I have noticed a lot of people who work at height are using standard construction hard hats. The kind with the little beak at the front and an adjustable strap at the rear that grips the head. These hard hats are great for protecting against objects falling from overhead and conform to the EN397: Industrial helmets standard and are likely to be welcomed on any construction site. Unfortunately helmets conforming to EN397 are not likely to remain on an operatives head in the event of a fall. Helmets conforming to EN397 either have no chin strap or have chin straps that are designed to release at a low load. Whilst the chin strap releasing at a low load has its advantages, in the event of a fall that could be extremely disadvantages!
Another factor that needs to be considered is side impact. EN397 Industrial helmets have not been tested for minimising loads to the head in the event of impacts from the side. A side impact is highly likely in the event of a fall arrest situation. Remember the Working At Height Regs? We need to minimise the consequences of a fall so providing adequate side protection to the head is a must! For this we need to turn to the world of mountaineering and climbing and refer the to the standard EN12492:Mountaineering and Climbing PPE. This is the kind of helmet that is going to protect your head in the event of a fall and not come off. If it’s good enough for the North face of the Eiger then it will probably serve you well on a roof! The only down side is that helmets conforming to EN12492: Mountaineering and Climbing PPE have ventilation slats which mean they cannot conform to EN397:Industrial helmets. Bewildered? Don’t worry, at least 80% of the time common sense prevails.
Fortunately you are not obliged to have a helmet conforming to either of these standards in their entirety. You must simply have a helmet that is CE marked and fit for purpose. The manufacturers are able to take the elements they like from various standards and even add their own requirements to create a specification for the ideal helmet. This is what Petzl did when they created the Vertex Best. The Vertex Best have the chin strap and side protection that the mountaineers use, the shell properties required of industrial helmets as well as conforming to stringent American Standards. It is compatible with a wide range or ear defenders and visors so should meet your needs for the majority of industrial working at height applications. Whilst some working at height helmets come in a range of sizes the ‘Best’ comes with a insert allowing adjustment to almost any head making ordering for your workforce easy. For more information contact Fall Protection Solutions www.fallprotectionsolutions.co.uk.