David Burkhardt

According to the DOL, the failure of workers to wear hard hats is one of the most commonly cited OSHA violations. Employers need to be steadfast in their enforcement of safety rules to protect their workers and themselves. A recent incident certainly reinforces the message that hard hats matter.
Earlier this month a worker delivering drywall to a construction site was killed when he was struck in the head by a tape measure that had fallen 50 stories. According to witnesses, the victim wasn’t wearing his hard hat at the time, having left it in his vehicle.

The instrument, which fell nearly 500 feet, was travelling at about 140 mph when it struck a piece of construction metal about 10 feet above ground. The tape measure then ricocheted off the metal and struck the victim, who had been leaning into a car window to talk to someone and had just pulled his head out when he was struck. The worker was rushed to the hospital, but died later of cardiac arrest.
Although the OSHA standards do not specifically identify occupations or applications where hard hats are required, 29 CFR 1910.135 states, “Each affected employee shall wear protective helmets when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.

This fatality is being investigated and among the questions that will be asked are:

  • Was a hard hat requirement posted at the job site?
  • What were the contractors and suppliers PPE policies?
  • Were the policies enforced?
  • Have either the contractor or supplier been cited for PPE violations before?

Employees occasionally may have issues with wearing hard hats, particularly when the weather gets hot or cold. Some of these issues can be remedied by providing cooling or winter liners, but it’s important to use only approved liners to ensure they don’t compromise the protective characteristics of the hat. By being diligent with their PPE enforcement program, companies can avoid injuries, OSHA violations, and prove that hard hats matter.

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