Application of Polyethylene Air-Bubble Cushions to Improve the Shock Absorption Performance of Type I Construction Helmets for Repeated Impacts

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BACKGROUND: The use of helmets was considered to be one of the important prevention strategies employed on construction sites. The shock absorption performance of a construction (or industrial) helmet is its most important performance parameter. Industrial helmets will experience cumulative structural damage when being impacted repeatedly with impact magnitudes greater than its endurance limit. OBJECTIVE: The current study is to test if the shock absorption performance of Type I construction helmets subjected to repeated impacts can be improved by applying polyethylene air-bubble cushions to the helmet suspension system. METHODS: Drop impact tests were performed using a commercial drop tower test machine following the ANSI Z89.1 Type I drop impact protocol. Typical off-the-shelf Type I construction helmets were evaluated in the study. A 5 mm thick air-bubble cushioning liner was placed between the headform and the helmet to be tested. Helmets were impacted ten times at different drop heights from 0.61 to 1.73 m. The effects of the air-bubble cushioning liner on the helmets’ shock absorption performance were evaluated by comparing the peak transmitted forces collected from the original off-the-shelf helmet samples to the helmets equipped with air-bubble cushioning liners. RESULTS: Our results showed that a typical Type I construction helmet can be subjected to repeated impacts with a magnitude less than 22 J (corresponding to a drop height 0.61 m) without compromising its shock absorption performance. In comparison, the same construction helmet, when equipped with an air-bubble cushioning liner, can be subjected to repeated impacts of a magnitude of 54 J (corresponding to a drop height 1.52 m) without compromising its shock absorption performance. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that the helmet’s shock absorbing endurance limit has been increased by 145% with addition of an air-bubble cushioning liner.