Head, eye, face and hearing protection: what do you need to know?

Supplier: MSA Australia
27 September, 2013

Protective industrial helmets, or hard hats, are always visible on the job site, particularly where falling hazards exist. Other personal protection can easily be attached to the hard hat to protect the face and ears.

Head protection in Australia commonly takes the form of protective caps or hats, Type I or Type II that meet the requirements of AS/NZS 1801.

Whenever workers are exposed to injury from falling debris, swinging or moving objects, molten metal splash, live overhead wires, personal protective headwear for worker safety is essential.

Scope of AS/NZS 1801:1997

Safety caps and hats are divided into a number of Types defining the testing protocols the product is subjected to and hence defines its typical applications.

Type I Cap and Hats

Cap or hat is tested for impact protection in various conditions (-10°C, + 50°C and wet, ambient) lateral protection from side compression and electrical resistance to 650 volts. These are the most commonly used caps and hats in industrial applications.

Type II Caps and Hats

These are subjected to the same test conditions as Type I, but have a higher elevated temperature of 120°C for impact test ensuring these are more suitable for high temperature applications such as foundries.

Type III Caps and Hats

These are subjected to the same test conditions as Type II with the addition of specific chinstrap tests (for high strength or defined break), reflectivity of external stickers or marking and deformity testing to 200°C. These are typically used in bushfire or rescue applications.

Eye and face protection – what do you see?

Today's protective eyewear comes in stylish colours, with wraparound lenses that resist fogging and protect from the sun's harmful UV rays. Safety eyewear is lightweight and has more flexible temples, more comfortable nose bridges, and integral side shields. Lens options include clear, smoke, blue mirror and amber.

Workers want personal protective equipment that's so reliable, comfortable, and easy to work in that they hardly notice that they are wearing it. Employers, of course, want reliable protection that employees will wear - at value for money prices.

To keep employees safe and comply with various government standards, starting with OH&S regulations, employers must be knowledgeable about both the range of potential hazards and the types of safety equipment needed. Fortunately, along with continuous technological improvements in materials and design, every year brings new safety products that are lighter and more comfortable, reliable, and stylish.

Safety Eyewear  - AS/NZS 1337:1992 Tests

  • Penetration test (impact resistance) - 44g dart with 40mm x 2mm needle, resulting in no penetration of lens.
  • Frame Flame Propagation - 2mm long samples over Bunsen burner for 10 seconds. Max burning rate is 100mm/min.
  • Metal components immersed in salt water for 15mins and dried for 24 hours, must retain smooth surface and be free of corrosion.
  • Optical Properties
    • Refractive Power – Shall not be positive or negative 0.12m
    • Prismatic Power – Shall not exceed 0.25
  • Transmittance Values
    • Untinted – 85 per cent min
    • Outdoor Untinted – 85 per cent min Erythemal UV 1 per cent max
    • Outdoor Tinted – 8 per cent min 50 per cent max Erythemal UV 1 per cent max
  • Limits on red signal visibility factor (R) [for red, green, yellow colours] and violet factor (V) [colour perception]
    • The vast majority of eye injuries are caused by small particles getting into the eye.
    • The more comfortable and stylish the eyewear, the more workers will wear it.

Approximately 95 per cent of eye injuries are preventable. According to the Optometrist Association, approximately 116,000 Australians suffer eye injuries each year.

Interesting facts

A survey by the bureau of statistics found that 3 out of 5 workers who suffered an eye injury wore no protection. Of those who did, 40 per cent wore the wrong kind.

Most injuries are caused by metal fragments, tools, particles, chemicals, and harmful radiation (welding flash).

Safety eyewear should be worn whenever there is a chance that machines or operations present the hazard of flying objects, chemicals, harmful radiation or a combination of these or other hazards.

Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear appropriate protective eyewear at such times.
Ultra violet light and human eye

The ultraviolet section of the spectrum covers 100-400nm, where it merges with visible light.

Recent research shows that the UV rays above 290nm can have significant effects on the eye lens and retina.

Effects are cumulative; low doses over a long period can cause permanent damage.

Rays less that 290nm from the sun are mostly absorbed by oxygen, nitrogen and ozone in the atmosphere.

Individual sensitivity can be increased by many prescription drugs, i.e. hormones, vitamins, anti depressants etc.

UV lenses are ideal for all outdoor workers – pilots, drivers, farmers, linesmen, builders, council workers etc.

Persons working around highly reflective surfaces i.e. snow, water and sand are at the highest risk.

The lens does not filter out UV rays it absorbs it and offers no reflection.

All polycarbonate MSA lenses, both clear and tinted, absorb greater that 99 per cent of UV rays up to 400nm. i.e. UV-C (200 - 280nm), UV-B (280 - 320nm) & UV-A (320 - 400nm).

A sensitive organ we need to protect

"At a glance" our eyes capture very quickly all kinds of information. Our eyes provide us with a view of the world and they add a quality to our life.

Hazards that exist in countless working areas can cause severe damage to human vision within just a second. Possible consequences of such an accident reach from a simple temporary irritation up to total loss of sight. Therefore in Australian National and State Occupational Health and Safety Legislation, European Labour Legislation and Australian Standards it recognised that eye protection is a major concern.

Risk awareness – things to consider

Most injuries are caused by mechanical (particles such as metal fragments), chemical or harmful radiation or a combination of these or other hazards.

Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear appropriate protective eyewear. The vast majority of eye injuries are preventable if appropriate eyewear is available and worn consequently. Protective eyewear that is ergonomic, comfortable and adapts well to the users style and preferences will be worn.

Invisible risks – radiation

All MSA lenses fully absorb UV radiation, e.g. by sunlight, which even at low dose exposure over a long period can cause chronic damage to the cornea and crystal corps of the eye.

Hearing protection – what do you hear?

Excessive noise cannot only cause short term ringing in the ears but also cause permanent damage. To ensure maximum protection during low to high-level noise environments MSA has a range of revolutionary products to meet stringent Australian hearing safety regulations.

Selecting suitable hearing protection

Comfort and the ability to wear hearing protection for the full duration of the noise exposure are primary considerations. The MSA range includes models specifically designed to be worn in conjunction with protective headwear.

Up-to-date hearing protection

In the form of electronic ear muffs, left/RIGHT™ hearing protection can add new dimensions in communication and listening to your favourite music while protecting your hearing. Passive ear muffs can be fastened to the hard hat, and raised or lowered on demand. Disposable corded ear plugs offer an alternative to helmet-mounted ear muffs, because they provide convenience, comfort, and low cost as well as high noise-reduction ratings.

Performance is the other key issue. In Australia and New Zealand the class system is used to assist with selecting the right hearing protection. Under this system hearing protection devices are grouped together according to their attenuation (SLC80 rating) and the noise level with which they can be used.