Bump Caps

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OSHA estimates that 25% of the 2+ million disabling work injuries that happen every year are cranial, affecting the head, eyes, or face with varying degrees of severity. The devastation that can result from a head or neck injury is well-known and documented, ranging from concussions to paralysis to death. Ever since their famous debut on the construction sites of the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge, hard hats have become a modern icon of America’s rugged productivity. Today they’re one of the most important items to have in an industrial environment, where hazards from falling/swinging objects or electric shock are very real. Even tiny parts like screws or washers can generate deadly force when dropped from height. Every hard hat consists of two basic components: shell and suspension. These elements work together to absorb shock from impacts. Suspension systems serve a dual purpose of keeping the hat on the head (the suspension itself is usually attached to a headband) and of stretching to absorb the force of an object applying pressure to the outer shell. There may still be some contact with the skull depending on the force of the blow, but it will be dramatically reduced from the trauma one would incur without suspension, or without head protection at all. The standard impact test for a hat is an eight-pound weight dropped from five feet above, which is approximately equal to the force generated by a wrench, hammer, or other tool after falling twenty feet. Two basic types and three classes of hard hats exist. Type 1 hats focus their protection on the top of the head, while Type 2 also have protective measures on the sides. Class G hats will protect the wearer from low-voltage conductor accidents (2200 volts or less). Class E does the same, but for high-voltage conductors (20000 volts or less). Class C hats are made of conductive aluminum and only protect from impact and penetration, so they should not be used in electrical work applications. You’ll often see workers put stickers on their hats to make them identifiable and express their individuality, but stickers can contain metal elements that could compromise the electric resistance of the shell. If you’re adamant about your hat sticker, make sure it’s positioned an inch or more above the brim. Many factors can affect the lifespan of a hard hat. Extreme temperatures on either end of the thermometer will compromise the material over time, as will prolonged exposure to UV rays. If using them in those conditions can’t be avoided (such as on a construction site at high noon), they should be stored indoors after hours in a space where temperatures aren’t so dramatic and UV exposure is limited. Every hat should be inspected daily for signs of compromise such as cracks and dents, in which case they must be discarded and replaced. If a hat sustains an impact, even if it has no visible damage, it also must be discarded and replaced. Hats used in harsher environments that are exposed to continuous heat, sunlight, or chemicals may lose flexibility or take on a chalky appearance. A single hat shouldn’t be used for longer than two years, and it’s recommended that the suspension be replaced annually. It’s important to recognize that hard hats are not comfortable or pleasant to wear, and the companies that design and manufacture them have found numerous innovative ways to make them more appealing. This can take the form of superficial designs appealing to patriotism or sports fandom, but also practical improvements such as full brims for extra shade, rain troughs to divert water from the face, and slots that make the hat compatible with accessories (faceshields, headsets, etc.) without compromising protection. Suspension is crucial, and comes in several varieties. The degree to which it redistributes force is determined by how many points of contact it has with the shell. Hats will have 4, 6, or 8 suspension points. More points, more protection. Simple enough. Suspension systems are adjustable, either with a ratcheting knob that can be easily twisted or a pinlock that has to be adjusted more meticulously. A suspension should be replaced when it loses pliability, no longer fits securely in the hat, or develops cracks or tears. Be consistent when replacing suspensions and make sure they’re from the same manufacturer. In the course of a day, depending on what kind of work you’re doing, your hat will get anywhere from lightly dirty to absolutely filthy. Remove the suspension and wash the shell with mild soap and warm water, as harsh cleaning fluids could compromise the shell. If a sticky substance (tar, sap, etc.) refuses to come off, either replace the hat or leave it be. Air-dry it when you’re done and store it in a clean area with a stable temperature.