For the last century, hard hats have been a staple on construction sites across New York City. For good reason. Working in construction comes with a lot of risks. In fact, the construction industry is considered to be “one of the most dangerous occupations” a person can have.
That’s particularly true in New York City, where it seems like something on every corner is being renovated or built. In 2018, there were 761 reported construction accidents in NYC, 20 of which were fatal.
Why is it so dangerous to work on a construction site in New York? There are a lot of moving parts. There might be several laborers of various trades working on a site at one given time. That can create a safety nightmare, even when owners and general contractors take care to follow safety regulations and implement all necessary safety precautions.
Accidents can happen. A tool can slip out of someone’s hand as they’re working on elevated scaffolding. Materials can pile up and create a tripping hazard. Heavy machinery can malfunction.
There would probably be a lot more construction accident injuries if construction workers weren’t required to wear hard hats.
Nearly 10 Percent of Workplace Accidents Affect the Brain
Statistics show that traumatic brain injuries account for 9percent of all workplace accident injuries. One study found that, in the eight-year period spanning from 2003 to 2010, 2,210 construction workers were killed after suffering a brain injury on the job.
Traumatic brain injuries can happen when a construction worker suffers an open or closed head injury.
A closed head injury typically happens when workers suffer blunt-force trauma to the head. The force of impact—perhaps from a fall or being struck by a falling object—causes the brain to move around inside the skull. When the brain makes contact with the hard bone, it can get damaged or destroyed.
An open head injury occurs when the skull, that typically protects the brain, is fractured or pierced. This might happen if a construction worker takes a nail in the head or is struck by a sharp falling object. The object passes through the skull and causes direct damage to the brain.
Wearing a hard hat can significantly reduce the risk of suffering a head and/or brain injury. Hard hats have a simple design. There’s a hard outer shell—usually made of plastic or fiberglass—and an internal suspension system. The outer shell sits a few inches above the head.
When a construction worker is struck by a falling object, the object strikes the hard hat, rather than the skull. The suspension system allows the shell to move toward the head while simultaneously absorbing and deflecting the force of impact. A construction worker may still sustain a relatively minor head injury. However, the injury will generally be much less severe than it could’ve been had the worker not been wearing the safety gear.
Redesigning Hard Hats to Protect Workers From Fall-Related Injuries
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death on construction sites. Many fall-related deaths involve elevated falls. Traditional hard hats aren’t really designed to protect construction workers in these situations. However, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), that’s changing.
G. Scott Earnest, of the NIOSH, explains that hard hats are being redesigned. These next-generation hard hats “are a lot more like a helmet a mountain climber might wear, or a hockey player, or a kid on a bicycle.”
Bullard, the first company to ever design and sell a hard hat, will soon begin to roll out its newest design. The new hard hat will feature foam padding and integrated chin straps. These new hard hats are “similar to helmets, but designed for industrial workers, and with their input.”
Bullard and safety officials hope that the new design will help to cut down on the number of fall-related construction accident deaths in New York and across the country. Soon, when a worker falls, their helmet might be able to better protect them from devastating brain injuries and other trauma that is often fatal.
Construction Workers, Families May Seek Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Work-Related Injuries
Hard hats can save lives and minimize the injuries a worker might sustain in a construction site accident. However, even redesigned hard hats can’t guarantee that workers will never get hurt on the job. Fortunately, construction workers in NYC can file a claim to recover monetary benefits from their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
These benefits are available regardless of who shares fault or responsibility for an accident. Injured workers can get much-needed compensation to cover medical bills and make up for lost wages while they’re out of work. In exchange for receiving relatively-prompt benefit payments, employers can generally avoid time-consuming and expensive lawsuits.
About the Author: Michele Mirman is an award-winning personal injury lawyer and founder of Mirman, Markovits & Landau, PC, a New York-based personal injury law firm. She has over 40 years of experience and has secured over $1 billion in awards and settlements for her clients.