The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Monday that the agency is replacing traditional hard hats used by its employees with more modern safety helmets to protect them better when they are on inspection sites.

In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported head injuries accounted for nearly 6% of non-fatal occupational injuries involving days away from work. Almost half of those injuries occurred when workers came in contact with an object or equipment, while about 20% were caused by slips and falls.

In a Dec. 11 news release, the Labor Dept. said that traditional hard hats, designed in the 1960s, protected the top of a worker’s head but had minimal side impact protection and lacked chin straps. Without the straps, traditional hard hats can fall off a worker’s head if they slip or trip, leaving them unprotected. In addition, conventional hard hats lacked vents and trapped heat inside.

On Nov. 22, 2023, OSHA published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin detailing key differences between traditional hard hats and more modern safety helmets and the advancements in design, materials and other features that help protect workers’ entire heads better. Today’s safety helmets may also offer face shields or goggles to protect against projectiles, dust and chemical splashes. Others offer built-in hearing protection and communication systems to enable clear communication in noisy environments.

The agency recommends that safety helmets be used by people working in the construction industry and the oil and gas industry in high-temperature, specialized work, and low-risk environments, performing tasks involving electrical work and working from heights, and when required by regulations or industry standards.

OSHA wants employers to make safety and health a core value in their workplaces and is committed to doing the same by leading by example and embracing the evolution of head protection.  

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