Safety helmets and hard hats have been protecting people in one form or another for thousands of years. From their humble beginnings as battle armour for Assyrian soldiers in 900BC to today where their use is much more widespread. These now common safety items are protecting your most important asset, your brain and should therefore be treated with the respect they deserve.
When the humble hard hat begun in 1882 with a little-known UK business called ‘The Patented Pulp Manufacturing Company’ in Norfolk, very little was known as to whether these hard hats really protected your head or not. Discovering this was left up to Sir Hugh Cairns the young Australian Neurosurgeon for Lawrence of Arabia who had died from a brain injury sustained in a motorcycle accident. Sir Cairns vowed after his friend died that he would find a way of testing hard hats or helmets to make sure they were up to the job of protecting people. This gave birth to the first-ever safety standard in the UK for light-duty safety helmets in 1954.
We would like to help you to know what to wear and why but first let’s talk testing.
All good safety helmets or hard hats are qualified to a recognised standard. The standard describes how they are tested and what areas of the helmet are to be tested, for instance, the crown or sides of the helmet.
The helmets are then subjected to impacts dependant on the standard they qualify for. If you opt for an EN397 helmet this is tested after conditioning firstly for compression in the crown area only and then for penetration in the crown area as well.
The compression test is a 5kg weight dropped from 1 metre and the transfer of shock to the base of the neck is measured on the head form.
The penetration test comprises of a 3kg sharp-pointed weight dropped from 1 metre onto the crown area and measured to make sure the point has not penetrated the head form.
Both these tests are designed to mimic dropped objects onto the crown area only as no other part of the helmet for this standard is tested.
So, that’s how they are tested, now let’s talk actual impacts.
We all love a good study and impacts on safety helmets is no exception. From studies, we have been able to ascertain that when someone is struck by a dropped object – it impacts primarily on the front of the safety helmet. We know now that when it impacts on the front of the safety helmet – we are looking slightly down, and our neck, therefore, is slightly extended.
So why do we only test the crown of the helmet then I hear you ask? Just because we only test the crown on an EN397 safety helmet it does not mean that it will not protect you in an impact situation. It would, however, make sense that for peace of mind the safety helmet is tested in those areas wouldn’t it? The study also tells us that skull fracture and concussion are more common than neck injuries in dropped object impacts so why do we measure shock transference to the neck? The shock transference limit is measured on a fixed/stiff neck and the flexibility of the human neck has never been considered.
So, lets now talk accidents and statistics.
Accidents and Statistics
For all of us, accident reporting and statistics provide insights to help us elevate the issue of better head protection for the world’s safety helmet or hard hat wearers. It allows manufacturers to constantly challenge the status quo and push technical boundaries to achieve better protection, sending us home safely to our loved ones every day.
We all know our most valuable asset to protect is our head because that is the bit that works everything else. If something happens to that then there may be serious implications including anything from brain injury to death. Using accident reporting and statistics the industry can gain further understanding on how injuries are caused and therefore how it can prevent them. However, statistics are one part of the equation. Manufacturers and wearers must continue to analyse and question statistics so that everyone can address the right issues that have the biggest impact on wearer safety.
So ultimately what should you wear?
What to wear and why
There is growing confusion over which standard someone should be wearing under different circumstances. For instance, should wearers working at height just add a chinstrap to an EN397 rated helmet? What are the health and safety compliance issues surrounding dual rated chinstraps? Let us try to give you clarity on this issue.
If you work solely on the ground, then an EN397 helmet should be your primary choice, remembering though that this helmet does not have the extra impact protection so should not be used for working at height. This standard also has an optional chinstrap, so we recommend that you take advantage of this to ensure your head protection always stays on. If, however you work solely at height, then for the time being your choice should be an EN12492 helmet. This is a recreational standard but currently there is nothing to replace it, so for now we recommend that you stick with this.
So, what if you want to work on the ground and at height? Then you should opt for the EN12492 helmet which will give you protection on the ground and at height like the Centurion Heightmaster. This helmet will provide the wearer with higher levels of impact protection and is also tested for front, side and rear impacts thus giving you all round protection. It is the perfect One Solution for All Tasks.
Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.