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OSHA to switch from hard hats to safety helmets

By Brock Huffstutler

December 17, 2023

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it will replace traditional hard hats used by its employees with more modern safety helmets for better protection on inspection sites.

A 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that head injuries accounted for nearly 6 percent of non-fatal occupational injuries involving days away from work. The report stated that almost half of those injuries occurred when workers came in contact with an object or equipment while about 20 percent were caused by slips, trips and falls.

OSHA said that traditional hard hats, which date to the 1960s, protect the top of a worker’s head but have minimal side impact protection and also lack chin straps. The agency said that without the straps, traditional hard hats can fall off a worker’s head if they slip or trip, leaving them unprotected, and that traditional hard hats lack vents and trap heat inside.

On Nov. 22, 2023, OSHA published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin detailing 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. OSHA noted beneficial features of today’s safety helmets, including face shields or goggles to protect against projectiles, dust and chemical splashes, and built-in hearing protection and/or communication systems to enable clear communication in noisy environments.

The agency recommends safety helmets be used by people working in the construction, oil and gas industries; in high-temperature, specialized work and low-risk environments; when performing tasks involving electrical work and working from heights; and when required by regulations or industry standards.

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