A new technology has emerged for hard hats that could prevent construction workers from enduring concussions.
Sometimes, it seems like corporations are just reinventing the wheel to make money. But some products that receive updates are long overdue for a design transformation. Hard hats, a typical piece of construction worker attire, aren’t as protective as they claim to be. Recently, NPR reported that an update to hard hat manufacturing will help prevent concussions or other mild brain injuries.
Though hard hats are imperative for workers to wear, they aren’t always the most efficient at protecting the head from injuries. Most helmets are only designed to prevent direct-impact collisions, like something heavy hitting the top of one’s head. Unfortunately, standard hard hats rarely prevent concussions, which happen when the head shifts too quickly. The next generation of helmets will have technology that mitigates a head’s rapid rotation from impact, reducing the possibility of significant concussions or brain trauma.
Michael Bottlang, director of the Legacy Biomechanics Lab, and Dr. Steven Madey, an orthopedic surgeon, have collaborated to construct a safer hard hat that protects against concussions. Bottlang explained their focus on concussion-prevention technology, stating that the brain is often injured by “rotational force” versus direct or quick impacts. He noted that boxers often get knocked out from a punch to the chin that rotates their head too quickly. This observation pushed both Bottlang and Madey to examine hard hats and their protection inadequacies.
Bottlang and Madey’s hard hats will help absorb impacts to stop a quick rotational force, shielding the brain from any abrasive shifts. The helmets are manufactured and sold by WaveCel, a company both men started to provide safer bike helmets to riders nationwide. The updated hard hats are called industrial safety helmets, with experts stating that the upgrade was long overdue to protect construction workers. Concussions, in many different professions, are often looked at as an inevitable occurrence on the job, but now people are taking safety gear seriously to reduce preventable injuries.
Bottlang wanted to update standard hard hats because of their antiquated design. He stated that the 21st-century helmets look precisely like the ones used “in the ’60s.” Since technology has inevitably evolved, it makes sense that safety apparel would also get this needed evolution. But unfortunately, construction workers have been in dire need of better equipment far before industrial safety helmets were developed. Currently, one-fourth of all adult concussions occur at work, especially at construction sites. Since construction workers are undeniably more vulnerable, they’ve been in desperate need of high-grade helmets and safety equipment.
Like Bottlang noted, hard hats have not changed in their manufacturing or design since the last century. Dr. Brandon Lucke-Wold, a neurosurgeon at the University of Florida, stated that helmets had been upgraded for bikers and sports players. Still, construction workers have not received these necessary updates to their safety apparel. The outdated hard hats can only protect the head from injuries falling directly on top of it, like a piece of debris or heavy tool falling from above. But these helmets have never been efficient at protecting the head from an angled collision, which WaveCel’s industrial gear intends to reduce.