Reevaluating head protection on jobsites

By |  August 4, 2023
Type II safety helmets like Studson’s SHK-1 Full-Brim protect the wearer on the top of the head from falling objects, as well as on the front, back and sides of the head. Photo: Studson

Type II safety helmets like Studson’s SHK-1 Full-Brim protect the wearer on the top of the head from falling objects, as well as on the front, back and sides of the head. Photo: Studson

Head protection is a crucial element of worker safety at aggregate operations.

The standard head protection on jobsites is typically a hard hat. Since its invention in 1919 as a suspended helmet made of canvas, glue and leather, the hard hat has undergone a number of changes and improvements to keep workers safe.

Despite advancements, one industry stakeholder argues that the standard hard hat still possesses one flaw.

“In the U.S. construction industry, 68 percent of traumatic brain injuries are caused by work-related falls, yet traditional hard hat systems are only designed to protect against falling objects,” says Ryan Barnes, founder and CEO of Studson, an industrial safety helmet maker.

To address this shortcoming, Studson – founded in 2019 – began producing safety helmets that meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z89.1 Type II safety standards. According to Studson, most existing hard hats are only Type I compliant.

Type I-compliant helmets are rated to protect the head from falling objects, while Type II-compliant helmets are designed to reduce force of impacts to the front, back, sides and top of the head, Barnes says.

Studson’s latest release, the SHK-1 Full-Brim ANSI Type II safety helmet, is an evolution of the company’s first SHK-1 helmet model. Studson says the new model is the first full-brim safety helmet that is both Type I and Type II compliant.

Barnes expected the first SHK-1 models to be warehoused this August. The helmet retails for $140.

“We developed the SHK-1 Full-Brim safety helmet as an extension of our leading SHK-1 safety helmet, to provide the industry with our safest helmet style yet, to better protect workers from the elements, offering more shade from the sun and redirecting rainfall away from the face and neck,” Barnes says.

Studson’s SHK-1 Full-Brim includes Koroyd-welded tube polymer for absorbing impact. Koroyd improves heat dissipation and venting via its cellular-structure design in comparison to traditional EPS foam, which helps combat heat stress, Studson says.

The new helmet also features embedded twICEme technology that digitally integrates a wearer’s vital health data within the helmet. In the event of an emergency, data is accessible via a smartphone NFC chip reader that’s viewable through an SMS text message or the twICEme app.

Despite the safety benefits that safety helmets can provide, Barnes says many construction workers are hesitant to change their head protection.

“These guys are willing to spend $200 to $250 on their steel-toed work boots, and then they want to spend $20 on a cheap hard hat,” Barnes says. “You can buy a fancy carbon fiber [hard hat] for $170, but most companies aren’t distributing those. Safety helmets can range anywhere from $80 to 140.”

While the upfront cost of safety helmets is more than hard hats, Barnes says companies could save money in the long run if an emergency occurs.

“The contractor that we worked with to launch his product had one head injury and it [cost them] $500,000,” Barnes says. “They said: ‘We were hesitant to spend $150,000 to move our guys from hard hats to helmets, and now we had an injury and it cost us half a million dollars.’ That’s the value [of safety helmets].”

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About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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