European Hardhat Brings Science to Injury Reduction
In Sweden, a partnership between MIPS Corp., a company that specializes in helmet-liner systems for protecting the brain, and Guardio Safety AB, a Swedish industrial safety firm, has led to the release in June of a construction hardhat, or helmet, designed to mitigate brain-damaging forces that often are suffered in construction falls.
A low-friction layer in the liner allows a sliding movement of 10 millimeters to 15 mm in all directions upon impact, reducing rotational forces on the brain.
Guardio says the ARMET helmet is the first construction helmet to be equipped with the MIPS brain protection system, which is used in some specialized helmets for other activities, including skiing, bicycling and hockey. The company cites data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asserts that “the construction industry has the greatest number of both fatal and nonfatal traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among U.S. workplaces,” and which further states that from 2003 to 2010, 25% of all construction fatalities were caused by a TBI.
Södertörn Construction Group AB, Stockholm, worked with Guardio to develop and test the helmet, says Nawar Toma, Guardio’s CEO. Toma says Södertörn employs a wide range of workers, from excavator drivers to concrete workers and quality assurance engineers, and that working with them helped the company get feedback from several different groups of workers with different requirements and wishes.
Robert Österdahl, Södertörn health and safety director, says his company has been a Guardio customer for years, “and when we found out that they had plans on developing a new safety helmet for the industrial use, we volunteered to be in the project to ensure that the end-user perspective was covered.”
As a skier, Österdahl says he knows that ski helmets with MIPS technology are the ones most recommended by insurance firms in Sweden, “so when I heard Guardio was planning to develop the first safety helmet with MIPS, we wanted to be there from the start and help it develop something that really will make a difference when it comes to work safety.”
Österdahl says input from Södertörn workers made clear that one of the important aspects of safety equipment is that it be comfortable to wear. “After some iterations we now have a solution that our workers are really happy with,” he says.
He adds that another consideration was hearing protection, “as we always use hearing protection in combination [with] the helmets,” The end product has built-in holders for headsets that work not only with hearing protection offered by Guardio, but other brands as well.
Adds Österdahl, “from a management point of view, there are several aspects of why we see it as important to invest in the best personal protection equipment we can offer our workers. One is the internal branding and the message we send to our workers, [that] their safety is priority one for us, and we do all we can to keep them safe.”
“There is also a financial aspect of it,” he adds. “Having workers that are not properly geared up can result in injuries, which have a huge impact on the worker, but also on us as a company—with work absences and high rehabilitation cost.”
According to Toma, the product is being launched first in Europe with EN397 certification, but he adds that Guardio is in discussions with U.S. distributors and as soon as it has a deal, the firm will move for OSHA certification. The suggested U.S. retail price will be $98.