Head injuries can cause serious permanent impairment and death. Fortunately, most head injuries can be reduced or eliminated by wearing a hard hat when work conditions warrant protection.
While this seems like an obvious solution in industries such as construction and mining, how does it apply to activities involved in farming and gardening?
There are a number of common activities where there is potential to be struck by a falling object or to bump the head against a fixed object. Accidental head contact with electrical hazards is also possible.
Consider the following scenarios and the potential risk for head injury.
• Working below other workers or machinery:
◦ Pruning or felling trees.
◦ Performing tasks when overhead work is occurring.
◦ Loading material or produce in an elevated area such as barn lofts, raised platforms and storage shelves.
◦ Working around a loader tractor or other lifting equipment.
• Working in areas with limited head clearance or projecting obstacles:
◦ Loading trucks.
◦ Moving product in barns and greenhouses.
• Working around electrical hazards:
◦ Painting or pruning while on a ladder or lift.
The key is to identify when head protection is required and then have it available to use. A hard hat may be needed only for a short time while a certain task is performed.
It takes only a moment for an accident to happen that can cause permanent injury or death, which is about all the time required to put on the protective hat. It is better to err on the side of caution.
Hard Hat Purpose
Hard hats provide protection by incorporating a hard outer shell, a shock absorbing lining with a headband and suspension that holds the shell away from the head to provide ventilation and shock absorption during impact.
A hard hat should have the ability to:
• Resist penetration by objects.
• Absorb the shock of a blow with internal suspension.
• Resist water absorption and burn slowly.
• Adjust to size of user’s head.
Hard Hat Types
A hard hat should be selected to provide the best level of protection for the task or hazard. The following classes are recognized as providing protection for specific situations.
Bump Caps are low-profile hard hats and are intended to provide protection against lacerations and head bumps while working in low-clearance areas. They provide very little protection from falling or flying objects. If overhead falling objects exist, better protection must be used.
Type I hard hats are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting from a blow only to the top of the head.
Type II hard hats are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting from a blow that may be received off-center or to the top of the head. A Type II hard hat typically is lined on the inside with thick, high-density foam.
Type II Hard Hat
Electrical Classes of Hard Hats
If protection is required due to potential contact with electricity, select a hard hat with the appropriate rating. A Type I (Class G) hard hat would be suitable for most situations encountered during farming and gardening activities.
Electrical Classes of Hard Hats
Protection Level of Hard Hats
Provides impact and penetration resistance, and limited electrical resistance (up to 2,200 volts).
Provides impact and penetration resistance, and a high electrical resistance (up to 22,000 volts).
Provides impact and penetration resistance, and a low electrical resistance.
Hard Hat Use
To be sure the hard hat provides the level of protection it was designed to provide, consider these key points.
• Inspect the hard hat before use. Only wear the hat if the:
◦ Headband is not stretched or worn.
◦ Shell is not dented, cracked or visibly damaged.
◦ Headband fits comfortably.
• Check the hat for damage after every use. If the hat is damaged, discard it.
• Wash the shell frequently using hot soapy water only; rinse thoroughly.
• Store the hat in a cool, dark, dry place.
• Personal Protective Equipment, OSHA 3151-12R
. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, Occupation Safety and Health Administration, 2003. osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf
Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering