Safety in the workplace is a goal that all companies strive to reach. One way to ensure safety in a job that involves physical hazards is the use of hard hats. The hard shell alleviates blows directly to the head and helps to prevent a range of head injuries from concussions to brain damage. OSHA 1926.100 stipulates that employers must supply hard hats in work environments where there is a possibility of head injuries from impact, objects, or electrical shock/burns. There are hard hats to fit every job, environment, and personality. The top brands today are MSA, Bullard, 3M, Fibre-Metal, and Honeywell. With so many hard hats on the market, how do you find the right one for your needs?
Types of Hard Hats
ANSI Z89.1-2014 dictates that there are two types of hard hats, Type I and Type II. Type I hard hats are constructed to shield workers from objects and blows that come from above and pummel the top of the helmet, while Type II hard hats are constructed to protect against lateral blows and objects. Evaluate the work environment and the location of potential hazards to determine which type would be most suitable for your site.
Classes of Hard Hats
ANSI Z89.1-2014 also separates hard hats into three different classes: E, G and C, indicating their electrical insulation rating.
Class E (Electrical) Hard Hats
Defined as electrical hard hats, these are designed to reduce exposure to high voltage conductors and offer dielectric protection up to 20,000 volts. This protection does not extend past the head, however, so additional PPE must be worn to protect the rest of the body from electrical hazards.
Class G (General) Hard Hats
These are general hard hats constructed to lessen exposure to low voltage conductors and offer dielectric protection up to 2,200 volts. The same goes for Class G hard hats as Class E hard hats: additional PPE must be worn to protect the worker below the head.
Class C (Conductive) Hard Hats
This class of hard hat differs from the other two classes because they are not designed to provide protection against contact with electrical conductors. These hard hats protect the wearer only from impact blows to the head.
Most hard hats come with an interior sticker indicating the hat’s type, class, and the year it was manufactured.
Hard Hat Suspension and Style
The two most popular styles of hard hat suspension are ratchet and pin lock. A ratchet suspension adjusts with a ratchet at the back of the hard hat, while a pin lock suspension adjusts with pins and holes, also at the back of the hat. The suspension is the backbone of your hard hat, making it an important factor when considering which one to choose.
Hard hats may also be classified another step further by being vented or non-vented. A vented hard hat is one with small slots at the crown of the hat to encourage air flow, while a non-vented hard hat has no slots. A vented hard hat is especially helpful for people working outside in the sun. Overheating is a serious thing; preventing it in any way you can is important.
Additional Features Available
There are hard hats and accessories to fit every job, environment, and personality. Here are some of the ways you can customize your safety, fit, and look.
- Standard brim or cap style vs Full brim, for additional 360 degree protection from objects, the sun, and rain
- Logos and Hi-Vis striping
- Fiberglass for higher temperatures
- Face shield/visors to protect from flying debris, chemical splashes, radiant heat, infrared radiation, and arc flashes
- Accessory slots for hearing protection
- Sweatbands, shades, and liners
- Personalization: cowboy style hats, sports teams, patriotic, and camo just to name a few
- Bump Caps: These lightweight helmets look more like industrial baseball caps. They are not ANSI certified and are only provided for workers who might occasionally bump or scrape their heads
Now that you understand the different types, classes and styles of hard hats, let’s talk about a tool that can actually help you select the best hard hat to fit your workplace needs!
Customize Your Very Own Hard Hat!
3M, Honeywell, and MSA offer hard hat customization tools that allow you to choose your hard hat model, color, quantity, suspension and style making it as easy as 1, 2, 3 (no really, it’s a three step process). You are able to preview, save and share your designs. Check it out!
When to Replace Your Hard Hat
Just like other types of PPE, hard hats need to be replaced over time to ensure workers receive maximum protection. Damage—such as dents, cracks, penetrations or fatigue due to rough treatment—is a sign that a hard hat needs to be replaced. Heat and rays from the sun are very harsh on hard hats and can cause them to become brittle over time. It is crucial to inspect your hard hat before each use. Another way to evaluate a hard hat, other than by simply looking at it, is to hold it in both hands and administer force by squeezing it. If creaking or other unusual sounds are heard, it’s probably time to replace your hard hat. Some manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every 12 months. Industry standards recommend that, at a minimum, hard hats are replaced every five years even if no damage is found.
There you have it; you’re now on your way to selecting the right hard hat for your workplace needs! Remember to think about the two types of hard hats, then take things a step further and consider which class of hat is best suited to the work environment. Be sure to choose the appropriate suspension and style type also. Now that you understand the different options that hard hats have to offer, your responsibility to select the proper one should be a bit easier. Your head is an important part of your body so keep it properly protected!