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December 11, 2023
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that the agency is replacing traditional hard hats used by its employees with more modern safety helmets to protect them better when they are on inspection sites.
The announcement follows a Nov. 22, 2023, Safety and Health Information Bulletin publication from the agency wherein it detailed key differences between traditional hard hats and more modern safety helmets and the advancements in design, materials, and other features that help protect workers’ entire heads better. According to OSHA, safety helmets may also offer face shields or goggles to protect against projectiles, dust, and chemical splashes. Others offer built-in hearing protection and/or communication systems to enable clear communication in noisy environments.
In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports head injuries accounted for nearly 6% of non-fatal occupational injuries involving days away from work. Almost half of those injuries occurred when workers came in contact with an object or equipment while about 20% were caused by slips, trips and falls.
Dating back to the 1960s, traditional hard hats protect the top of a worker’s head but have minimal side impact protection and also lack chin straps. Without the straps, traditional hard hats can fall off a worker’s head if they slip or trip, leaving them unprotected. In addition, traditional hard hats lacked vents and trapped heat inside.
The agency now recommends safety helmets be used by people working at construction industry and the oil and gas industry; in high-temperature, specialized work and low-risk environments; performing tasks involving electrical work and working from heights; and when required by regulations or industry standards.
“OSHA wants employers to make safety and health a core value in their workplaces and is committed to doing the same by leading by example and embracing the evolution of head protection,” the agency said.
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