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Modern safety helmets replace traditional hard hats on construction sites

The Boldt Co. last year swapped traditional hard hats for its employees with safety helmets that provide more protection. (Photo courtesy of Boldt)

The Boldt Co. last year swapped traditional hard hats for its employees with safety helmets that provide more protection. (Photo courtesy of Boldt)

Modern safety helmets replace traditional hard hats on construction sites

By Kathryn McNutt
BridgeTower Media Newswires

The traditional hard hat used by the construction industry for decades is being replaced by modern safety helmets.

The Boldt Co. made the switch for its 1,500 employees in January 2023 and will begin requiring all subcontractors on job sites to wear safety helmets starting July 1.

Luke Whitmore, Boldt’s regional safety director in Oklahoma City, keeps a hard hat on a shelf in his office because the iconic image of the construction industry has sentimental value.

“That’s where those really belong now – on the shelf,” Whitmore said. “We believe this is the way to go. This is the best protection.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has endorsed the switch from traditional hard hats to modern safety helmets not only at construction sites, but for workers in the oil and gas industry and those working from heights.

OSHA published a safety bulletin in November detailing key differences between the hard hats and modern safety helmets and the advancements in design, materials and other features that help protect workers’ entire heads better.

Leading by example, OSHA announced it is replacing hard hats used by its employees on inspection sites with safety helmets to protect them better.

The decision was fueled by a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that head injuries account 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, trips and falls.

The nylon strap suspension system used in traditional hard hats (bottom) is replaced with foam padding in safety helmets, which also have a chin strap that prevents them from coming off during a fall. (Photo courtesy of Boldt)

Traditional hard hats, dating to the 1960s, primarily protect the top of a worker’s head but lack sufficient side impact protection.

The biggest factor is inside the helmets, Whitmore said. The nylon strap suspension system used in traditional hard hats – to reduce the impact of something dropped from above – is replaced with robust foam padding all around, he said.

“The foam lining provides way more protection from impact, not just on top but also the sides, front and back,” Whitmore said.

They also have a chin strap that prevents them from coming off during a fall.

Boldt began trying various brands in 2021 before settling on two manufacturers – Kask and Milwaukee. Company officials chose models that come in various sizes and ones that allow workers to swap out attachments like a welding hood, face shield, hearing protection or light as needed.

The initial reaction to the switch was a mixed bag among employees, Whitmore said.

“Over time everybody’s warmed up to them. It took time to get used to the chin strap.”

Safety helmets cost more than hard hats – about $70 to $100 each, compared to $15 to $25 – but the cost is well worth it when it prevents an employee from suffering a head injury, Whitmore said.

“Construction is getting busier but there is still somewhat of a labor shortage. We need everybody there,” he said. “We don’t want someone out for a preventable injury.”

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