The image of a construction worker wearing a hard hat is an iconic image. Whether it’s high above a skyscraper or on the ground, everyone on the job site should wear a hard hat, visitors included. However, is this mainstay of construction – the hard hat – getting a makeover? Nowadays, hard hats are often upgraded to safety helmets, as they offer increased protection. Will safety helmets eventually take on the role of choice head protection, or will hard hats and safety helmets coexist at work? Change a safety helmet When photographing a safety helmet, consider lifeguards or outdoor sports, such as rock climbing, skiing, biking, and even kayaking. These helmets are usually attached more closely to the head with built-in chin straps and have little to no frills around the brim. Their overall profile on the head is smaller. Safety helmets have more safety elements, which is why they are preferred by athletes in extreme sports and lifeguards in dangerous situations. Inside the helmet there is a protective pad and chin straps that keep the helmet firmly on the head. Hard-to-build helmets For construction workers, safety helmets not only protect against falling objects, but some models (Type II) can provide increased impact protection on the side and back of the head. Type II helmets and hard hats are designed to reduce side impacts on the head, either off-center, sideways or to the top of the head. For example, a blow to the head caused by the sharp end of a side beam or I-beam. Additionally, chin straps can provide additional safety during falls, trips, and slips by keeping helmets or hard hats in place. Safety Helmet Options and Accessories Other features that make safety helmets safe include attachable visors, ear protection, and outfitting or manufactured from Hi Viz materials. OSHA regulations require the use of an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) compliant head protection (ANSI Z89.1-2014). Pursuant to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.100, employers must provide head protection equipment that meets or exceeds ANSI Z89.1 Industry Compliance Standard. Header protection is set by type and class ‘Type’ and ‘Category’. Type refers to the level of protection from impact, while class refers to the different levels of protection from electricity. ANSI Type I helmets are designed to reduce force from impact on the top of the head ANSI Type II helmets are designed to reduce force from impact on the sides or top of the head. The three classes of head protection include: Class E (electrical) provides protection for 20,000 volts Class G (common) provides protection for 2200 volts Class C (conductive) does not provide protection against Type A electricity, Class C hard hat will be the standard worn by a construction worker not exposed to electrical hazards; The standard safety helmet will be classified as Class C. Pros and Cons of Safety Helmets White Helmet Control Safety Helmet Barriers Another challenge to the adoption of safety helmets at work is worker preference. Hard hats are an ancient symbol of the construction worker. The safety helmet not only has a different appearance from the traditional hard hat, but also has a different appearance. Some workers may feel uncomfortable wearing the more elegant design of the safety helmet. This cultural shift may make it difficult for some workers. Some workers may switch to safety helmets while others continue to wear hard hats depending on the type of work they do. Safety helmets may be required when working at heights or in situations where the risk of falling is greatest – while workers at ground level can wear hard hats, such as concrete finishers, ensigns, electricians, drivers, etc. More and more safety helmets mean additional benefits for workers, construction companies, and insurance companies. Increased use of safety helmets means companies may have fewer workers due to injury, fewer workers compensation and fewer claims. Construction companies may have to spend more money up front, but the payoff from worker safety is invaluable. The transition from a hard hat to a safety helmet may take some time, but the safety and long-term cost advantages will likely make helmets the better choice for some.