Confused about “climbing style” safety helmets? Here's why.

Confused about “climbing style” safety helmets? Here's why. header image

“Climbing helmets” is a hot term in safety these days – and for good reason. A quick google search will bring up many different options on the market, some with chin straps, lower profiles, and a shorter brim – invoking perceptions of being safer, more secure, and more versatile.

We don’t disagree, but we wanted to get to the bottom of “climbing style helmets” – what exactly are they, and why are they important to you and your team?

Since we’re a stickler for details, we’ve done a lot of digging – and here’s what we found.

Is there a “climbing style” helmet definition?

The short answer: technically, no. The long answer: yes – sort of. See what we mean about confusion?

A quick look at safety helmets

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to safety helmets. Hard hats and safety helmets protect the wearer from impact hazards to the head. They have a hard outer shell with an interior suspension system made of straps and/or foam that protects your head from potential impact forces, helping to drastically reduce injuries.

Safety helmets used or required on the job must be ANSI-rated and OSHA-compliant – read more about these standards here – and can be mandated at a variety of worksites.

What “climbing style” means

Climbing-style helmets, on the other hand, are a little different. There is currently no U.S. standard for climbing style or at-height helmets - both with OSHA and ANSI. We like to think of these helmets as just a “style,” meaning they have certain characteristics that other safety helmets don’t – but nothing official.

There is, however, a European mountaineering helmet standard – EN12492 – that requires safety helmets to meet several rigorous tests. More on helmet standards here.

Meeting the EN12492 mountaineering standard is what many safety helmet manufacturers mean when they talk about their “climbing style” helmet – but not all of them.

Because there is no definitive definition, the term “climbing style” is often used to describe safety helmets that might meet only part of the EN12492 standard or none at all, though most often they have one or more of these characteristics:

  • Chin strap: Keeps safety helmet securely in place
  • Short brim: Allows for greater field of vision when looking upwards
  • More compact fit: Keeps safety helmet balanced, with more clearance
  • Can be used at-height: Working at a higher elevation than normal*

*Though we’ve seen descriptions like “at-height rated” or “rated for working at-height” with some competitors’ safety helmets, there are no official safety helmet standards or requirements for working at height. Therefore, there are no truly “at-height rated” helmets – only helmets that are recommended for at-height use.

This leads us to our next question below.

When should workers wear a “climbing style” helmet when on the job?

This is a good question. Because “climbing style” safety helmets are associated with working at height, that’s when the majority of these types of helmets are being worn.

Work at-height can mean different things, depending on your industry or the country you reside in. Here are the most accurate definitions of what “at-height” means in the safety world:

  • From HSE (UK): 'Work at height' means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury (for example a fall through a fragile roof).
  • From OSHA talking about fall protection PPE: OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry, and eight feet in long shoring operation.

These standards are very subjective to your industry – as well as the safety professional on the job.

Overall, it’s best to use safety helmets with a chin strap that will keep the protective gear firmly in place if a worker should fall from at-height, thus reducing the chance of a severe head injury.

The bottom line – It’s up to safety professionals

Since there is no official U.S. standard for climbing style or at-height helmets, safety professionals must make the best-informed decision they can in accordance with safety helmet standards to select the appropriate safety helmet for their workers, whether they work at height or not.

When it comes to “climbing style” safety helmets specifically, technically they can be worn by any worker that needs head protection, as long they meet appropriate standards.

Do your research

When searching for the best safety helmet for your team – “climbing style” or otherwise – make sure to truly understand all hazards on your job site. This will help you determine the safety helmet features and accessories that you’ll need for each application.

Manufacturers like HexArmor® will be an excellent resource to help you better understand product offerings and how certain options can help you solve your head protection needs.

HexArmor® can help

Here’s what we think: considering all the research we’ve conducted on the subject, a “climbing style” safety helmet has characteristics that should aid workers in applications being conducted at height, in confined spaces, or with a great range of motion.

Because of this, we would recommend selecting a safety helmet with the following features:

  • ANSI Type 1 helmets protect the head from vertical impacts caused by falling objects
  • Excellent impact protection not only on the top of the helmet but also the sides
  • Fixed chin strap to ensure a secure helmet fit
  • Short brim for better visibility
  • Vented or non-vented (depending on the application)
  • Meets part of or full requirements of EN12492

Meet our multifunctional safety helmet with climbing-style features

Our all-new safety helmet, Ceros® XA250, is complete with a climbing style short brim, secure chin strap, and strategically placed back-of-head impact padding – all complimenting a first-of-its-kind patented suspension system, Kinetix®.

A literal machine inside a safety helmet, Kinetix® suspension system technology reduces impact forces to your head and neck - delivering nearly twice the ANSI/ISEA impact force transmission requirement for Type 1 safety helmets.

See the Kinetix® suspension system in action.

Are you using the right head safety equipment? Let us know if you need help – our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1-877-MY ARMOR or send us a message.

Learn more about Ceros® XA250

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