It is not possible to control or eliminate all potential hazards in the work place. Employers can, however, ensure that their workers are adequately protected. An alarming number of people suffer work related injuries to the head every year. More worryingly, a large percentage of these injuries could have been avoided if protective headgear had been worn. Hard hat safety is a big issue which employers need to address.
Laws governing safety in the work place must be obeyed. Violations of these can result in stiff penalties being imposed, usually in the form of substantial fines. A willful violation could result in a criminal conviction. Arguably, employers also have a moral duty to their employees to protect their health and wellbeing.
There are a number of instances in which protective headgear must be worn. This applies to situations where falling objects or debris could strike a person on the head from above. It is applicable when there is a danger of workers bumping into fixed objects, such as beams or exposed pipe work. If there is a risk of the head making contact with an electrical hazard, protective headgear is a necessity. All visitors to a work site, regardless of their status, must wear the appropriate hats in such circumstances.
Work Place Safety
The most appropriate head wear for any given situation will be determined by a work place risk assessment. There are basically two types. The first, Type I,is designed to protect heads from impacts from above. The second, Type II, provides additional protection from lateral impacts. Additional features such as earmuffs or face shields may also be appropriate.
Protective headwear is also categorized into different classes according to the level of protection they afford against electrical currents. Class G, or general class hats, will protect against shocks of up to 2 200 volts. Class E, or electrical class hats, are proof tested at 20 000 volts. Class C refers to conductive hats; these provide no significant protection against electrical currents.
Protective hats are subject to wear and tear. Most manufacturers will recommend that they be replaced every five years. If at any time cracks appear in the shell, or the shiny surface area of the shell becomes dull and scratched, replacement is advisable. A brittle shell is also an indicator that it is no longer fit for the purpose. The suspension, the straps and mounts that attach hats to heads must be renewed if any part of it becomes broken or loose or can no longer be securely fitted.
Workers should avoid making any modifications to their hats as doing so may compromise performance. Similarly, they should avoid using paints, solvents or harsh chemicals on hats. Hats are best stored out of direct sunlight as UV exposure causes deterioration. The straps should never be pulled back over the peak of the helmet. They should always be worn with the peak facing forwards.
All personnel should be trained in hard hat safety if the work place demands it as well as any other required safety clothing. It will prevent unnecessary injuries and could save lives. Employers are ultimately responsible for the welfare of employees in the work place.