Pouring your heart into your work is fine, but using your head at work is even better. The head is the most complex system of the human body, but it is also the most fragile and most delicate. You can generally continue living if you lose a part of your body, but not if you lose your head! And I cant tell you the amount of times and lectures I have gone through regarding proper hard hat wearing, care and maintenance, even if it is law that they give one. So is PPE education or first aid prevention training!
There are many causes of head injuries. In several work places, workers are exposed to falling objects, walk under boards or pipes hanging at the end of a rope, have to crouch down under machines, work under vehicles, etc.
What are the main types of head injuries?
When people talk about head injuries, we immediately think of skull fractures or concussions caused by violent blows. We would be right to do so because these are the two most serious injuries. However, there are other types of injuries that we often forget to take into consideration:
· bruises and cuts from impacts against physical objects in the work place;
· heat stroke caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays;
· burns due to contact with molten metal: welding arcs, oxyacetylene cutting, metal manufacturing;
· chilblains and hypothermia caused by intense or prolonged cold;
· burns caused by fire;
· burns, electric shock and electrocution caused by contact with active conductors or electrical loads;
· crushing between two pieces of rolling equipment, for instance, when hair is caught in a moving part or when hands are caught in a drive belt.
OH&S regulations mandate specific requirements for head protection in the workplace. As with many OH&S standards, these rules incorporate standards from the CSA and (ANSI). OH&S provides the regulations to follow, and CSA/ANSI provides the means to follow those regulations.
Hard hats are the only piece of equipment that can protect you against these risks. Hard hats are designed to reduce the intensity of impacts to the head and distribute the pressure of the blow over a larger part of the skull. first, hard hats have a rigid one-piece shell that resists shocks and punctures and distributes the intensity of the blow over the entire skull. Second, hard hats come with a type of suspension system, a headband, that absorbs the blow through its elasticity and maintains a space between the head and the shell: the greater the space, the more energy absorbed.
When Does OH&S Require Hard Hats?
The main function and purpose for wearing a protective hard hat is to:
1. Help protect workers from head trauma due to small objects falling from above
2. Help prevent force from transmitting down the spine if an impact from above occurs
3. Help protect from low level electrical shock (Applies only to hard hats that meet Type I, Class G and E.)
OH&S has two standards that govern hard hat requirements:
- hard hat requirements for general industry workers
- head protection requirements for construction, demolition, and renovation workers
Both standards require workers to wear hard hats when there is a potential for head injury from “impacts, falling or flying objects, or electrical shock.” A hard hat shell should be inspected prior to each use. Immediately replace the hard hat if any sign of wear appears or if there is any evidence of damage, abuse or plastic degradation as this may be a sign that protection is reduced. Any hard hat that shows signs of worn or damaged parts should be removed from service immediately and replaced. Workers in environments with higher levels of exposure to sunlight, heat, cold or chemicals should replace their hard hats more frequently than workers in other environments. If the hard hat shell becomes faded in color, exhibits a chalky appearance, or feels stiff and brittle, degradation of the shell may be occurring. A hard hat should be replaced immediately at the first sign of any of these conditions.
This means that employers must provide hard hats and ensure that employees wear protective coverings in the following situations:
- When objects or debris might fall from above and strike workers on the head
- When employees may strike their heads against fixed objects, like supports, beams, or other equipment
- When there is the possibility that workers’ heads will make contact with electrical hazards
In all cases, hard hats must meet OH&S head protection requirements.
When Does a Hard Hat Meet OH&S ’s Requirements?
This standard defines:
- Types and classes of hard hats for specific hazardous situations
- Design and performance requirements for impact, penetration, and electrical shock
- Testing requirements to ensure OH&S compliance
Although manufacturers typically test and certify their products, employers need to verify that their hard hats meet OH&S ’s requirements.
- Headwear consists of a shell and the suspension. These work together as a system and both need regular inspection and maintenance.
- Do not transport headwear in rear windows of vehicles. Heat and UV light can damage the material, making it brittle and less protective.
- Inspect headwear before each use.
- Always check with the manufacturer when adding or using accessories (non-metallic stickers, tape, bandanas, hankerchiefs, welder’s cap, etc.).
- Winter liners should be inspected to ensure they do not interfere with fit of headwear.
- Do not draw the chin strap over the brim or peak of the headwear.
- Do not wear baseball style hats under the headwear as it interferes with the suspension.
- Only wear the hard hat with the peak at the back, if the suspension has been adjusted so the nape strap remains at the back of the head. Check with the manufacturer to ensure the headwear was designed to be worn this way.
What Are the Different ANSI Hard Hat Categories?
- Hard Hat Classes: The three classes are based on the level of protection they provide from electrical hazards. Just the USA, the Canadian version notes, CSA Standard Z94.1-15 “Industrial Protective Headwear – Performance, Selection, Care, and Use” or the legislation that applies in your jurisdiction.
- Classes of headwear can include:
- Type 1 – protection from impact and penetration at the crown (top) and
- Type 2 – protection from impact, penetration at the crown (top) and laterally (sides and back)
- Each type is also available in the following classes:
- Class E (20 000 V electrical rating) – non-conducting material (electrical trades)
- Class G (2200 V electrical rating) – non-conducting material (general trades)
- Class C (no electrical rating)
- Class G (General) hard hats are rated for 2,200 volts
- Class E (Electrical) hard hats are rated for 20,000 volts
- Class C (Conductive) hard hats do not offer electrical protection
Does My Hard Hat Meet ANSI Requirements?
Each revision of the CSA and ANSI standard has specific labeling requirements for hard hats. Each hard hat must have the following information clearly marked inside the hat:
- Manufacturer’s name
- CSA/ANSI standard that the hard hat conforms with, such as “ANSI Z89.1-2009”
- CSA/ANSI type (type I or II) and class designation (G, E or C)
- Size range for fitting
- Date of manufacture
It must also contain the following as required:
- Two arrows curving to form a circle when the helmet can be worn forwards or backwards
- LT – When the helmet is designed to provide protection at low temperatures 22 °F (-30 °C).
- HV – When the helmet meets all requirements for high visibility.
- Select a hard hat that comes with a visor in the front.
- Attach a have lock to your cloth cap or to the back of your hat to protect your neck.
- Use hats with large brims to protect your neck, shoulders and face as much as possible.
- The best hard hats are those that passed the ageing test. They resist the impact test after 400 hours of exposure to a 450-watt xenon lamp.
- Certain liners are fire resistant. They are generally made out of Nomex or Kevlar.
- In mid-season, it often becomes necessary to wear waterproof liners for protection against the rain.
- Liners destabilize hats. Adjust the headband properly before beginning to work.
A variety of hats exist to protect you from the cold, such as the tuque, the fur hat (with or without ear flaps), mufflers and the balaclava.
If you must wear a hard hat, there are several liner models that you can add to your hat to protect yourself in winter. Head bands fit over the hat and keep the cold and the wind from entering between the inner head band and the shell. Winter liners can be worn directly on the head under the head band. If you want, you can find liners available on the market that also protect the neck, the nape of the neck, the cheeks, part of the face, the upper shoulders or all of these at once. There are no specific rules to help you with your selection.
Instructions for care and use must accompany, but do not need to be included on, the hard hat.
Hard hats must be replaced if they show signs of damage (dents, cracks, penetration, or fatigue due to rough treatment). It is essential to inspect hard hats for damage and signs of fatigue each time they are used. In addition to visual inspections, another way to test a hard hat is to grasp it in two hands and apply force by squeezing the hat. If you hear creaking or other unusual sounds, it is time to replace the hard hat.
While OH&S has no specific provision for an expiration date, manufacturers are allowed to determine if their equipment expires on a specific calendar date. In lieu of an expiration date, a generally accepted rule is to replace the support strap yearly and to replace the hard hat every five years. Harsh chemicals and extreme temperatures can make a hard hat degrade more quickly. Be sure to check with the manufacturer for guidelines on hard hat replacement and maintenance.
- Inspect and replace a shell that shows signs of wear, scratches or gouges. Shells exposed to heat, sunlight and chemicals can become stiff or brittle. A visible pattern of tiny cracks may develop. Over time, weathered hats can become dull in colour or have a chalky appearance.
- Replace headwear when any of the above signs of wear start to appear.
- Replace headwear that has been struck, even if no damage is visible.
- Remove and destroy any headwear if its protective abilities are in doubt.
- Do not drill holes, alter or modify the shell. Alterations may reduce the protection provided by the headwear.
- Do not paint the plastic shell. Paint solvents can make plastic headwear brittle and more susceptible to cracks. Paint can also hide cracks that may develop. Instead, use reflective marking tape to make numbers or symbols for identification purposes. Some headwear may be painted, but check with the manufacturer for approval.
- Do not use winter liners that contain metal or electrically conductive material under Class G or E headwear.
- Do not use metal labels on Class G or E headwear.
A few helpful comments from both the USA and Canada government OHS agencies
· Preferably select a smooth shell because objects glance off them more easily. This is indispensable when there is a risk of side impacts. If the shell has ridges, they could act as support for the horizontal part of the impact and the hat could be knocked off.
· If there is a risk of side impact, select a shell offering increased lateral elastic rigidity.
· For heavy work, select shells having a thickness of at least 2 mm. They are more durable.
· For protection against impacts from projectiles with a high penetrating power, use thermoplastic shells: polycarbonate, ABS, mix of polycarbonate and fiberglass … They are more resistant to punctures.
· Add an adjustable fastener under your chin if the hat risks falling off when you move.
· Never modify your hat. For instance, if there is a hard hat available on the market that comes with welding goggles, it is safer to buy this type of hat than it is to try to make one in your garage.
Protecting yourself against bumps on fixed objects in the work place
Sometimes certain tasks must be carried out in tight spaces where the risk of accidentally bumping fixed objects in the work place is frequent. Examples of this type of work include working under machinery, repairing a vehicle or a piece of equipment, doing maintenance work, driving a heavy vehicle or inspecting meters.
When bumping against these objects, the impact is never as violent as receiving a hammer on the head. Results generally include lesions to the scalp: light contusions, moderate cuts if the element is sharp-edged, tears, scratches, hair pulling, scrapes …
If the risks we described in the previous section do not exist, then it is probably not necessary to use a hard hat. Wearing a rigid plastic bump cap, aerated or not, with or without suspension, can very well do the trick. Be careful, however; these caps are not CSA approved. They do not offer much protection against impacts from flying or falling objects and even less against punctur