What’s a TBI and why do you, as an employer, need to know the key safety factors regarding this potentially deadly occurrence?

TBI stands for “traumatic brain injury.” While most workplace head injuries are not life threatening, the most severe can be fatal. Leading causes include motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults and violence, and contact with equipment or other objects. Workers aged 65 and older have the highest incidence of workplace TBIs at 2.5 per 100,000 workers per year compared to an overall average of 0.8 per 100,000 workers. The construction industry has the dubious distinction of the worst risk for TBIs, which also tend to be prevalent in transportation, agriculture, forestry, fishing and emergency medical services.

Protective Headgear

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) details guidelines and regulations pertinent to head protection in its Standard 1910.135. It states that every employee must wear a protective helmet (commonly known as a hard hat) when working in areas with the potential for head injury. If individuals work near exposed electrical conductors, their headgear must be designed to reduce electric shock.

Workplace headgear must comply with parameters set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which list three classes of helmets:

  • Class G (General): Formerly listed as a Class A hard hat, it protects against impact, penetration and low-voltage electrical conductors. Class G helmets are proof tested at 2,200 volts of electrical charge.
  • Class E (Electrical): These helmets have been proof tested at 20,000 volts. They previously were listed as Class B headgear.
  • Class C (Conductive): This type of hard hat protects only against impact and penetration. It is usually made of aluminum, which is an electrical conductor and therefore should not be used in situations involving potential electrical hazards.

The Life Span of Your Helmets

OSHA does not specify a required service lifespan for hard hats and there is no standard expiration time frame. As a general guideline, most manufacturers recommend replacing helmets every five years, regardless of their outside appearance. The following exceptions may apply:

  • Replace headgear after two years if users are working in extreme conditions such as exposure to high temperature, constant sunlight or chemicals.
  • Consider replacing the suspension in hard hats every 12 months.

Review each individual work site to ensure that degradation of workers’ head protection is not accelerated due to specific conditions – and maintain hard hats appropriately to help minimize safety incidents.

It’s generally okay to affix decals to hard hats, but it’s advisable to consult with the manufacturer before painting them. Some paints and thinners may damage the helmet shell, reducing protection levels. In most cases, it’s also okay to wear a hard hat backwards, but users should check and comply with “reverse donning arrow” markers.

Protect your employees from TBIs and other injuries by staying current on pertinent OSHA updates and developments. Read our related posts or contact the HR, safety and workforce development experts at Premium Staffing to learn more.

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