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Written by
on 17 October 2016


The hard hat challenge – are people taking PPE seriously?

old and worn hard hatsThe Internet has been an incredibly valuable tool for driving communications and bringing the people of the world closer together. But it has also encouraged millions of people to engage in bizarre, stupid and downright dangerous behaviour for the sake of “views” on platforms like YouTube.

Some are relatively harmless – like the Ice Bucket Challenge – that encouraged people to drench themselves with ice-cold water to help raise funds for a charity treating ALS. The Condom Challenge was both silly and risky, as people dropped condoms full of water onto their heads, so it wraps around their face without exploding.

Undoubtedly both stunts resulted in a small number of people experiencing minor injuries. Fortunately, there were no long-lasting consequences in any of these incidents.

Viral stupidity comes to the worksite

This week a new challenge has started to create waves on YouTube. Known as the “hard hat challenge”, people try to flip a protective helmet onto their head. The challenge comes from the weighting of the hard hat which makes it incredibly difficult to land right-side up.

As a result, many of the people taking the challenge end up with being struck in the face, or head by the helmet. This may provide an important lesson about the strength of hard hats, but it also means that challenge-takers are injuring themselves with equipment designed to protect them.

More worrying from a construction operator’s point of view is that many of the videos circulating on YouTube and Twitter have been filmed on site. Which means that the workers have left themselves momentarily unprotected as they film their attempts.

Obviously no one taking the challenge is deliberately trying to hurt anyone – but their negligence could result in a more serious injury. Others are simply stupid beyond belief.

The hard hat challenge raises two key concerns:

1. Employees are behaving dangerously on site

Site safety is almost entirely reliant on workers behaving sensibly on site. Throwing hard hats into the air is not sensible – nor is removing it in first place. It is a blatant breach of safety regulations to remove your hard hat on site.

2. Employees are mistreating their PPE

Personal protective equipment is designed to keep your employees safe – but it must be treated correctly. Throwing safety helmets greatly increases the chance of damaging it – which compromises its integrity and reduces its protective capabilities.

Time to raise awareness

Obviously you don’t want to stop your employees enjoying work, but you do need to stamp out dangerous behaviour that could place them in danger. This means dealing with instances quickly and effectively so that there are no repeats.

You will also need to explain to workers the importance of respecting their PPE – even when not on site. People playing the hard hat challenge at home could be damaging their PPE, reducing its protective capabilities when they do return to site.

For more help and advice on dealing with the hard hat challenge, or to arrange a PPE basics training course for your employees, please get in touch.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.