OSHA inspectors’ PPE evolution: Helmets on, hard hats shelved

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is replacing traditional hard hats with safety helmets, citing greater protection prospects for inspectors while noting, “OSHA wants employers to make safety and health a core value in their workplaces and is committed to doing the same by leading by example and embracing the evolution of head protection.”

Klein Tools’ KARBN Pattern, Class C vented helmet

The announcement follows the agency’s November release of a Safety and Health Information Bulletin detailing a) key differences between traditional hard hats and more modern safety helmets; and, b) advancements in design, materials and other features that help protect workers’ entire heads better. Current safety helmets can also offer face shields or goggles to protect against projectiles, dust and chemical splashes, or built-in hearing protection and/or communication systems to enable clear exchanges in noisy environments.

From 2020 data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports head injuries accounted for nearly 6 percent of non-fatal occupational injuries involving days away from work. Almost half of those injuries occurred when workers came in contact with an object or equipment while about 20 percent were caused by slips, trips and falls. Traditional hard hats protect the top of a worker’s head but have minimal side impact protection and also lack chin straps, OSHA officials observe. Without straps, hard hats can fall off if a worker slips or trips. In addition, traditional head protection gear has tended to lack vents and trap heat. The agency recommends safety helmets for those in the construction industry or high-temperature, specialized work environments, plus peers performing tasks involving electrical work or working from heights.

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