A survey about worksite accidents and injuries conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that 84% of all workers who suffered head injuries were not wearing head protection. The majority of these workers were injured while performing their normal jobs at their usual worksites. The researchers reported that more than 50% of the injured workers were struck in the head while they were looking down and about three-tenths were hurt while looking straight ahead. A third were injured as a result of bumping into stationary objects.
With statistics like these, why are employees still so careless about wearing head protection? The answer to that question is a combination of three factors:
Discomfort while wearing hard hats – Too heavy and lack of ventilation are two reasons employees give for not wearing head protection. The problem with heaviness stems from the fact that older style hard hats didn’t have enough surface to evenly distribute the helmet weight. To alleviate this problem, newer styles have four point and six point suspensions. In the four-point suspension model, there are two straps that attach to four places on the suspension. The six-point suspension has three straps that attach to six places. Having more straps means that the weight is distributed over more surface area, which keeps the wearer comfortable even during long periods of use. When the temperature is high, workers often take off their hard hats to cool off. This is an extremely dangerous practice, because it leaves them vulnerable to injury from overhead falling material. Many manufacturers now offer vented hard hats that permit air to circulate. Head protection also comes with options such as full brims for protection from the direct rays of the sun.
Disassociation with the safety issues – Many employees fail to report that their hard hats don’t fit properly. They feel that as long as there is something covering their head, there isn’t a cause for concern. Likewise, many employees feel that not wearing their head protection for a few hours won’t have any negative consequences. Employers should not only educate workers about the importance of wearing properly fitting head protection at all times, but should also train employees in the maintenance of the equipment.
Lack of enforcement – The BLS survey showed that in most instances where head injuries occurred, employers had not required their employees to wear head protection.
Of those workers wearing hard hats, all but five percent said they were required by their employers to wear them. According to the survey, in almost half of the accidents involving head injuries, employees knew of no actions taken by employers to prevent such injuries from recurring.