Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Workers Using Inappropriate PPE? Perhaps Not

Have you ever experienced this? You're in a training class and the instructor brings up a certain topic, then all of the sudden the room becomes electrified! All of the trainees are sitting on the edge of their seats because they have a lot of pent-up questions and/or uncertainties about that topic. And now that the floodgates are opened, they can’t wait to ask their question or voice their concern. It really is something special to experience.
This happened to me recently while conducting an OSHA 10-hour construction class for a group of professionals in the cellular communications industry. The group consisted mostly of project managers, engineers, and construction managers associated with one of the major wireless networks, who as part of their duties would always set aside some time when they visited their cell tower sites to evaluate the safety performance of workers. The topic I had just brought up was head protection, no sooner had I put up my PowerPoint slide showing a hard hat when almost every hand in the room shot up and people started shouting out their questions. This topic had obviously struck a nerve with this particular group.
It seems that some of the sub-contract workers who climb their cell towers were not wearing traditional hard hats. One trainee said he recently saw some of those workers wearing  .  .  .  .  .


  1. Pipe racks and other restricted works paces.

  2. The Petzl Vertex helmet not only is suitable for cave exploring and tower climbing its also a good alternative for confined space entries and rescue ops. This particular helmet also provide electrical protection. Strongly recommended for those who practice sports and rescue ops because you only will need one helmet that fit both activities instead of having one for the working and another for joy! Julio Rios, Stericycle

  3. Curtis, a client had one of his employees fall from a height of about 12' while descending a ladder. The employee was wearing one of these helmets as well! If he had been wearing a typical hard hat, it would have fallen off during the fall. The employee struck his head and received a slight concussion, but was able to walk away! It was the opinion of all, that if had not been wearing this helmet, he could have been seriously hurt or worse! Oh, OSHA stopped by and cited the employer for not wearing the typical hard hat! Go figure!

  4. Hi Curtis,
    I was smiling when I read your post, because our confined space rescue team uses Petzl helmets like the ones you identified. After a recent training exercise, an employee who had observed the exercise approached me and told me he was concerned that we were not using proper head protection. I took the opportunity to educate him on what to look for. As safety professionals, it is not only our responsibility to keep on top of the latest technology and trends, but to make sure others in our organization are aware of them as well.

    John Kingsford-Smith / Occupational Health & Safety Professional at Western Washington University

    1. John. Thank you for sharing your experience. Hopefully word will get out better about these helmets, it seems they might be better at preventing certain type injuries than some of the traditional hard hats do. Stay in touch.

    2. I also smiled when I read this. I did rope rescue training one day and was supplied with Petzl helmet and harness. You can imaging the discussion this caused. Especially when the harnesses we were given didn't display an Australian Standards tag. Needless to say, alternate harnesses were sought for the duration of the training until the issue was sorted. - Susan McLachlan

    3. Great article I am replacing my normal hard hat with Petzl helmet personal choice, hard hats fall off my head. Especially when we are doing sewar main inspections. I had one fall off my head and hit one poor guy in his head fortunately he was wearing his hard hat. :-)

  5. Interesting idea on these re-purposed helmets. Obviously the chin-strap device keeps them from falling off as well. This reminds me of pictures seen from Japanese construction sites where I've seen all workers with chin straps on their helmets. Due to the chin-strap feature these would be useful to anyone working in windy conditions. I think of applications where I've been roofing construction, stack construction/maintenance, slip-form tower construction, etc. I also remember a project where a carpenter fell backwards off a scaffold (during construction of the scaffold so guardrails not complete) from a 9-foot height onto a concrete deck. As he fell his hardhat came off and he hit his head and died. Something like this may have saved his life.

  6. It is the responsibility of the manager to see that the worker should have proper safety tools and must get safety training to avoid any type of mishap in the workplace. Workers should also follow the safety rules of work.


  7. Your comment: "I am amazed how ingenious people are when it comes to creating, modifying, or repurposing something so it can be used for worker protection" guides my attention to the advancement of safety eyeglasses.
    I was around when they became very required PPE, (70's).
    We were working offshore production platforms and unlike everyone onshore we had escaped their 'continual' use for sometime. When we finally put the ugly heavy black framed glasses on and kept them on, we were slipping on stairs, walking into flowlines and pipelines, etc. it was a comedy of errors. They caused a slight tunnel vision, headaches, soreness in back of the ears.
    Respiratory protection filters and masks also. Just phenomenal.

  8. We should not take risks when it comes to safety, he is lucky that the helmet he is using is approved for OSHA head protection guidelines. But that's not always the case, sometimes there are workers who chose to take the risks because nothing bad is happening, that's a manner that shouldn't be tolerated, specially when it comes to safety. Complying for the standards is still the best way to avoid accidents.

  9. Hard hats are intended to provide some protection from falling items from above, but not really ideal protection when the worker falls from height. If I am construction company owner, I would make workers working 4 feet or higher, wear motorcycle helmets. That is better than OSHA standards, which is a bare minimum and does not really address a full extent of the risks of the workers.

  10. Petzl Brand is UIAA standardized.
    In Australia we have have alot of international riggers come thru for stage builds. Their equipment is not Australian Standardized.
    My Risk Manager stated that the UIAA supersedes AS so it's OK.

    Can anyone please help me out with any input.?

    Thank you

  11. We have personnel in the field on a daily basis in UTVs. Our operational area is in a very hot desert environment. Our personnel are required to wear helmets that meet ASTM standards. We have them but are looking for something that meets safety requirements but is lighter and cooler than what we have now. Can these Petzl helmets be used for this application?


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