What is the purpose of the human brain? As you well may know, it is the centre of our nervous system and responsible for controlling our bodily functions. Without it we could not breathe, read, play, love, remember...the list is endless. It’s fair to say that the brain is the most vital organ in our body, so important that mother nature packaged this fragile spongy mass of fat and protein in its own protective cavity, the skull, to protect it from injury - the only organ in the human body encased in bone. However, unfortunately the skull alone cannot protect the brain all of the time. Trauma to the brain, even seemingly minor head injuries can cause permanent behavioural and cognitive problems, such as memory loss, inability to concentrate, sleep disorders and in some cases, permanent disability or death.
The information above is obvious to most people. From children riding their bikes in the playground, to the sports arena, the work site and battlefield, head protection is important. Particularly for those who work on busy construction sites and other industrial settings where there is a potential for head injuries from falling objects, flying/swinging objects, nearby overhead hazards, possible contact with electrical hazards and so much more. Hard hats have been used since days of old, where they evolved from a helmet used to provide protection solely in warfare, to the standard protective hard hats we see in industry today.
Many workplace deaths and traumatic brain injuries have been reported due to head injuries. In environments where the nature of work is susceptible to such injuries the use of a hard hat is typically mandated. So why is it that head injuries leading to traumatic brain injuries resulting in temporary or permanent disability and even death are still so common in a range of workplace accidents around the world? Especially when the hard hat, a tough life saving piece of personal protective equipment can be purchased at minimal cost and is seen in possession by many workers required to wear them.
- Source: Safe Work Australia, Australian workers’ Compensation Statistics 2016 -2017 -
With so much information and knowledge about the importance of wearing hard hats, why are they often neglected and not worn, or worse, fail to provide the protection they are designed to deliver? Lets take a look at why this may be the case with some common excuses and actual reasons:
There are no valid excuses not to wear a hard hat if required, even if there are no visible signs of danger in certain work environments, you must always wear your head protection. The volatile nature of these environments means they can change without a moment’s notice, this is exactly when the hard hat comes into play. There are many cases where objects have deflected from many metres away striking the heads of distant, unaware workers causing serious injury and even death.
In Australia and New Zealand, the AS/NZS 1801:1998 standard specifies the requirements for occupational protective helmets to protect wearers heads when there is a risk of being hit on the head by falling objects or from collisions with fixed objects in building and construction, quarrying, shipbuilding, forestry, and other occupations with similar hazards. The standard also stipulates the construction and materials of the helmet shell and head harness, mechanical strength of the shell and finish of the helmet.
The standard specifies three types of occupational protective helmets into the following classifications:
So exactly how does the humble hard hat protect our noggin, and in turn our brain? Let’s explore the anatomy of a hard hat and how this simple piece of kit prevents injuries.
When choosing a hard hat, as with any PPE, its important that it complies with local standards to provide greater peace of mind and best practice. Only then should you look at comfort, fit and accessories to ensure worker compliance and satisfaction. To provide maximum protection a hard hat needs to be fitted correctly and worn according to the manufacturers’ instructions. It must fit securely on the head with the nape strap sitting low on the head at the base of the skull and the suspension must be adjusted to a snug and secure fit so that it will not fall off.
The hard hat is a vital piece of personal protective equipment. To perform its job correctly, the hard hat needs to be in tip top condition, this is true of all PPE. With that in mind, here are some best practice recommendations to ensure your head protection serves you well:
Keep your wits about you, any time there’s a risk of head trauma, you need head protection. 3M™ Hard Hats are designed to enhance safety and performance in the workplace and are available in a wide array of styles and colours with a range of features and custom options to fit your needs and application.
3M hard hats are engineered with your safety and comfort in mind. The suspension is designed to sit lower on the back of the head for a secure and comfortable fit. While the suspension and shell work together to help absorb impact and deflect objects, the easy adjustment system and lightweight design help you stay comfortable and protected on the job. Integrated accessory slots accommodate eye, face and hearing protection to provide complete coverage. With the option of customising with reflective tapes for improved visibility in low light conditions, or custom logos for branding/recognition purposes, 3M offers a complete range of solutions for head and face protection, whatever the environment.
Need help choosing the right head and face protection? Have concerns about the right fit? Reach out to a 3M Safety Specialist or explore the range below.