Health and safety regulations are becoming more and more engrained into the working life of any employee nowadays, no matter what environment they work in.
However, one thing remains constant – the need to ensure that construction workers are protected with adequate equipment.
Head protection is a crucial part of a construction workers outfit and, as such, employers need to be aware of the regulations surrounding the use of this Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This includes making sure that it is of the necessary specification, is free from damage or defect, is readily available and its integrity is not compromised. For example, if it is required to be worn with other PPE, for example ear defenders.
In recent months, The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989, requiring construction workers to wear hard hats wherever there is a foreseeable risk of injury to the head, have been revoked as part of a shake-up in health and safety regulations, as the Government moves to cut red tape.
However, despite the shake-up, contractors still need to be aware that the need for wearing of head protection has not been removed and the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 have been amended so that they cover the provision and use of head protection on construction sites.
As a result, employers must be aware of the variety of head protection available and ensure that they supply employees with the correct equipment (e.g. helmets or bump caps) that suits the needs of both the task being undertaken and the wearer. The decision as to which type is required should be formally risk assessed. The general rule is that head protection must be worn and that only through suitable and sufficient risk assessments is it determined that it is not necessary.
It is essential that head protection fits properly, but employers must be aware that it should also be as comfortable as possible for the wearer and obviously compatible with the type of work to be done.
As with all PPE, the employer is responsible for certifying that it is adequately maintained and users should be trained to the appropriate level in carrying out maintenance and inspection in order to identify for themselves any problems with the equipment.
When it comes to replacing hard hats, wherever there are visual signs of damage or defect, or following impact, they should be replaced.
In addition, the majority of manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years irrespective of outward appearance and if work conditions include exposure to higher temperature extremes, sunlight, or chemicals, employers must be aware that hard hats should be replaced after two years of use.
Essential dos and don’ts that employers should be aware of when it comes to the use of helmets:
- wear the helmet the right way round;
- wear a chinstrap where necessary;
- wear the helmet so that the brim is level when the head is upright; and
- keep a supply of helmets for visitors.
- use your helmet for carrying materials;
- paint it or use solvents for cleaning;
- store it in direct sunlight;
- modify, cut or drill it; or
- share your head protection.
Despite any changes to health and safety regulations though, one thing will always be the same – hard hats remain vital in protecting construction workers from head injuries – and employers cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to selecting the right protection, ensuring equipment is in the best possible working condition at all times, and being proficient at knowing when head protection needs to be replaced.
About the author
Head of Health and Safety, www.workplacelaw.net
Workplace Law specialises in health and safety management and compliance and are an established training provider, licensed by IOSH and NEBOSH.
Simon has over ten years’ experience as a health and safety professional, with specialist disciplines in safety management systems, fire safety and construction management. Simon is a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Graduate Member of the Institute of Fire Engineers and a Registered CDM Coordinator with the Association for Project Safety.