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Will Your Hard Hat Keep You Safe?

Your hard hat is a lot like that can of soup in the back of your pantry. If it’s cracked, dented or its expiration date has passed, it needs to be tossed.

Eating food from a damaged can or from one that has exceeded its shelf life can make you sick. Wearing a hard hat that is battered or just plain old (even if it looks fine) can get you seriously injured or killed.

LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

“Hard hats are designed to protect against concussions, cuts and bruises and traumatic brain injuries caused by strikes to the head from falling objects, impacts from swinging cables and, sometimes, from burns and electrical shocks,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “A hard hat can also protect your head during a fall, but a chin strap must be worn to keep it from falling off your head.”

OSHA requires employers to provide hard hats to employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of being exposed to any of these situations. Where a hard hat is required for work, the employer must pay for it.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. About 30 percent of all injury deaths are from TBIs. Those who survive often face permanent disabilities including impaired thinking, memory and movement, changes in vision, hearing and personality and increased risk of dementia. TBIs create emotional and financial hardships for both the victim and for family members.

In 2010, about 2.5 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths were associated with TBI in the United States. Every year, TBI contributes to the deaths of more than 50,000 people.

The physical nature of construction increases the likelihood of suffering a TBI on the job. In fact, in the United States, the construction industry has the highest number of workplace TBIs. Falls, the leading cause of death in construction, are the leading cause of TBIs. They account for 40.5 percent. Struck-by, another major cause of fatalities in construction, is the second leading cause. Incidents involving motor vehicles are third. You can reduce your risk for being among these statistics by always wearing a hard hat that is in good condition and properly maintained.

Make sure your hard hat is in good condition. Let your employer know if it needs to be replaced:

  • Check for dents, cracks, gouges, scrapes or holes. Replace your hard hat immediately if you see any of these.
  • Replace the inside suspension every 12 months; sooner if you see fraying, cuts or tears. Also, never put anything between the suspension and the shell.
  • Replace your hard hat if it has been struck by an object or dropped on a hard surface, even if no damage is obvious.
  • Replace your hard hat when its expiration date has passed. Hats worn every day should be replaced every two years.

Maintain your hard hat:

  • Clean your hard hat with warm, soapy water and let it air dry. Never use cleaning products as they may contain chemicals that can damage it.
  • Keep your hard hat out of the sun and extreme temperatures when not in use. Exposure to sunlight, heat and cold can cause damage.
  • If replacing the suspension, use products from the same company.
  • Do not paint your hard hat. Paints can contain chemicals that can damage it.
  • Place stickers and decals so they do not hide defects and, to eliminate the risk of having them act as conductors between the inside and outside of the helmet, at least three-quarters of an inch away from the edge of the hat.

Hard hats come in a variety of types and are made to meet the American National Standards Institute standard pertaining to hard hats (ANSI Z89.1-2014). An ANSI certification label on the inside of the shell identifies a hard hat’s type and what exposures it is designed to protect against. Type I helmets provide top protection. Type II helmets also provide protection from side impacts. Class E helmets also provide protection from electricity. Always read this label before you begin your workday to be sure your hard hat provides appropriate protection for the tasks at hand.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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