Hard Hats and Safety Helmets – A Guide to Protection – Series 6

27 October 2020

In series 5 we spoke about accidents and statistics. We reviewed some statistical information regarding accidents but asked that more information is provided so that we can make sure our safety helmets/hard hats give the correct protection. We would also use this information in our R & D process to provide our wearers with different levels of protection depending on the risk.

Series 6: The Changing Face of Standards

So why have standards? And what are they there for? I hear you ask. The answer to those questions is quite simple. Firstly, for safety and reliability – Adherence to standards helps ensure safety and reliability. Secondly, for the support of government policies and legislation – Standards are frequently referenced by regulators and legislators for protecting user and business interests, and lastly for consumer choice – Standards provide the foundation for new features and options.

As far as safety helmets and hard hats are concerned the standards started when T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in May 1935, his doctor, the young Australian neurosurgeon Sir Hugh Cairns realised that his life might have been saved if he had been wearing a helmet. Cairns went on to research and campaign for the use of motorcycle helmets in the UK. Cairns researched head trauma in 1940 which was subsequently published in 1941 in the British Medical Journal (Head injuries in motorcyclists. The importance of the crash helmet). This all lead to the first motorcycle standard in 1952 which was followed 2 years later by the first hard hat standard (The Light Duty Safety Helmet Standard) in 1954 both of which were British Standards. This standard was updated once before the International Standards Organisation tried to unify safety helmet standards in 1977 with ISO3873.

So today we are left with the most common safety helmet/hard hat standard EN397, which was actually for the most part comprised of the ISO3873 standard from 1977 plus a few additional tweaks in 1995 to bring it up to date. ISO3873 is still used today as the Japanese International Standard, but like EN397 it is considered to be very design restricting by manufacturers, which has prompted its much-needed update of which I am proud to be part of.

There are other global safety helmet/hard hat standards which are very similar to EN397 that will also require updating once the new version of EN397 is released as most of them like EN397 were bench marked from ISO3873. The great thing about all these proposed changes is that the new standard will truly reflect the current requirements of our global wearers. Gone will be the confusion of what to wear when working at height or down on the ground. There will be higher impact protection levels in one type with testing being carried out over different areas of the helmet. Head injuries from slips, trips and falls from the same level would have been considered giving the wearer a better, more applicable level of protection. Most of all, design restrictions have been reduced allowing the standard to concentrate on performance and practicality whilst the manufacturers concentrate on design, styling and comfort.

So, what does Centurion Safety Products think?

It has been clear to us that EN397 has needed to change for several years. Design restrictions perpetuated by the standard have held back technological advances in helmets that could add additional layers of protection, style and comfort for the wearer. This is underlined by the fact that as an industry we have had to revert to a recreational standard EN12492 to be able to give our wearers the protection levels required. We have always been out of the box thinkers when it comes to industrial design and protection. Our Nexus Heightmaster is a classic example of this with extra impact protection and a micro peak for better upward visibility and protection if you slip, trip or fall due to there being no peak to hit on the ground, thus reducing possible neck injury from falls.

Like most manufacturers we will embrace the changes proposed in EN397 as this will enable us to implement more cutting-edge design alongside higher protection levels. The new standard should allow us to consider oblique impacts and how they may lead to a rotational injury. The one injury where we can mitigate the risk but not remove it is concussion, but work on this needs to start with education and understanding of what it is and the consequences to the wearer, which is why Centurion Safety Products is partnered with Headway the brain injury association and has sponsored their latest concussion leaflet to drive awareness.

Remember that head protection may be required to play a vital role in saving your life.
Check it, keep it, wear it.

If you would like further information on what helmet types and standards suit you then contact our expert.