August 8, 2008
Each year over 70,000 head injuries occur in the workplace; almost 200 head injuries for each day of the year. Most of the injuries were minor abrasions requiring first aid or a few stitches and probably could have been prevented. To protect your head it is important to understand the types of hazards that can cause injury and the steps you can take to reduce those hazards.
Types of hazards that can cause head injuries
The following are the most common types of hazards that can cause head injury:
- Falling objects. Falling objects such tools or materials on a construction site or drilling equipment can cause head injuries.
- Overhead objects. Bumping your head against overhead objects such as scaffolding or the drill-head can cause head injuries.
- Sharp objects. Sharp objects on construction sites such as nails can cause abrasions or puncture wounds to the head.
- Awkward positions. Working for long periods, with your head in an awkward position can lead to neck strain.
- Electricity. Ungrounded electricity can cause head burns.
- Sunburn. Exposure to the sun can cause sunburn which may lead to skin cancer.
How to protect your head from injury
The following are ways to protect your head from injury:
- Conduct a site reconnaissance before beginning a job to identify the types of hazards that could cause a head injury and take the steps necessary to protect yourself.
- Whenever possible avoid working in areas where there are falling or overhead hazards.
- Wear the right hat for the job.
- Always try to maintain a safe distance from moving equipment or machinery such as a backhoe or concrete truck.
- Adjust your workstation so that your head will be in a comfortable position.
- When working in direct sunlight, wear a wide-brimmed hat or sunscreen to protect your head from sunburn.
A hard hat is designed both to resist blows to the head and to absorb the shock of the blow. The one-piece outer shell takes the blow and the cradle lining within the hat absorbs the shock. All OSHA approved hard hats are designed to meet the specifications of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Hard hats can be divided into the four following classes:
- Class A. Class A hard hats have limited voltage resistance and are primarily designed to protect against impact.
- Class B. Class B hard hats have high voltage resistance, have no metal parts to conduct electricity and are designed for work around electricity.
- Class C. Class C hard hats offer no voltage protection, are usually made of aluminum and are designed for work in manufacturing environment.
- Class D. Class D hard hats are fire resistant, voltage resistant and are designed for use by fire fighters.
A proper fit is essential to ensure hard hat protection. Adjust the headband so that the hard hat doesn’t touch your head. The fit should be snug but not too tight. If you will be working in a windy environment or a situation where your hat could fall off and injure someone working below, a chin strap is suggested.
Inspect your hard hat regularly to be sure it isn’t cracked or that the headband isn’t damaged. Always replace a hard hat that is cracked or broken. Avoid storing your hard hat in the direct sun to prevent damage to the plastic.