hard hat guide

Hard Hats

Pass any construction site in this day and age and you will be able to see trade workers wearing hard hats. Construction sites are dangerous places of work and present considerable hazards to the individuals that work there.

Hard Hats Symbol

Falling items, swinging objects and electrical dangers are a real risk in this environment despite measures put in place and a hard hat can be a vital piece of equipment for protection.

Hard hats are sometimes seen as something you just have to wear to work on a site but there is more to it than that. Our hard hat guide aims to provide you with all the information you need to choose your next hat and give you important information to pass on to your colleagues.

What are Hard Hats Used For?

A Hard hat forms a part of personal protective equipment. Generally, they are used by construction workers but sometimes in other occupations where the risk of injury is present. They may also be necessary for visitors to the site, for example, surveyors, delivery drivers, architects.

The main hazards on construction sites are falls from height. These can arise from dropped tools, materials used and even flying debris from some of the operations being undertaken.

OSHA requires hard hats to be provided to workers where there is a risk of falling objects, impacts, contact with fixed objects and electric shock. There two standards covering this. OSHA implement regulation on PPE such as hard hats.

The hard hat helps to protect the worker by resisting and deflecting blows to the head. It reduces the shock trauma to the head and spine areas of the body. The hat can also insulate against electrical shock(depending on class type).

Occupations That Use a Hard Hat

Man and Woman on Site wearing Hard Hats

Typical industries that use a hard hat as part of their PPE control measures are:

  • Construction operatives
  • Light Industrial- Factories and Warehouses
  • Heavy Industrial
  • Mining
  • Forestry Workers
  • Road and Highways Construction
  • Forestry Workers
  • Utility workers
  • Petrochemical

Hard Hats Type

Impact Type 1 Hard Hats- The Hard hat meeds the requirement for vertical impact.

Impact Type 2 Hard Hats- The hard hat meets the requirement for both top and side-impact. These hats have a foam inner liner made from expanded polystyrene.

Hard Hat Electrical Classes

Hard hat classes show the amount of protection from electrical hazards.

  • G- Class are general hard hats and rated for 2200 volts.
  • E- These are Electrical Class and rated for 20,000 volts.
  • C- Are conductive hard hats and do not offer any protection.

How Do I find Class & Type of Hard Hat?

To meet ANSI requirements there should be an inner label on the hard hat. The label should show the type and class of the hat. The label should also show the manufacturer, the size fitting, the ANSI standard that hat conforms to, and the date of manufacture.

Additional Markings

There may be additional markings on the hat which will show one or more of the following:

  • Two curved arrows forming a circle- Allow the wearer to wear the hat in a reverse position
  • LT- Lower Temperatures. The hat is designed to protect in lower temperatures, up to -30 degree celsius
  • HV- High Visibility. These hats meet the requirements of high visibility. They have been tested for their luminescence and chromaticity.

Can I Modify My Hard Hat?

It is not advised. The integrity of the hard hat can be affected. The hard hat is designed specifically and made from materials suitable for head protection. Modifications that can damage the hard hat:

Stickers- the adhesive from the sticker can damage the material of the hard hat. Check the sticker adhesive and hard hats manufacturers guidelines before placing any decals

Paints- the paint and thinners may contain chemicals that can eat into the structure of the hat. This reduces the protection

Full Brim Hard Hats

Full brim hard hats extend the lip around the whole hat as opposed to the baseball-style hat. This style hat offers more protection from the sun as it often provides shade to the back of the wearers head and neck. These style hats are more commonly worn by utility workers, highway workers, miners and construction trades working in the sun.

How Long Are Hard Hats Good For?

It depends on the conditions that the hat is exposed to. If the hat is looked after as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and not exposed regularly to a harsh environment, then most manufacturers suggest that hard hats be replaced every 5 years. Even if the hard hat looks good at the 5-year mark it advised to renew.

In some circumstances where the wearer deals with chemicals, heat or works a long period of time outdoors then the period reduces down to two years. Some construction companies insist on replacing annually regardless of condition.

Maintenance of a Hard Hat

The hard hat should be thoroughly regularly inspected for any signs of wear and tear or break down. They should be checked by the employee at least monthly and more frequently is recommended. A quick check should happen every time it is worn.

When inspecting the user should look for any signs of dents, cracks, small nicks and gouges. If any of these are present the hard hat should not be used.

Remove any dirt and stains when they are found.

Storage

The storage location of the hat when it is not in use is important to the longevity of this piece of PPE. Ideally, the hat should be hung up away from any chemicals or substances that could affect it. It should also be stored ad an adequate temperature. High and low heat exposure can affect the hat.

When should you change your Hard Hat?

Correct care and occasionally cleaning the hard hate with a mild soap should keep it in good condition. If there is any sign of damage or wear and tear the hat should be replaced immediately. The hat should be checked to see if it starts chalking, is brittle to touch, has been cut, scuffed or dented.

If the hat has been involved in an impact it is advised to change it. It is advised to change every 2-5 years depending on where the hat is being used. The suspension part is advised to change annually.

Factors that can affect the integrity of a hard hat are:

  • Impact damage
  • Exposure to UV Rays
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Deliberate abuse

Hard Hat Colors on Construction Sites

You may have noticed that hard hats are available in a range of designs and colors. There is a system in place on large construction site for employees to be identified by their hat color

  • Orange – Transporation crew, new employees, visitors to the site.
  • Brown – Welding operatives and other trades operating with high heat. Normally made of fiberglass.
  • Green – Worn by Safety inspectors and sometimes by new starters.
  • White – managers, supervisors, foremen, engineers
  • Yellow – General laborer
  • Blue – Carpenter, temporary workers, technical advisor

This is just a guide though and there is no set standard. If working on a new site it is worth confirming with the site supervisor to see if a color scheme for hard hats has been put in place.

Hard Hat Accessories

Hard hats can be used with items for task-specific work. Accessories that can be attached to the hard hate are:

Hard Hat Chin Strap

A chin strap is fitted to a hard hat where the worker is at risk of encountering high winds or working in an environment that the wearer is at risk of the hard hat slipping.

Hard Hat Torch

A Hard hat torch or headlamp can be attached to the hat when there is a lack of visibility due to working conditions like a confined space o whilst working at night.

Hard Hat Visor and Glasses

Visors and safety glasses can be fitted either fixed or attachments where the worker is exposed to dangers that may affect the eye area.

Hard Hat Ear Muffs

Ear Muff Attachments can be fitted to the hard hat in areas where there is constant noise above the recommended levels

How to Wear a Hard Hat Correctly

Owning a hard hat does not necessarily mean that the wearer is getting optimum protection. It is important the wearer knows how to wear the hat correctly.

The harness suspension should be adjusted so that there is adequate space between the head and the hard hat. The suggested space is 1 and 1 and 1/4 inch gap.

The head fit adjustment should be altered so that the hat fits snuggly on the head. This is usually done in intervals of a 1/8 inch on most hard hats. It should not be too loose or too tight.

The shell and suspension should not be altered. Putting holes etc can affect the hard hat.

Unless specified on the hard hat instructions that it is safe to do so, the hard at should not be worn backwards.

Use the manufacturers recommended suspension system in the shell

Items of clothing like other hats or hoodies should not be worn under the hard hat. See below for advice on this.

Remember to replace if any damage is spotted, even minor wear and tear.

If the hat has been dropped more than 8 feet, it should be replaced.

Do not use the hat to carry anything in.

Wearing Hard Hat During Cold Weather

If working in cold conditions a thin layer can be worn under the hat but OSHA recommends users wear special designed hard hat liners. The liners are designed so that do not interfere with the protection that the hat offers. Check with the manufacturer of the hard hat and hard hat liners to check suitability.

How to Clean a Hard Hat

Your hard hat should be cleaned frequently. This should be done at least once a month or as required when the dirt is spotted. Hard hats can attract mud, oil, and grease when working in factories or construction areas. The best way to clean is to soak the hard hat in a mild soapy hot water. It can be left for at least 5 minutes then it can be rinsed off and left to dry.

The History of Hard Hat evolution can be found on History of PPE

Conclusion

A hard hat is a vital part of a workers protective equipment. Selecting the correct hat for the tasks and maintaining are important for the safety of employees. The hat protects the head area and brain, The users may complain but this is insignificant o the long term injury or death that can occur by not wearing them. Use your head by wearing a hard hat!

Additional Reading

ANSI Industrial Head Protection