Making a Safer Choice: Clark Drives Change for Enhanced Head Protection
BETHESDA, Maryland – One year ago, Clark Construction Group became the first general contractor in the United States to implement the company-wide adoption of safety helmets with chin straps for all employees. Since then, the company has witnessed improvement in the prevention of head injuries on its projects.
Why did Clark make the decision to adopt the new helmets?
In 2016, there were nearly 400 fall fatalities in the construction industry. That year, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that 25% of all construction fatalities result in Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), most of which occurred from a fall.
With this alarming data in hand, Clark’s safety team began to search for ways to improve the protective gear utilized by employees. The traditional hard hat, a 60-year staple in the industry, provides protection from falling objects. But if a person falls, the standard hard hat falls off, and falls short.
After more than a year of testing and research and development, Clark determined that safety helmets with chin straps were a prudent solution to preventing TBIs as the result of a fall. In 2017, Clark made the decision to adopt the use helmets with chinstraps. Today, all 3,000+ employees wear the safety helmet. In the year since its adoption, the helmet has already made a big impact in preventing TBIs.
Division Safety Manager Seth Randall was a leader in Clark’s safety helmet initiative. “The industry didn’t have much consensus on head protection during a fall, so we wanted to find a better solution,” says Seth. “We saw that there was a need, and an opportunity to change for the better. Since adopting the helmet, we’ve already seen positive results from a couple of incidents where head injuries have been avoided because of the helmet.”
As just one example, in February 2018, Marvin Taylor was cleaning stairs on a jobsite when a guardrail on a stair mid-landing gave out, and he fell seven feet onto a concrete slab below. “At the hospital, the doctor confirmed that I didn’t have a concussion or anything,” remarked Marvin. “I didn’t even realize that I had hit my head. Then I was shown the helmet I was wearing. There was a three-inch crack in the helmet. My old hard hat… it would have fallen off my head. That would have been a three-inch crack in my skull. It could have been so much worse.” Shortly after the incident, Marvin was able to return to work on site.
Clark is proud to be at the helm of an industry movement to push for safer head protection. Vice President of Safety Kris Manning commented, “We recognize that PPE should be the last line of worker safety, but as responsible leaders within the industry we truly believe the adoption of these helmets with chin straps is the right thing to do. Internal and third-party research supports enhanced worker protection, and the most powerful confirmation for me is speaking to a worker who fell and was able to walk away to spend time with his family again.”
The theme of Safety Week 2018 is “The Power of Choice.” Two years ago, Clark chose to find better head protection. One year ago, Clark chose to make it company policy. Every day, Clark chooses to provide the safest possible work environment for each and every person on its jobsites.