By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
The nation’s nonprofit association for cast-in-place concrete contractors is asking its members to set goals to accomplish a safety-specific transition from hard hats to helmets to prevent traumatic brain injuries and deaths on the jobsite.
Bev Garnant, executive director of the American Society of Concrete Contractors, says momentum is gaining across the U.S. to replace traditional hard hats with helmets equipped with chin straps and extruded foam to protect construction workers more effectively from falls. Helmets for construction workers is one of the ASCC’s core initiatives.
“The ASCC has established an overall goal to realize the transition of 75 percent of our member companies’ jobsite workers from hard hats to helmets by 2023,” Garnant said. “This is an ambitious goal, but we feel it’s doable. Several major general contractors are already making the switch.”
St. Louis-based Concrete Strategies – a Clayco subsidiary – is preparing to embark on a pilot effort at one jobsite, outfitting the field crew with helmets. Concrete Strategies Safety Director Joe Rock says construction helmets are considerably more expensive than hard hats, but with safety paramount, it’s where the industry needs to head.
“In any type of fall event, the traditional hard hat comes off a worker’s head,” Rock said. “The most progressive, forward-thinking construction industry partners are headed in the direction of helmets over hard hats. Our company is always going to be pushing the envelope in seeking out, testing and trying any resources and practices that ensure our workers return home safely to their families every day.”
Perception in the field that a helmet is less comfortable and heat resistant than a hard hat, Rock adds, is one that must be overcome to gain buy-in on the hats-to-helmets transition from those in the field. Concrete Strategies performed research on helmets and ordered a half dozen for field workers to try. From that input, two finalist helmet models were ordered. The project for which field crew are sporting the new head gear begins this spring. Rock and Garnant say the construction helmets closely resemble a bicycle helmet.
“OSHA regulations still specify hard hats as approved head gear,” Garnant said, “but we truly think that over the next two to three years that will change to helmets. Hard hats are built to protect workers when protect materials striking their heads, but hard hats are not equipped to protect workers who fall. Helmets reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injuries and deaths. When we think of productivity on a jobsite, we may not necessarily think of safety. But safety has a huge impact on productivity.”