitudes towards hard hat safety and the wider issue of brain health.”
Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, says, “Brain injury is more common than you think, and its impact can be life-changing for the injured person, their partner, family members and friends. Ensuring your head protection is worn and cared for correctly is key to remaining safe.”