In October 2004, South African Jama Nyeni, a construction worker with 10 years’ site experience, chose to wear his own “trusted V-Gard Cap” instead of a company-issued hard hat. This decision may have saved his life. Nyeni was working beside a maintenance crew who were relining a furnace at a construction site on the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast. The crew was aligning sections of the furnace bottom, which required the use of a three-ton chain block. The apparatus, however, had been set up incorrectly and was pulling at an angle, overloading the chain which consequently snapped. The resulting whip-lashing action propelled the chain into the front of Nyeni’s V-Gard Cap, with a force that split it open from peak to rear suspension slot. The force knocked Nyeni to the ground. Although stunned, he remained conscious and sustained only slight bruising to his forehead.
Stories like this are common and prove what an important function the correct protective hard hat or industrial helmet plays in safety on the job. Millions of hard hats are worn every day; the hard hat is one of the most recognisable items of safety equipment in the industrial workplace. However, it’s important to remember that not all are created equal.
MSA produces a wide range of head protection products, differently styled and using different materials, to suit various job types. These include the MSA V-Gard, the HeatGard and AfriGard, as well as the Bumpmaster and Forester caps.
Loren Pearson, senior product manager HEFH at MSA Africa, says, “All MSA’s head protection products carry the approval of South Africa’s Department of Minerals and Energy. Our products exceed SANS 1397:2003 specifications and all caps and hats are marked accordingly.”
MSA head protection products are manufactured locally and, while styled to be lightweight, they are designed to provide effective head protection by combining a durable polyethylene shell and a suspension system which ensures added protection and a neat fit.
Pearson adds that it’s important to look after all head protection equipment properly and to remember that hard hats are designed to protect the wearer only once. “If a hard hat has been struck forcibly, both the hard hat shell and the suspension should be replaced immediately – even if no damage is visible. Hard hats should also be replaced if dropped accidentally from the height of a two-storey building or higher. Damage to the hard hat can degrade the effectiveness of the product, putting the wearer at risk.”
Pearson suggests that, although hard hat manufacturers can recommend a replacement guideline for their products, because site conditions vary so widely, employers should implement their own clear hard hat replacement programmes and make workers aware of these, among other safety issues.