There has been plenty of discussion about PPE (personal protective equipment) since the beginning of COVID, but people often forget that PPE is more than just gloves and masks. For people who work in situations where things may be falling or dropping (or who may themselves fall), hard hats can mean the difference between a bump on the head and a serious injury, up to and including death.
Ohio has certain regulations in place about who should wear hard hats, who should provide them, and who should inspect them to ensure that they are functional. These regulations are in line with those made by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. Here’s what you need to know about hard hats in Ohio.
How Hard Hats Prevent Head Injuries
There are several different types of hard hats, and their exact design varies according to their purpose. For the most part, hard hats work by deflecting or absorbing impacts and/or providing protection from electrical shock. Most hard hats have a sturdy outer covering, padding on the inside, and some way to attach the hat to the body (typically a chin strap).
All hard hats provided by employers must follow the National American Standard for Industrial Head Protection, which is ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014. This standard is discussed in more detail below.
OSHA Standards for Workplace Safety in Ohio
According to OSHA Standard 1926.000, “Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.”
Though this standard is a good starting point, it’s somewhat lacking in specifics. OSHA has not been eager to specify exactly what occupations are required to wear hard hats, and has stated in an interpretation letter that construction employees are not required to wear hard hats if they are in situations where there is no danger of head injury or electrical shock.
Work Environments Requiring Hard Hats
Although OSHA doesn’t publish a list of the exact occupations that require hard hats, the following are jobs and work environments where head protection may be required:
- Construction sites, especially if there is a risk of something falling on your head or hitting it from the side;
- Demolition sites;
- Anywhere electrical work is being performed;
- Factory work, if there is a risk of head injury;
- Warehousing services, including loading trucks for shipping.
This list is not exhaustive and is provided for illustration purposes only.
Legal Requirements for Hard Hat Use in Ohio
The National American Standard for Industrial Head Protection discusses certain types of hard hats and the situations where they might be used. The two main types of hats are:
- Type 1: Helmets designed to prevent injury from blows to the top of the head;
- Type 2: Helmets designed to prevent injury from blows to either the top or the side of the head.
In addition to the impact types listed above, hard hats are further broken down into three classes that refer to the electrical protection the hard hat provides:
- Class G (General): These helmets are meant to reduce the risk of contact with low voltage electrical current. Test samples must be proof tested at 2200 V or more, phase to ground.
- Class E (Electrical): Helmets in this class are designed to handle higher voltages. They must be proof tested at 20,000 V or more, phase to ground.
- Class C (Conductive): Class C helmets are not intended to provide protection from electricity.
Employer Obligations in Providing Hard Hats
Employers have several obligations when it comes to providing hard hats. They are required to:
- Conduct a risk assessment of the work environment to determine what PPE is needed;
- Determine which is the correct type and class of hard hat to purchase;
- Purchase appropriate hard hats and other required PPE;
- Train employees in proper use of the PPE;
- Maintain the PPE, including repairing or replacing it when necessary;
- Review and update the PPE program as needed.
This means that it’s up to your employer to determine if hard hats are needed in a particular workplace, and to provide an appropriate hard hat if necessary.
Employees have a responsibility to wear hard hats correctly, to go to training on how to use PPE, to maintain and clean their hard hats, and to inform their supervisor if there is a problem (or a potential problem) with any piece of personal protective equipment.
If a workplace requires you to purchase your own hard hat, or other specialty PPE equipment like welding masks, goggles, or hearing protection, or if a workplace does not provide you with PPE as required, the workplace is most likely in violation of OSHA rules. Contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible to determine which steps to take next.
In Ohio, as in the rest of the United States, OSHA standards protect employees who may encounter risks in their jobs. For most construction sites, mining sites, and many factories, your employer is required to provide you with hard hats and other PPE to keep you safe from occupational hazards.
Have you been injured in a workplace accident because you were not provided with necessary PPE? Speak with an experienced workplace injury attorney at Plevin & Gallucci today to determine the options available to you. Call us today at 1-855-4-PLEVIN for a free initial consultation.