New Hard Hats Claim to Protect Workers From Brain Injuries

New Hard Hats Claim to Protect Workers From Brain Injuries Workers in many different industries are at serious risk for traumatic brain injuries and head trauma. Some of the most dangerous industries for head trauma are construction, law enforcement, firefighting, and working in warehouses. Workers can be struck by falling objects, slip and fall on their heads, suffer trauma as the result of blast injuries, or be violently attacked. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Silverman, McDonald, & Friedman in Newark, Wilmington, and Seaford can help if you’ve suffered a head injury on the job.

OSHA hard hat rules

According to Safety By Design, workers must wear hard hats if any of the following dangerous conditions exist:

  • An object may fall from overhead and strike the worker.
  • Stationary fixtures, such as beams and pipes ,could cause head trauma if the worker strikes his/her head on the fixture.
  • The worker’s head may come into contact with an electrical hazard.
  • Other conditions set forth in OSHA regulations.

Hard hats should meet the following requirements:

  • The hard hat must be the type and class (ANSI) for specific hazardous conditions.
  • The hard hat’s design must perform against impact, penetration, and electrical shock.
  • The hard hat should undergo testing to ensure OSHA compliance.

Type 1 safety helmets protect the top of the head. Type 2 helmets protect the top and the sides. There are different classes of helmets based on electrical hazard criteria, such as the amount of voltage protection the helmet provides.

A new approach to helmet construction

NPR recently spoke with two scientists, Michael Bottlang and Dr. Steve Madey, about their new safety helmets that they claim will offer better protection for workers from devastating brain injuries. The discussion aired on NPR’s All Things Considered on September 9, 2022. More than 30 million workers in America wear hard hats and safety helmets that they think will protect them from concussions, head trauma, and brain injuries.

Bottlang said that about one-fourth of concussions happen at work. Other common causes are vehicle accidents and sports injuries. Bottlang stated that while football helmets have improved over the years, hard hats haven’t seen much improvement. The hard hats being used by construction workers and other workers are similar to the helmets of the 1960s.

Most safety helmets, according to NPR, have “a plastic outer shell with an inner suspension system made from webbing.” Some hard hat models also have padding on the sides and a chinstrap. The problem is that this type of helmet primarily protects workers if there is a direct hit to the head – but not if the force comes from an angle – because the “helmet, and the head inside it, turn violently.” It’s like a boxer who gets hit on the chin. The head then spins around, causing the boxer to fall to the ground. The rotational force can cause severe brain damage.

Dr Madey said that current hard hats do a good job at reducing force. They’re not good at decreasing the spin. The analogy is to an egg yolk – the soft capsule “surrounded by liquid inside a hard shell.” The egg can be shaken forcefully without damaging the yolk. However, if you spin an egg hard enough, the yolk inside will rupture.

To address the rotation problem, Bottlang and Dr. Madey formed a company called WaveCel. Their ideas for better helmets began by “observing what happens to a ball when it strikes the ground at an angle.” What happens is the ball will spin in addition to bouncing – unless the ground is made of a certain material. If you try to bounce a ball in a sandpit, for example, the sand won’t cause the ball to spin.

The two scientists used that idea to develop “a helmet liner made from a special plastic honeycomb designed to act like sand.” According to Dr. Madey, “the honeycomb structure is a very light, breathable material that is not only good at absorbing that linear force but also breaks that spin the way sand would.”

WaveCel is now offering its own line of hard hats with the new liner. The company does have competition. A Swedish company called MIPS also has helmets; however, per NPR, “Studies show MIPS technology also reduces spin but not as well.” WaveCel is selling its line of hard hats for $189, much more than the price for standard helmets.

The jury is still out on how well the WaveCel hard hats work. One neurosurgeon at the University of Florida, Dr. Brandon Lucke-Wold, says he has yet to see much change. Lucke-Wold does appreciate the effort. He hopes to see better work helmets that can help reduce the speed at which the head spins in an impact – which will keep the brain more stationary.

At Silverman, McDonald, & Friedman, we fight for workers who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and trauma. The good news is that employees in Delaware do not need to show that their employer failed to follow any OSHA guidelines or that they were injured in any way. If an employee suffers a TBI or any head/brain damage due to a workplace accident, then the employee can seek workers’ compensation benefits.

Delaware workers’ compensation benefits for brain injuries

Workers’ compensation benefits include payment of all the employees’ medical expenses – including surgeries, rehabilitative care, medications, and assistive devices. Many injured employees in Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford may need to work with physical and occupational therapists. They may also see psychologists for their anxiety, depression, and emotional trauma. Many employees with a moderate or severe TBI require medical care for the rest of their lives.

Employees who have a covered work-related injury are entitled to temporary disability benefits while they seek medical help to improve their condition. Some workers may need months or years before their condition stabilizes. Temporary disability benefits are generally two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wages before their injury began.

Once an employee reaches the point of maximum medical improvement, the point where additional medical care is not expected to improve the employee’s health, a review is conducted to determine if the employee has a permanent disability. Many traumatic brain injuries are considered permanent. Workers with permanent disability benefits are entitled to additional pay at the same rate of pay as their temporary disability benefits, for as long as their disability continues.

Read more about Delaware workers’ compensation law here.

At Silverman, McDonald, & Friedman, our Delaware personal injury attorneys work with your doctors and our team of neurologists and other traumatic brain injury health care providers to help you obtain the medical help you will need for the rest of your life. We’ve earned the respect of former clients, insurance companies, and the lawyers for employers for our record of success advocating for work injury victims. Please call us at 302-888-2900 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation in our Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford offices.