We must remember to always wear our hard hats. If they are sitting at a desk, on a work bench, or in a truck, they are definitely not going to protect us.

Heads Up for Safety

One of the newest consensus standards from the International Safety Equipment Association aims to prevent head injuries and other serious injuries and damage from the impact caused by dropped objects.

Each year at the National Safety Council's recent Congress & Expo events, an OSHA official has given a standing-room-only presentation about the agency's most frequently cited standards during the latest fiscal year. The list includes both general industry and construction standards and is very consistent from one year to the next.

OSHA has posted the 10 most frequently cited construction standards in fiscal 2017, as well. Seeing fall protection at the top of the construction list makes sense, but it comes as some surprise that the construction list includes two PPE-related standards, which are highlighted here:

Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Construction Violations—2017 (as of Sept. 30, 2017)

  1. Fall Protection -- General Requirements (1926.501)
  2. Scaffolding (1926.451)
  3. Ladders (1926.1053)
  4. Fall Protection -- Training (1926.503)
  5. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)
  6. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
  7. Head Protection (1926.100)
  8. Aerial Lifts (1926.453)
  9. General Safety and Health Provisions (1926.20)
  10. Fall Protection -- Systems Criteria and Practices (1926.502)

Those two are the focus of this article. The right PPE is a key to preventing head and eye injuries in any industry, and the process for selecting it begins with a hazard assessment.

You can conduct a hazard assessment for one employee who performs a single task or for groups of employees who perform the same task, such as welders who are exposed to ultraviolet radiation during one type of welding or laboratory workers who are exposed to chemical splashes. The person who conducts the hazard assessment must have an intimate knowledge of each task and should directly observe the employees, looking for hazard sources such as high temperatures, chemicals, dust, sources for falling objects and the potential for dropped objects, the potential for struck-by hazards, moving vehicles and equipment, and more.

Dropped Object Prevention: ANSI/ISEA 121-2018
OSHA standards make it clear that workers must wear hard hats when overhead hazards are present.

Couple the fact that the head protection standard for construction is frequently violated with the knowledge that the most expensive lost-time workers' compensation claims, by far, are those involving the head and central nervous system, according to the council's "Injury Facts, 2017 Edition," safety professionals and workers in the construction industry know the importance of using adequate protection.

Another development driving this point home is the fact that one of the newest consensus standards from the International Safety Equipment Association aims to prevent head injuries and other serious injuries and damage from the impact caused by dropped objects. The standard is ANSI/ISEA 121-2018, American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions, which was developed to set design, testing, and performance criteria for equipment that tethers or contains items such as hand tools, water bottles, etc.

The American National Standards Institute approved the standard's publication in July 2018. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 52,000 "struck by falling object" OSHA recordable incidents occur each year in the United States, with 5 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2015 due to strikes by a falling object.

Objects dropped from height can strike with a great deal of force, and the only way to reduce the chance of injury or harm from dropped objects is to prevent these accidental drops. ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 is groundbreaking in that it requires dropped object prevention (DOP) solutions to go through dynamic drop testing to be considered fit for use. Dynamic drop testing involves dropping an object of known weight multiple times. If the DOP device being tested prevents a drop, it passes, and if the device breaks and the object drops, it fails.

Other Important Head & Face Protection Standards
The most important consensus standards regarding head & face PPE include:

  • ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. The standard prescribes performance specifications for products such as eyewear, faceshields, and welding helmets.
  • ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014, American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. This standard provides performance and testing requirements for industrial hard hats, both Type I for top protection and Type II for protection against lateral impacts.

OSHA's important standards include 1910.135; 1910.132, the main personal protective equipment standard; 1910.133, Eye and Face Protection; and 1910.252(b)(2), the eye protection section within the Welding, Cutting, and Brazing standard.

Recommended PPE for Emergency Crews
On Sept. 19, OSHA posted a reminder that emergency crews in the areas affected by Hurricane Florence should be aware of hazards from flooding, power loss, structural damage, fallen trees, and storm debris.

"Workers involved in storm recovery can face a range of safety and health hazards," said OSHA Region 4 Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. "Risks can be minimized with knowledge, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment."

The agency noted that only individuals with proper training, equipment, and experience should conduct recovery and cleanup activities, and that the protective measures after a weather disaster should include:

  • Evaluating the work area for hazards
  • Assessing the stability of structures and walking surfaces
  • Fall protection for elevated surfaces
  • Assuming all power lines are live
  • Using chainsaws, portable generators, ladders, and other equipment properly
  • Using personal protective equipment, such as gloves, hard hats, hearing and foot protection, and eye protectors

OSHA's Region 4 includes the states hit hardest by Florence's flooding, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Taking Care of Your Hard Hat
Some useful tips for the inspection, care, and use of hard hats:

  • Do not store a hard hat in direct sunlight. Manufacturers recommend that workers never leave their hard hats in the rear window well of a vehicle or anywhere the hard hat would be exposed to sunlight while not in use, because UV rays can do significant damage.
  • Clean the shell and suspension system with mild soap and rinse with warm water.
  • Inspect the shell for damage, excess wear, perforations, or cracking.
  • Inspect the suspension straps for cuts and wear, as well as for signs of chemical damage.
  • Do not use adhesives, paints, or cleaning solvents on your hard hat unless the use is approved by its manufacturer.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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