Turban-wearing Sikhs working on construction sites have been exempt from having to wear hard hats since 1989. However, under a quirk of law this exemption has not covered other sectors where hard hats are required safety wear.
The Department for Work & Pensions is now extending the exemption, giving Sikhs the right to choose not to wear head protection in the majority of workplaces. A new clause in the Deregulation Bill 2015 extends the existing exemption in the Employment Act.
Should an individual suffer injuries as a consequence of not wearing head protection, employers will be legally protected through the extension of limited liability.
There are exclusions for emergency response services and the military, which apply only in hazardous operational situations when the wearing of a safety helmet is considered necessary. This may include, for example, entering a burning building or those where protective clothing needs to enclose the whole body in situations such as bomb disposal, or dealing with hazardous materials like chemical leaks, biohazards or radiation. However, this will not bar Sikhs from the armed forces or police and fire services and this clause will make no blanket ban on participation by turban-wearing Sikhs. There are already about 4,000 Sikhs in the police and 230 across the armed forces.