Research shows that a fifth of all fatal and non-fatal injuries in the UK are head-related and head injury is the commonest cause of death and disability amongst people aged 1-40.
However, head protection is often way down the list of priorities when it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procurement, accounting for only three percent of all purchases.
Considering workers in a wide range of situations and activities may need PPE for the head, with a hard hat/safety helmet essential to ensure their wellbeing, that figure is not only worrying but also surprising.
When head protection is acquired, it is vital that it is well looked after like any other form of PPE. Listed below are some useful tips about safety helmets and what needs to be done to maintain their effectiveness and longevity of use.
Without the right fitting safety helmet, the wearer will not only be uncomfortable but the effectiveness of the PPE will also be compromised.
Every safety helmet should be adjusted so that it is a snug fit to each individual’s head.
Should a safety helmet require cleaning, we would advise that it is cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Any helmet which does not come clean with this treatment should be replaced.
Do not attempt to clean a helmet with solvents or abrasives. The material used for the helmet shell has been specifically chosen for its shock absorption and impact properties and for its durability. It can, however, be sensitive to chemical attacks.
For the same reason, painting safety helmets is a no-no.
Nearly a quarter of workers are unaware that exceeding the expiry date of a hard hat can reduce its protective qualities, so it is important to keep an up-to-date inventory of when safety helmets were first purchased.
The date of manufacture is moulded into the helmet – the year is detailed i.e. 18 = 2018, the inner circle denotes the year of manufacture and the outer circle denotes the quarter. Depending on the helmet type, the date of manufacture is engraved in a different location.
Helmets have an in-use life of up to five years from the date of issue to the user, but excessive wear and tear and exposure to the wrong environmental conditions can obviously have an adverse effect.
Manufacturers Centurion, for example, supplies a label inside the helmet which includes the ‘date of issue’ for the wearer or employer to complete.
It is worth noting that an in-use life statement from a manufacturer is purely a recommendation for guidance and good practice.
Storing safety helmets in extreme temperatures – hot or cold – and indirect sunlight will reduce the helmet’s lifetime and therefore should be avoided.
It is worth noting that helmets can be stored in their original transport cartons at storage temperature (0ºC to + 30ºC) in the dark, for up to five years from the date of manufacture, without affecting the ‘in-use’ lifetime).
Wear and Care Checklist
- Check for deep scuffs or scratches
- Check the chinstrap is in good condition
- Do not put any unchecked stickers or pen on the safety helmet
- Check your helmet is CE marked
- Check your date of manufacture (Centurion 5+5)
- Do not wear any unlicensed headwear underneath your helmet
- Do not throw your safety helmet around
- When not being used place in a helmet bag or store somewhere safe