New Safety Helmet – The Transatlantic Middle East District Leads USACE in Protecting its People

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published Feb. 21, 2024
Updated: Feb. 21, 2024
Person gets help with safety helmet strap.

Safety officer Lauren Wougk gets help from LTC Eder Ramirez with her helmet's safety strap.

Safety check at project site

MAJ Christopher Bartenhagen and Safety Chief Vanessa Matheny visit a project site in Jordan.

Image of all sides of the new safety helmet.

Display of the front, two sides, and back of the new tech advanced helmets being implemented across USACE.

TAM Introduces the new safety helmet to the field

The implementation of the "Tip of the Spear Safety initiatives" by TAM demonstrates a responsibility to ensuring the safety of its personnel across the Middle East. The procurement and fielding of the new safety helmet, which began in December 2022, has been a significant step towards enhancing worker protection and reducing the risk of injuries in the field.

The evolution of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly the transformation of the traditional hard hat, underscores the construction industry's dedication to enhancing worker safety. While conventional PPE like hard hats, high visibility vests, and safety boots have been instrumental in preventing injuries, ongoing advancements in materials science, ergonomics, and technology present opportunities to further improve worker safety.

From hardhats to helmets; what’s new and why?

The 2020 statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlight the significant risk of head injuries in the workplace, with nearly 6 percent of non-fatal occupational injuries involving days away from work attributed to head injuries. Among these injuries, encounters with objects or equipment and slips, trips, and falls are common causes.

The limitations of traditional hard hats, dating back to the 1960s, are also noted. While they provide protection to the top of a worker's head, they often lack adequate side impact protection and chin straps. This deficiency increases the risk of head injuries, as traditional hard hats can fall off a worker's head if they slip or trip, leaving them vulnerable to impacts.

The modernization of the traditional hard hat gives way to safety helmet upgrades. Manufacturers have leveraged new technologies to create next-generation helmets that provide enhanced protection. These helmets offer features such as improved impact resistance, extended coverage to protect the face and neck, adjustable suspension systems for a customized fit, chin straps, and compatibility with additional safety accessories like face shields.

The decision to introduce the new helmet was influenced by the firsthand experience of TAM's Deputy Commander, LTC Eder Ramirez,  during the 2022 hurricane recovery operations in Puerto Rico. This experience highlighted the benefits of the new helmet design and prompted the TAM Safety and Logistics Team to initiate procurement activities.

Known as Type 1 Safety Helmet, these newly implemented helmets have design features that contribute to the overall effectiveness and comfort of the safety helmet, ensuring that workers are adequately protected while performing their duties in challenging environments.

Since its introduction at the TAM Area and Resident Engineers Conference in Spring 2023, the new helmet has gradually been implemented by across TAM's field offices in the Middle East. The fielding initiative has been limited only by the availability of the helmet.

This ongoing TAM safety initiative is now implemented USACE wide with the publication of USACE Daily Tasking Order 23-09-18 (USACE Safety Helmet Acquisition Process).  This order streamlines the safety helmet acquisition process allowing TAM to procure the helmets more efficiently and in larger quantities.

LTG Scott Spellmon, 55th Chief of Engineers, recently directed USACE Division Commanders to submit their implementation plan for the new safety. He praised TAM for its current degree of utilization.

The Way Forward

  • TAM’s safety office continues to be proactive ensuring all field personnel have the new helmet. Currently, 70% of the field office personnel have received the new helmet.
  • 100% implementation across all operations to be finalized by end of calendar year 2024.
  • To sustain the initiative, TAM has implemented a sustainability plan, which includes maintaining a 10% overage in each of the seven field offices. This strategy aims to enhance the safety culture within the organization and ensure ongoing protection for personnel in the field.
  • Creating materials on how to properly wear the new safety helmet is another crucial step in ensuring its effectiveness in protecting personnel. By developing training resources, TAM safety can ensure that personnel are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to properly wear the new safety helmet, ultimately enhancing overall safety on job sites across the Middle East.

TAM's safety program reflects a dedication to prioritizing the health and well-being of its personnel, fostering a culture of safety excellence, and continuously improving safety measures and equipment to mitigate risks effectively in challenging construction environments.