Safety First

Here Come the Helmets!

By Mike Costigan

As the NFL continues to place the dangers from head injuries front and center through increased awareness and improved helmet technology, the construction industry is doing the same.

The rollout of helmets on construction sites continues to grow in popularity with General Contractors and healthcare professionals. One of the biggest differences is the greater protection helmets provide over the hardhat. Hardhats are rated Type 1 for top-of-head protection only, while a helmet has a Type 2-rated protection that not only provides top-of-head protection but side-of-head protection as well.

Like hardhats, helmets come in three different classes. Class ‘C’ is conductive and has no protection from an electrical hazard. Class ‘G’ is for general use and has an electrical hazard that is proof tested at 2,200 volts. Class ‘E’ helmets are tested at 20,000 volts – and are what all brothers and sisters should be wearing.

Another big advantage of the helmet is the chinstrap, which keeps the helmet in place in case of a fall. The helmet has a 10-year shelf life, compared to a five-year shelf life for a hardhat. So, helmets are the clear choice when it comes to safety.

The only remaining hurdle to helmets is social acceptance. I hear many people mention they don’t like the way they look. When I started in the trade, the only PPE required were boots and the occasional hardhat. Now, the minimum PPE is a hardhat, safety glasses, gloves, safety vest, and boots. I believe function over form will likely win out in this case too – as it should.  

In solidarity and safety,
Mike Costigan
IBEW Local 11 Safety officer

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