The average safety hard hat weights about 14 ounces. The average man’s head weighs 14 pounds. So there’s an ounce of safety for every pound of head—provided the head protection is properly worn and maintained.
The brain is the control center of the body. The slightest damage to any part of the brain will cause malfunction of some area of the body. The skull, under normal circumstances, protects the brain. But when a possibility of injury from falling or flying objects exists, additional protection is required. This is the objective of the use of hard hats.
The force of a falling object can be calculated approximately by multiplying the weight of the object by the distance of its fall. A three and one-half ounce washer, for example, falling thirty-two feet, will generate a force of seven-foot pounds in impact. Should this washer strike an unprotected head, the force of the blow would be equivalent to 560 pounds; when a hard hat is worn, the force transmitted to the neck and spine is reduced to only 127 pounds.
Often workers are reluctant to wear hard hats because of an expressed concern of the weight and discomfort of heat during warm weather. Considering the protection afforded, the weight theory is negligible. The average hard hat weighs 14 ounces as compared to the three pounds of the helmet used in World War II and the Korean Conflict. However, under duress of battle, the helmet afforded a psychological feeling of security. Why then, in certain areas of employment, shouldn’t the hard hat give this same feeling of security?
Regarding the so-called discomfort of heat, a test in temperature of 110 degrees showed that the inside temperature of a cloth cap and a felt hat were 2 degrees cooler than the prevailing outside temperature. The same test revealed the inside temperature of hard hats varied from 5 to12 degrees cooler. The material, reflection and air space were the governing factors.
When are hard hats required?
• If there is a possibility that a falling object may strike the employee on the head.
• Where fixed or protruding objects may lead to the employee striking his or her head against such object.
• Where electrical hazards exist that the employee’s head may contact.
How do hard hats protect us?
There are a variety of ways this simple device can prevent injuries.
• The first feature that most of us recognize immediately is the rigid shell designed to resist and/or deflect blows to the head. Think about falling objects striking the hard hat instead of the head. This is pretty simple to understand, right?
• The second feature, the suspension system, is also pretty apparent but is sometimes not completely understood. This system is designed to be a sort of shock absorber maintaining a safe distance between the head and the shell; approximately an inch to an inch and a half. However, employees will occasionally use this area to store such things as cigarettes, lighters, keys, etc. This defeats the purpose of the safety zone and may lead to a serious injury if these stored materials are forced into the skull in the event the hard hat is struck by a falling object.
• The third feature is to serve as an insulator against electrical shock. However, not all hard hats provide this protection and those working with or near electrical hazards must ensure they have the properly rated hard hat prior to beginning work.
• The fourth feature of a hard hat is often overlooked. Hard hats can prevent splashes, drips and or spills from touching your scalp. In addition, the brim helps to prevent spilled or splashed liquids from running into your eyes. Therefore, wearing the hard hat with the brim to the back renders this feature useless.
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