Insufficient or Defective Hard Hats: A Recipe for Disastrous Injuries

June 7, 2023

Hard Hats as an Indispensable Workplace Safety Item

Wearing a Hard Hat, Checking It Frequently, and Following Safety Rules Become Routine Tasks to Identify Damages and Avoid Major Injuries, Especially at Work.

Insufficient or Defective Hard Hats: A Recipe for Disastrous Injuries in NJWhen you work in the construction or mining industry, you want head protection from falling objects or even fellow workers swinging heavy tools that propel debris into the air. But other activities require head protection from a hard hat or helmet. For example, firefighters, police officers, and welders need hard hats or helmets, just as sports and riding enthusiasts need helmets while on motorcycles, football fields, polo grounds, and bicycle paths. Protective headgear saves humans from brain injuries due to head trauma. When functioning correctly, a hardhat can mean the difference between surviving a construction accident and not.

Common mishaps on construction sites can be fatal, like the tape measure that fell off a construction worker’s belt from fifty stories up on a construction site in Jersey City. It killed a worker on site below when it hit his unprotected head. He left his hard hat in his vehicle. A hard hat would no doubt have saved the worker unless the hard hat was damaged or defective. In fact, traumatic brain injuries are the most common construction site injury, though cuts and concussions are also standard on construction sites.

OSHA Regulations for Hard Hats in NJ

Hard hats must be free of defects and well-maintained for maximum protection. In the construction environment, hard hats must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regarding hard hat safety. OSHA recommends following manufacturer instructions and not mixing and matching hard hat parts. The three parts of a hard hat are the shell, suspension system, and chin strap (when required).

Hard Hat Safety Components and Their Purposes

The shell covers the head and protects it from contact with harmful components and contents, like chemical splashes or falling objects. It is made of thermoplastic material to protect against hard impacts and ultraviolet rays. Some come with brims, others with caps only. Attached to the shell’s inside is a harness that absorbs impacts to the head, like shock absorbers for cars. A suspension system may come with the hard hat or be acquired separately. Ensuring the compatibility of the shell and suspension system is crucial. Detachable chin straps keep hard hats secure on the user’s head under conditions that would cause them to slide or fall off.

Various Types of Hard Hats Available on the Market

Construction workers’ hard hats divide into classes that must comply with OSHA standards. For example, class A hard hats for certain workers, such as miners, loggers, and manufacturing workers, require enough protection for the workers who use them, though less protection than other uses in more dangerous environments. So, class B hardhats for electricians provide impact and electrocution protection, and class C hardhats are lighter and less protective for some accidents.

Daily Protocols and Safety Measures for Construction Workers

Keeping all parts well maintained and fitted together and to the user is critical to safety. And when hard hats come from employers, they must convey warnings and manufacturer instructions to their employees. And no hat should contain defective, worn, or damaged components. In fact, workers must check all parts before wearing the hard hat. They should first examine the shell for any damage, like scratches, dents, cracks, gouges, holes, or tears. Also, inspect it for wear due to weather, chemicals, or temperature fluctuation. The shell may show signs of flaking, discoloration, or fading.

Then, check the suspension system for fraying, cuts, and loose stitching in the webbing. A visual inspection for tears, cracks, and stiffness throughout is essential, as is a physical examination. By tugging on the suspension straps, the wearer can ensure they are firmly secured to the shell, preventing a malfunctioning system in an accident. Checking the headband for a snug fit and the chin strap for missing pieces, like clips or overall damage, is likewise preventative. Finally, squeezing the hard hat with both hands for elasticity and checking the maximum lifespan dates on the shell and suspension system are necessary to protect the wearer’s head against a damaged hard hat that does not return to its standard shape after an impact.

AINSI and OSHA Guidelines for Hard Hat Inspection and Replacement

Aside from daily inspections, AINSI regulations require that an employer retire the hat’s damaged, worn, or defective parts until replaced. Another rule requires replacing hat components after an impact and inspecting extra carefully any hard hats used around paint or chemicals or in extreme heat or cold conditions. OSHA recommends shell replacement two to five years from manufacture or first use and new suspension systems every year. Even though a hard hat may look intact, it could have unseen structural damage, so AINSI regulations and OSHA inspection and maintenance requirements are crucial to follow to save lives.

Catastrophic Effects by the Numbers

Steps to Follow After an Accident Involving a Hard Hat in New JerseyThe Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that construction workers die at a rate of 2.6 out of 100,000 from work-related traumatic brain injury (TBI). Moreover, TBI survivors typically experience permanent damage to their cognitive and sensory faculties. They may lose memory, vision, hearing, or mental stability. Though falling objects cause can cause TBIs, most are from falls or getting hit by an object or car. However, TBI prevention involves inspecting, maintaining, replacing, and wearing hard hats following AINSI standards.

Steps to Follow After an Accident Involving a Hard Hat in New Jersey

Anyone who suffers injury on the job should seek emergency treatment when necessary and inform the emergency room workers that the injury occurred on the job. And as soon as possible, the employee should report the accident to their employer. The sooner the employer knows, the sooner workers’ compensation benefits may begin. In fact, waiting too long to report an on-the-job accident may jeopardize the employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits. But when the job accident does not require a hospital visit, an employee should seek first aid.

Distinguishing Responsibility for Hard Hat Accidents in NJ

OSHA mandates employers pay for and supply employees with hard hats to prevent injury in unsafe work conditions. Scrimping on costs can be fatal. So, when employers buy used hard hats or fail to replace them when worn, damaged, or defective, they or a third party may be liable for employee harm. When injured on the job, an injured employee files a workers’ compensation claim. However, a defective hard hat may be the fault of a manufacturer. In that case, an injured worker may file a claim or product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer who sent a defective product to market.

In either case, a worker who suffers damages when a hard hat fails to protect them should bring their case to a lawyer to review. A party claiming injuries due to another’s negligence is entitled to reimbursement for their medical expenses, such as hospital and doctor bills, lab bills, and other bills for therapies and treatment for an injury. They may also recover future medical costs, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Contact Our Hard Hat Accident Lawyers for Assistance with Your Claim in Monmouth County, NJ

Dealing with insurance adjusters and workers’ compensation or third-party doctors may be challenging when suffering from an injury, so when your damages resulted from your employer’s or a third party’s negligence, seek the help of our talented team of workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh to help you pursue your compensation. With local offices in West Long Branch, we assist clients who have been injured by hard hat defects and other accidents involving dangerous or defective products throughout Asbury Park, Hazlet, Colts Neck, Howell, Freehold, Belmar, and other towns in Southern New Jersey. Let us talk through your specific situation and outline your available options in a free consultation; call us at 732-440-3950 or contact us online for an initial consultation. When you need answers, we can help.