From developers to ironworkers, just about everybody knows to wear a hard hat in hazardous work environments like construction sites. Keeping your noggin’ covered with these helmets keeps workers safe from falling debris and the occasional negligence by their coworkers.
But just how effective are these hard hats in a dangerous incident? And is there real security from wearing one, even when you don’t know rubble is falling straight for your head?
To answer these questions, Matt Mikka over at the YouTube channel Warped Perception took three different hard hats—a $3 orange hard hat, a $12 yellow hard hat, and a completely transparent hard hat (price unknown)—and dropped a load of punishment on each of them to test how well they perform in an actual incident. And since it would be boring to watch all of this falling rubble in real-time, they add a little bit more to the visual spectacle by recording all of their ‘drop tests’ in slow motion for maximum effect:
Matt first tests each hat by putting it a mannequin and dropping a bunch of bricks on it from 20-30 feet.
While you can’t see much of what’s going on inside the orange hard hat, you can see—thanks to that sweet slo-mo—how it protects the mannequin’s head from the falling debris. The suspension system between the head and the hat is what keeps the wearer safe, as it provides space to cushion the fall of unexpected objects.
Still, you can’t expect to come away unscathed. As the transparent helmet shows, improper positioning can lead to injury even if you are wearing a hard hat. That said, it’s clear that without a hat, there would be much more dire consequences.
Matt then explains how most—if not all of the time—construction workers don’t expect to get hit on the head with debris and are roaming around doing their thing. This leads to some awkward body positions by nature of the work at hand that aren’t ideal to be in when something massive lands on your head. The use of the hard hat is to help prevent fatal damage to the brain, and you can only hope for the best that you’re in a fortunate position when something substantial does fall your way from above.
After dropping a ton of bricks on the first mannequin and rightly snapping her neck, Matt moves on to another creepy mannequin and tries to drop some 2x4s on her.
The first drop doesn’t quite land square on the noggin, but shows another feature of the standard hard hat: its rounded shape helps bounce off some punishment from the wearer’s head. When the 2×4 drops, the contour of the hard hat makes the board sort of slide off the top of the head and land harmlessly behind the mannequin. While the impact can still definitely be felt, the body itself is relatively unharmed.
The second 2×4 drop hits the bullseye on the helmet and promptly snaps the board in two! The hard hat takes the brute force of the falling board and softens it into something the head can (theoretically) handle.
To illustrate the force absorption capabilities of the hard hats, Matt takes a pneumatic drill and tests it on yet another underpaid and oppressed mannequin. With each pump of the drill, you can see how the suspension system takes the force applied and pushes the hard hat down, softening the blow on the person’s head.
But when all is said and done, these are mannequins that Matt is testing his hard hats on. To see if an actual human being wearing the helmet feels pain, he gets a child to hit him on the head with different sized sticks. While the first stick makes his ears ring from all the banging, the bigger second stick seems like it could do some damage if Matt wasn’t wearing his trusty hard hat. But seeing how he is, both bits of wood don’t harm his head in any way possible.
Find more of Matt’s informative slow-motion videos over at Warped Perception.