If I had a dollar for every time I’ve bumped my head climbing scaffolding or through a utility hole or roof cavity I’d be a rich man.
Before you laugh, I don’t know a single tradie who hasn’t had the same experience. If you work on commercial worksites you will be used to wearing your hard hat or helmet. But for those on residential sites that don’t have such requirements, the vast range of products available may come as a surprise.
The AS/NZS 1801:1997 standard specifies requirements for occupational protective helmets to protect wearers’ heads from falling objects in building and construction, quarrying, shipbuilding, forestry, and other occupations with similar hazards. These requirements include the development and materials of the helmet shell and head harness, mechanical strength of the shell and finish of the helmet.
3M’s range of helmets and bump caps covers a wide, fully optioned collection of exceptional head-protection items, all designed to guard against everything from dropped items, pointed, spear-like objects, heat (in the form of fire-rated bush fireman’s helmets), sun and cold weather.
Essentially, there are three types of helmet from 3M which fit into the Australian Standards categories:
Type 1: general industrial safety helmet
Type 2: helmets intended for high-temperature applications, and
Type 3: helmets intended for bushfire fighting.
All 3M safety helmet shells are made from premium, impact-resistant ABS plastic or polycarbonate, and with that in mind, it was time to have a bit of fun and see what these helmets were capable of.
- All helmets have a date-of-issue sticker
- The user should record their name and date of issue in the space provided
- Safety helmets should be inspected regularly to ensure the harness is correctly fitted and secure
- A safety-helmet shell should be inspected for cracks, gouging, fading, damage caused by impact and any degradation
- If deemed unfit for use, remove from service and replace
- Accessories and attachments must be compatible
- All 3M brand combinations are certified.
Test 1: Drop
I instantly knew the perfect site to perform some impressive drop tests. A mate is building a multi-level home just down the road which offered first-floor and second-floor drop and impact opportunities, and before I knew it the 3M TA500 (ABS, white, vented helmet) was being dropped and then thrown from the first floor, and then the second floor, with virtually zero damage being inflicted on the helmet.
Even from the second floor, the helmet was bouncing quite nicely.
Still, it was obvious I needed to up the ante to make an impact on the TA500. Other than some very minor scratches, it was proving extremely resilient.
- Wash with warm, soapy water
- No harsh solvents or cleaning agents
- Use a dishwashing brush for stubborn marks. Avoid petrol, paint, adhesives and aerosol sprays. Wash harness separately. No alterations
- Visual inspection weekly. No rough treatment
- Do not place objects between shell and harness.
Test 2: Impact
This was where things got fun pretty quickly.
To make this impact test as realistic as possible I found a netball to use as a simulated head, then balanced the head and helmet in the cavity of a breeze block. I dropped, and then threw, a brick onto the 3M helmet.
The brick bounced off the helmet and left a few scratches, but otherwise the TA500 was in perfect condition.
The question remained: how much abuse could the helmet take?
I looked around the site for a really nasty item to drop and throw onto the helmet, and sitting right beside our dedicated test area was a solid-looking concrete chunk that was just begging for the job.
I was convinced it would spell the end for the 3M hard hat.
I dropped the block from the first floor. Actually, I really threw it down with force to ramp up the load, and the second it left my hands I could tell it was a perfect throw. The block smashed into the helmet and exploded into pieces. The helmet flew in the air and landed some 10 metres away, and after dusting it off the only damage I could find was a scratch on the shell.
I had to admit defeat and hand the victory to the TA500.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I was very impressed with the helmet design.
It was clear after the testing the helmet will protect the head, skull and brain from significant impact. The issue then becomes about the transfer of weight into the neck and back, but the brain itself is well covered.
It’s important to note that correct care of any helmet is critical, and the design should never be altered or modified – that includes never drilling or creating a hole in the shell. And don’t paint your helmet!
It’s essential to keep your head and brain protected, and with the range of styles available from 3M, everyone should be able to guard against impacts from bumps and knocks.
And make sure you look after the equipment. Even with great care, the average life of a helmet or hard hat is three years from the date of issue. A helmet which has changed colour or has experienced an impact and shows any damage or deterioration should be replaced.
For more information visit www.3M.com.au/ppesafety