84 Head Protection
Use your head
Manufacturers of above-the-neck PPE need to provide the correct levels of training and
education to support the varying applications, standards and products, says Christopher Tidy.
WHAT COMES to mind when you think
of personal protective equipment
(PPE)? A hard hat? Safety boots?
Perhaps a reflective vest? These are all
forms of PPE which are readily easy to
don, but all PPE requires extensive
training and customisation for its use
and compatibility to be fit for the risk it
is there to prevent.
Above-the-neck personal protective
equipment (PPE) has been mandatory
for certain tasks in industrial
environments for some time, driven by
the growing safety awareness
worldwide. Workers are required to use
different types of above-the-neck PPE,
such as head, ear, eye, and face
protection together all at once. However,
using different types of PPE that are
incompatible with each other reduces
compliance and workplace productivity.
Head protection probably has one of
the highest wearer compliance rates
(within the UK at least). However,
despite high compliance and usage
rates, there still remains some key
unmet needs, offering scope for
improvement. Head protection is
required in numerous occupations
across various industries; however,
features and standards required for
head protection vary significantly by
application and user preference.
Therefore, manufacturers of head
protection are required to offer
different product variants to meet the
demands of various applications and
environments. Whilst compliance is
high, the knowledge of the correct
products by application is still low, and
without adequate training and
education, we risk making key
specification adjustments. This is
evidenced through continuous
research which highlights that head
protection is at risk of commoditising.
The phrase “a helmet is just a helmet
isn’t it mate” is used way too often in
the UK, demonstrating that companies
often default to the lowest cost
solution, so long as it hits the standard.
Indeed, the standards that govern
head protection (EN 397) were written
in the 1995, and since then, the
modern working environment and
available materials have changed
significantly. As head protection
prevents serious injury and death, it is
not enough to simply meet standards
but exceed certain aspects and to
specify the right product.
We are starting to see enhanced levels
of innovation in head protection – new
materials, more demanding standards
(like EN 12492, EN 14052), increased
number of patented features and
accessories. This will not alone
eliminate the risks and accidents if
people do not get enhanced levels of
training to understand the issues and
the importance of life saving protection
and why exceeding the standards can
save further lives.
• What are chinstraps there for and
why, given their advantages, are they
not far more prevalent?
• Should the helmet be vented or
• What can I do in certain weather
environments to make sure the head
protection still functions?
• What is the Kitemark and the
Registered Safety Supplier Scheme?
• What are helmets made of and are all
materials as strong?
• How do liners improve shock
performance and why does that
• How do I check that the helmet is still
fit for purpose?
• What should people consider on
compatibility of above-the-neck
• What is available for high heat
A key challenge for manufacturers is to
provide the correct levels of training
and education to support the varying
applications, standards and product
ranges. Training needs to increase in
scale and depth across our industry.
What a better place to focus on than
head protection – a core symbol of PPE
and the ultimate lifesaving equipment?
Sub-standard or ill-specified products in
this area will result in the most serious
injury or even death. We need to
increase the level of understanding for
both company officers and wearers
alike, to drive the correct use of
compatible products, through a better
understanding of the “what” is available
and the “why” it is suitable.
The investment in training, through
both provision and participation, is the
responsibility of all in the PPE chain,
from manufacturer, through distribution
to the wearer.
The Registered Safety Supplier Scheme
(RSSS) is the British Safety Industry
Federation’s way of offering just that
Every RSSS member is independently
audited every single year. Products are
subjected to random testing for
performance and compliance to the
marketed standards. RSSS members
commit to their customer-facing
employees being trained in the Safe
Supply Accreditation programme to
ensure individuals’ capability in PPE and
Health & Safety. Membership of the
scheme involves more than testing and
training. It includes a shared
commitment to advocating the
scheme’s benefits to other health and
In this industry, when the stakes are
high, the companies need to have
confidence that they are working with
suppliers they can trust. It is all too
often that the wrong product is advised
and defeats the whole objective with
poor productivity for all those involved.
It is time we raise the bar in the
Christopher Tidy is technical and
training specialist at Centurion.
For more information:
is to provide