Industry chiefs aim to replace traditional yellow “Bob the Builder” hard hats under a new colour-coded hard hat scheme.

Worn with a hi vis jacket and big boots, a yellow hard hat was the must-have fashion accessory on any construction site.

In fact, hard hats have been compulsory on Britain’s building sites since 1990. However, a new colour-coded system of safety hats is coming. Black, orange, white and blue all feature but yellow is going. It seems “Bob the Builder” is getting a makeover and Health & Safety is to blame!

Safety Helmet Colours and Training Standards have been developed by Build UK which represents some of the nation’s biggest contractors and trade associations.

Hard Hat Guidelines

New hard hat guidelines aim to improve Health & Safety and work-flow on construction sites. The scheme uses simple colours to indicate different roles and levels of experience among on-site personnel:

  • Black hats are for supervisors
  • Orange for slingers and signallers
  • White for site managers and operatives
  • Blue for everyone else such as apprentices, architects and visitors

White will be the most commonly used hat worn by site managers and “competent” operatives like Bob the Builder, or rather, qualified labourers and tradesmen such as electricians and plumbers. The scheme aims to help contractors assess a worker’s ability and suitability to work on-site.

Build UK recommend the guidelines be adopted in all building projects.

Bob the Builder v The Village People

Alison Rogers from the Construction Industry Training Board believes only Bob the Builder will be sad to see yellow hats go because white ones are everywhere in real and not-so-real life. Indeed, those of a certain age may remember the white one sported by the Village People’s safety-conscious macho man David Hodo. Cool.

Cynics also expect George Osborne to soon promote his Northern Powerhouse sporting the new blue one.

More seriously, Ms. Rogers believes the scheme will reduce on-site dangers as it will be easier to tell what experience people have. She says it will help with the co-ordination and communication needed to reduce danger. For instance, a quick glance at George Osborne would indicate he “might not know about the hazards and risks”. Visual clues may also be useful in multicultural workplaces where different languages are spoken or where employees have poor literacy.

Highways England is among the major employers set to adopt the new scheme which will be introduced in January. Highways Agency staff working on motorways and A-roads will wear the coloured hats including the white macho man one!

When Things Go Wrong 

It is hoped the new colour-coded system works as intended.

However, things can go wrong. In 2008 a £285m construction project in Aberdeen came to a premature halt because workers had wrongly coloured helmets!

Work was interrupted after contractors were told their helmets broke Health & Safety regulations. The project was next to the city’s railway station. Under Network Rail safety rules, those who do not have trackside safety certificates must wear blue hats. White hats are reserved for those holding certificates.

However, a lack of blue helmets on-site meant workers could no longer handle tools. Network Rail and the contractors insisted the confusion did not cause significant delays. However, one employee described things as “ridiculous” and said events “hampered” the project’s climax.

Contact Ellis Whittam to find which helmet best suits you!

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