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Construction Safety Helmets vs. Hard Hats: A New Approach

2/15/19
Revised: 1/11/21
Grainger Editorial Staff

Equipped with adjustable chin straps, ear protection, face shields and other safety features, construction safety helmets are gaining popularity on today’s jobsites.  

Every day at jobsites around the globe, construction workers walk past a “Hard Hat Required” placard—a reminder to don their protective headgear before proceeding into areas where falling debris, low beams or other perils could be lurking around any corner. OSHA rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.100) states that employers must provide head protection equipment (and at no charge to the worker) that meets or exceeds the industry consensus standard ANSI Z89.1 issued 2009.  

What’s the Best Option for Your Workforce?

Historically looked upon as the first choice for head protection, traditional hard hats may no longer be the best option. The primary purpose of a hard hat is to protect the head from objects falling from above. Construction sites may have hazards coming from a number of different directions, such as moving beams or stray tools, and donning a safety helmet may better protect the back and sides of the head.

Safety helmets look more like those worn for mountain climbing, skiing or biking. They fit the head closely, have built-in straps, a small brim, protective padding and chin straps. According to White Cap, a safety helmet has a different feel than a hard hat and some workers may want to stick with traitional hard hats when working at ground level.. 

A Win-Win-Win for Everyone Involved

Improving upon head protection is a benefit to many different parties surrounding the construction industry. In fact, it’s a win-win-win for:

  • The worker, who benefits from less chance of injury
  • The company, which benefits from less lost time and worker’s compensation payouts
  • Insurance companies, which benefit from lower risk and less claims.

Construction Drive states that U.S., contractors like Skanska USA and Clark Construction Group launched test programs involving KASK safety helmets on jobsites. Unlike hard hats, KASK helmets include a high-density expanded polystyrene liner that protects the entire head, along with webbing that distributes its force equally. Both contractors said employees felt safer when wearing the helmets and that the extra protection the helmets provides outweighs their higher cost.

Keeping Them Safe from Harm

As hard hats continue to look and function more like rescue gear, other brands of safety helmets like PETZL could gain a larger presence on the construction jobsite. Interested in protecting workers from head impacts—while meeting OSHA standards—safety managers should explore their options and select the protective headgear that fits best with their workers’ needs.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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