Helmets for the construction industry and other industrial uses have not changed in appearance for decades. They were originally developed to primarily provide protection from falling objects that may hit the head directly from above onto the crown area. Of course, not all accidents in construction or industry occur like this, which is why helmets that also address other types of incidents are required.
Falling objects are a real danger on construction sites and in other industry sectors. But the fact is that when it comes to incidents that may lead to serious brain damage, fall incidents can account for more than 50%. So why are we still using helmets that only protect against around half of the incidents? A key factor is a rotational motion that occurs in so-called oblique impacts. These are far more common than the straight impacts that most hard hats are tested and approved for. But what is rotational motion? Let us explain.
If you work on a building site or in an industrial context and get involved in an incident where you fall, your head is most likely to hit the ground at an angle. At the moment of impact, rotational motion occurs which can make the head rotate more or less, depending on the object or surface of impact. The energy from the impact can be directed further into the head, where it can cause injury to the brain. Rotational motion is thus the result of oblique impacts to the head.
Everything revolves around Mips’ low-friction layer. It mimics the brain’s protective system called cerebrospinal fluid this is a clear, colorless liquid that fills and surrounds the brain and the spinal cord and provides a mechanical barrier against shock. The Mips system is designed to work on the same principle. The low-friction layer is built into the helmet and allows the head to move 10–15 mm inside the helmet upon impact. Using the same principle, the helmet can move on the head if hit by an object from above off-center. This means the helmet can help to divert rotational motion away from the head. This is intended to help reduce the risk of damaging the brain. The Mips system can make a difference at many oblique impact angles.
The Mips safety system is based on over 25 years of research on rotational motion and helmet safety. An abundance of studies and data all support the same thing: most of the incidents that may lead to severe brain damage are caused by oblique impacts. They cause rotational motion, which can in turn cause shearing and/or stretching of brain tissue thus increasing the risk of concussion or even more serious brain damage.
Having a good construction helmet is an occupational health and safety issue and it is therefore important to find a helmet that fits and is comfortable to wear. When looking for a safety helmet or hard hat, it is important to choose one that is approved and certified to meet the applicable safety standards. A safety helmet that is uncomfortable or gets too hot will not be nice to wear for long periods of time. If you find one that fits well and is comfortable it is more likely that you will wear it throughout your workday and remain compliant. A good tip is to also check what accessories are available for your safety helmet before you buy it, so that things like visors, hearing protection, UV protection, or other accessories that you may need are also compatible with it.
Industrial safety helmet requirements are specified in the standard EN397 which sets the minimum requirements for the design and performance. If two helmets have the same certification, it doesn’t automatically mean they offer the same protection. It just means that both helmets meet the minimum requirements. In addition, if you work in a specific field, such as electrical, additional standards may set additional requirements e.g. EN50365. So it may be worth spending some time finding a helmet that meets the general certification requirements, the specific certification requirements for your work, and – not least – your own requirements and wishes.
Mips® safety system is implemented in a number of helmet models from various manufacturers of construction and industrial helmets. There is sure to be a Mips helmet that suits you
You’ll probably be wearing your helmet for long periods of time, so make sure it’s comfortable – you’ll be more likely to keep it on.