OSHA Looks To Shift From Hard Hats to Safety Helmets

As industries, including the oil and gas industry, strive to enhance worker safety, more advanced and protective modern head protection, safety helmets, are replacing traditional hard hats.

Examples of safety helmets.
Source: OSHA

Workplace safety equipment, including head protection, has evolved over the years. As industries strive to enhance worker safety and reduce the risks of head injuries, more advanced and protective modern head protection, safety helmets, are replacing traditional hard hats.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a bulletin presenting the key differences between safety helmets and traditional hard hats, describing the advancements in design, materials, and protective features that help to protect the worker’s entire head. The bulletin also provides instructions for properly inspecting and storing head protection, whether it be a safety helmet or a traditional hard hat.

The significance of head protection in hazardous work environments cannot be overstated. For decades, traditional hard hats have been the go-to choice for protecting workers’ heads. Made of rigid materials such as high-density polyethylene, traditional hard hats provide a basic level of protection. However, as technology and scientific understanding of head injuries have advanced, safety helmets now provide further improvements to enhance worker safety and reduce the risk of severe head trauma.

One of the differences between traditional hard hats and safety helmets lies in their construction materials. While hard hats are made of hard plastics, safety helmets incorporate a combination of materials, including lightweight composites, fiberglass, and advanced thermoplastics. These materials not only enhance impact resistance but also reduce the overall weight of the helmet, reducing neck strain and improving comfort during extended use. In addition, all safety helmets include a chin strap that, when worn properly, maintains the position of the safety helmet in the event of a slip, trip, or fall.

Moreover, safety helmets can incorporate an array of additional features designed to address specific workplace risks. Many models include add-on face shields or goggles to protect against projectiles, dust, and chemical splashes. They may also have built-in hearing protection and communication systems to facilitate clear communication in noisy environments, enabling workers to stay connected and safe.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, head injuries accounted for 5.8% of nonfatal occupational injuries involving days away from work.

Read the full bulletin here.