Your Guide to Hard Hats March 02 2018

It is the duty of all staff members working including managers and supervisors to adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines of wearing protective gear at all times, especially when a risk assessment has been carried out, and individual safety is deemed necessary.

Hard hats are important personal protective equipment (PPE) required to be worn by individuals who work in areas where there is a potential risk for head injury from falling objects as well as those who work with or near exposed electrical conductors that could contact the head. A hard hat must always be worn provided there’s a risk of head injury due to falling objects, debris, electricity, bad weather, including hitting ones’ head into or against other hard objects around an industrial or construction site.

Hard hats were originally made from steel in the 1930s, fiberglass in the 1940s and then thermoplastic material in the 50’s. Today, modern hard hats are predominantly made from a material called High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) while others are made from a heavy-duty fiberglass material mainly for use in steel mills and in industries where high temperatures are common.

While the manufacture of aluminum hard hats was discontinued years ago, some industries that deal with water drilling, boat construction, logging industries, oil well firefighting, heavy equipment operators, safety inspectors, and the demolition industry still use them. OSHA has explicit requirements for head protection in the workplace, and has two standards that govern hard hat requirements:

  • Those that must be worn by general industry workers
  • Those that must be worn by construction, demolition and renovation workers

According to the hard hat classification, Class G is a general hard hat that provides protection from electrical hazards of about 2,200 volts, Class E is an electrical hard hat rated for 20,000 volts, and Class C is a conductive hard hat that does not offer any protection from electrical hazards. In order for all hard hats to meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), they must have the manufacturer’s name, size range for fitting, and date of manufacture information indicated clearly on the inside of the hat.

Each hard hat must also have the ANSI standard that it conforms with including the class designation (G, E, or C) as well as the ANSI type, defined by the area of the head that is protected – either the top of the head or the top and sides of the head. There should also be two arrows that indicate when the helmet can be worn forwards or backward. Each hard hat should also provide protection at low temperatures 22 °F (-30 °C) and meet all high visibility requirements.

Some hard hats have slots that are designed to accommodate safety glasses, face shields, mounted lights, or earmuffs and feature either a ratchet suspension with a quick ratchet-adjusting knob or a Pin-lock suspension that adjusts to the head with a locking mechanism. Materials such as foam-backed cotton or vinyl, terry cloth, or specialty fibers are used for browpads