Occupational Head Protection: Considerations for Test Methods and Use

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Virginia Tech


Occupational accidents are a main source of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), with TBIs accounting for a substantial portion of all work-related deaths. Motor vehicle accidents and falls are consistently leading causes of head injury and fatality across industries. These injuries can have serious long-term consequences on an individual's quality of life and lead to large economic costs within society. This thesis investigated sources of occupational TBI prevention within two industries, construction and professional motorsports. In the last twenty years there have been major safety advancements within these industries, and yet the risk of TBI still exists. There is a need for safety standards that better reflect real-world injury scenarios.

First, this thesis considered improvements to construction hard hat safety standards by evaluating the ability of Type 1 and Type 2 hard hats to reduce head injuries due to falls. Hard hats were evaluated over a range of real-world fall heights and three impact locations, using a twin-wire drop tower. Linear acceleration was used to predict injury risks. Type 2 hard hats substantially reduced skull fracture and concussion risk when compared to Type 1, indicating that if more workers wore Type 2 hard hats the risk of severe head injuries in the construction industry would be reduced. Next, this thesis compared real-world motorsport crash simulations and head impact laboratory tests designed to simulate real-world head impacts. Deformation and change in velocity were used to compare the energy managed by each system. The laboratory results generally tested higher severity impacts, with higher accelerations, compared to the simulations, despite managing a similar amount of energy. This indicates a large amount of the energy involved in the simulations was managed by the surrounding protective systems. The differences between systems create challenges for representing real-world crashes in a laboratory setting. Overall, the comparison in this thesis raises considerations for future helmet testing protocols in order to better match real-world simulations.



biomechanics, linear, acceleration, occupational, head injury, construction, motorsports