An embedded solar panel on top of the helmet powers a fan to suck in hot air, which is cooled by phase change materials and filtered onto the worker’s head (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

Qatar workers to get air-con hard hats for sweltering summer work

20 December 2016 | By GCR Staff 3 Comments

Qatar University has developed a solar-powered “cooling” hard hat with a built-in fan that reduces the skin temperature of construction workers by up to 10 degrees centigrade, allowing for safer conditions for those building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

“It has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry in hotter areas of the world”– Dr. Saud Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Ghani, Qatar University

In a move to show it is taking worker welfare seriously, organisers have ordered the helmets, which have been tested and patented, and the plan is to issue them to World Cup workers this summer, according to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC).

An embedded solar panel on top of the helmet powers a fan to suck in hot air, which is then cooled by phase change materials and filtered onto the worker’s head. The combined mechanism, plus a back-up battery, adds 300 grams to the weight of the hat, and $20 to its cost.

“This type of body-based cooling technology has been used before in US sports for training purposes in hot states, but we have now developed this innovative solution for the construction sector and we believe it has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry in hotter areas of the world,” said Dr. Saud Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Ghani, Professor at the College of Engineering at Qatar University.

He said the technology can help reduce heatstroke and regulate body temperatures.

“While this technology is developed and designed in Qatar and will be first used on our sites, we believe it can have a legacy which extends to many other parts of the world which have hot summer climates,” Abdul-Ghani said. “This development also confirms our commitment to utilising the impetus of the World Cup to promote innovation and a culture of safety in our region.”

Qatar has come under intense international criticism for its treatment of thousands of migrant labourers building World Cup venues.

Dr. Saud Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Ghani, of Qatar University, demonstrates the “air conditioned” hard hat (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

Last year a report by the International Trade Union Confederation estimated that 7,000 workers will die before the tournament kicks off in 2022.

The kingdom has responded by building standard-setting labour camps and by pledging to reform its labour laws, but advocacy bodies have criticised such moves as superficial.

Qatar University tested the cooling hard hat in climatic chambers, analysing the amount of sweat per hour and adding the effect of sun, air, wind and measurement of the amount of heat that passed through the head.

“The material we use inside the helmet is Phase Changing Material (PCM) contained in a pouch, and this increases the total load of the helmet only by 300 grams,” said Abdul-Ghani.

“This provides cooling in hot conditions for up to four hours straight. People when working in the sun will get cool air coming down at the front of their faces. When they go for a break, they throw it into a refrigerator and pick up a cold pack and put it into their helmets.”

He added: “We did research on the best areas to lower body temperature, and it was the head and face. The additional cost is just twenty dollars in comparison to a normal passive helmet, but the results are felt immediately in terms of less lost time on site due to heat-related complaints.”

Top image: An embedded solar panel on top of the helmet powers a fan to suck in hot air, which is cooled by phase change materials and filtered onto the worker’s head (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)