Safer Construction Helmets Head to US
Protecting construction workers from injuries is a priority for all construction companies. Daily safety huddles, signage with the number of days since an accident, and open-door policies for anyone to cite safety concerns are all ways sites are kept safer.
In an era of increased innovation, it’s been time to take a closer look at the thin composite barriers protecting the most vulnerable part of their workers – their heads. Hard hats have one of the most challenging jobs on a construction site – they have less than a half-centimeter of protective shell to save the lives of their wearers.
Already established in European markets, a new design has just entered the US markets – MIPS, which stands for Multidirectional Impact Protection System.
MIPS is both the product and the name of the Swedish-based company of the same name. Its CEO Max Strandwitz points out the gap in current construction helmet designs, “Most hardhats found in the US are designed to prevent head injury due to falling objects. […] When we looked into the European market, at the safety statistics, we saw that [falling objects] were only 16% of accidents. Fall accidents are closer to 60%.”
The multidirectional nature of MIPS protects workers from just that – impacts from the sides, which is the type you experience when falling. It does so with its innovative design to better isolate the brain from the shocks associated with falls and collisions. It uses an isolated inner frame that allows independent movement from the helmet. This reduces rotation from a direct impact, which prevents the brain from being rattled around inside the head. Side angle impacts can cause this kind of traumatic brain injury.
The advent of MIPS introduces another closely related topic – chin straps. When your hard hat gets hit by a falling object from above, it may stay in place well enough to withstand the blow. However, when you fall, your helmet is much more likely to fall off if it doesn’t have a chin strap, thus negating the whole purpose of wearing it. All MIPS helmets come with a chin strap. Strandwitz notes it’s time for the US to consider widespread adoption of chin straps for its safety helmets as well. MIPS or otherwise, he says, “If you have a fall accident and you don’t have a chin strap on, the helmet will not protect you.”
Two US-based manufacturers currently produce MIPS-equipped helmets:
- Protective Industrial Products with their Dynamic Rocky safety helmet.
- Ergodyne with their Skullerz line.
Ergodyne’s helmet is the first to market in the US. Their Skullerz helmets meet ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 standards, and it’s also compliant with the European side-impact standard for helmets, EN12492.
Product director for Ergodyne’s protection division Tim Gallant notes the evolution of headwear protection from a different activity – cycling. Speaking from personal experience, he notes, “I came into this industry from the bicycle industry, so I’ve been aware of MIPS for a long time. It’s well established there. You’d be hard-pressed to find a helmet without rotational-energy management or MIPS in it. So when we were able to make the connection with MIPS, we got going right away.”
While adoption of any new technology can be slow, Ergodyne is giving construction companies and workers both options – MIPS helmets and conventional ones. The MIPS-equipped helmets are available at just $15 more than the traditional helmet prices coming in around $90-$95 for various styles.
The decision to have a two-tiered offering is owing to the current safety standards in the US. They don’t require a chin strap or advanced protection from side impacts. The baseline models meet the minimum safety requirements, which is good enough for some.
Gallant says the modest price increase for MIPS will lower the barrier for customers. “It’s a pretty easy calculus: is my head worth $15? Probably.”
See the full article of MIPS-equipped helmets in ENR- “Brain-Protecting Construction Safety Helmet Now Available in US.”
All photos courtesy of Ergodyne. See more details on their Skullerz helmets here.