Frequently Asked Questions about Hard Hats

During the early days of man’s history on the workplace, especially on the ship building industry, workers covered their heads with pitch (or tar) and then set them in the sun to cure. But this method then was not guaranteed to protect the head from falling debris and other flying objects from above the workers’ head. As a result, hundreds were killed in the various workplaces across the United States every year because of the lack of head protection enough to protect the head from fatal injuries. Today, hard hats are a common sight in the various industries that save thousands of people annually.

Find out more here about the modern hard hats and their contribution to the safety of the working men and women across the nation.

1. What is the purpose of wearing a hard hat?
Also called a safety hat, wearing a hard hat is required where there is a possibility of injury to the head from falling debris or objects. Additionally, hard hats are worn to protect the head from bumping into fixed objects, like pipes and beams, high-tension electrical wires or cables, and as protection from rain, splashes, high heat, and UV rays.
In other words, the best hard hat should be worn at all times where there is a danger in a workplace that could put the life of its wearer when hit in the head by any object, big or small.
2. What organizations require the regulations of wearing hard hats in the work area?
The United States’ OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Organization) has two guidelines governing hard hat requirements, namely,
• 29 CFR 1910.135 governs hard hat requirements for general industry workers, and,
• 29 CFR 1926.100 refers to head protection requirements for construction, demolition, and renovation workers.
(Source: Graphic Products, Inc.)
These standards meet the requirements set by the American ANSI. The current standard in the United States is set by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) where OSHA based its industry Standards for Head protection, the Z89.1 standards. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) took over the publication of the Z89 standards from ANSI, which is currently using the ISEA Z89.1-2009 hard hat standards in the entire United States.

When hard hat manufacturers meet the requirements set by the ANSI for their products, they consequently meet the standards by OSHA. In other words, hard hat manufacturers should comply with the standards set by OSHA in order for them to market their products.
In Canada, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for Industrial protective Head Wear is using the Z94.1-2005 standards.

3. Where are hard hats commonly worn?
Construction and other industrial site workers are obliged to wear hard hats every time they are in the workplace. Moreover, the best hard hats should be worn when falling hazardous articles or objects that may result from any activities close to:
• Persons or operations where random dropping or loss of equipment, tools, materials, and other objects may result in injury to the head.
• Exposed electrical or energized conductors.
• Where equipment and other objects are stored in platforms or shelves which may fall accidentally and have the possibility to hit the head of those people below.
• A controlled demolition or barricaded construction activities and areas where possible head hazards are imminent.
4. Can I paint my carbon fiber hard hat?
Definitely not. Do not paint a hard hat, whatever the type is, never ever paint it. Paints may contain harsh chemicals that could ruin the hard hat’s shell. The paint may chemically attack the shell that may damage it and reduce the degree of protection the hat is built for. Commercial paints commonly contain pigments, binders, and extenders (aside from additives, such as thixotropic agents and dispersants, among other harmful chemicals).
5. What are the types and classes of hard hats?
Hard hats are classified by both Type and Class, so when you order one, you may say “Type II Class C” (as an example). Here are their types and classes defined below:
Hard Hat Types
• Type I: Protection to the top of the head (commonly used in the North America).
• Type II: Protection to the top and sides of the head (common in European countries).
Hard Hat Classes
Class G (General): Protection up to 2,200 Volts.
• Class E (Electrical): protection up to 20,000 Volts.
• Class C (Conductive): No electrical protection.
Note for the employers: Hard hat manufacturers are continually testing and certifying their products, but employers (or the buyers specifically) must validate that what they are buying meets the requirements set by OSHA.
6. What is the lifespan (or service life) of my hard hat?
Hard hats for sale are designed to have high-quality materials, resistant to wear, and are hard enough to withstand rigid objects. However, you need to replace your hat when you find dents, penetration, cracks, or signs of fatigue. Visually inspect the hat after every use to ensure that there are no signs of serious damage on the shell of the hat. Additionally, OSHA has no provision on when your hat will “expire”, but the agency allows the manufacturer to affix expiration dates on their products.
Most manufacturers recommend that you replace the support strap (liners and hard hat sweatband can be added) every year, while the entire hard hat after five years. These important dates are the general rule, though not official from OSHA, it is better to follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for utmost safety.
In addition, when you find cracks, dents, and other sign of damage, it is recommended to replace the hat immediately.
7. What are the materials for hard hats?
These are some of the most well-known hard hat materials and their characteristics:
Carbon fiber hard hat: This material has high stiffness, lightweight, high-tensile strength, low thermal expansion, high-temperature tolerance, and has high chemical resistance. Although this material makes the helmet more expensive than other materials, it is one of the most reliable head protectors.
Fiberglass hard hat: Also known as fiber-reinforced plastic, this type of hard hat is most popular among the mining and electrical sectors because of its crack resistance, heat resistance, lightweight, high-voltage resistance, and durability. This type of helmet is also more used by welders and electricians in the field.
Notes: One of the finest makers of quality hard hats is Bullard, a leading manufacturer of superior brands of personal protective equipment (PPE) and systems around the globe. Its signature Bullard hard hats are the preferred choice of most industries.
Moreover, the Fibre-Metal hard hats by Honeywell are also some of the most sought-after brands in the welding industry and other construction sites. The company pioneered the popular SuperEight models of quality protective hats and caps. These two hard hat products are typically what you can see on construction sites and other hazardous workplaces across North America. Some models also come with hard hat light or lamp that is highly recommended for the mining industry.

8. How do I know that my hard hat meets the ANSI requirements?
For every revision of the ANSI Z89.1 standard, it will have to label duly specifying certain requirements. For each hard hat that you purchase, it must have the following information which is intelligibly written inside every hat:
• Manufacturing date.
• Standards used, such as “ANSI Z89.1-2009”, for example.
• Type of hat (type I or II, as per ANSI) and class designation (G, E or C).
• Size of the hat.
• Name of manufacturer.
When the hat meets certain requirements (such as the ANSI Z89.1-2009), it follows that it must also contain the following information:
• Two (2) arrows curving to form a circle if the hard hat can be worn forwards or backward.
• The letters “LT”: If the hat is designed to provide protection at low temperatures reaching 22F (-30C).
• The letters “HV”: If the hard hat meets all the requirements for high visibility.
Additionally, an accompanying instruction for care and use might be included, but not required. In the event that your ordered hard hat does not have any of this information, the product may not comply with OSHA. You have all the right to contact the manufacturer for proper documentation of proof of OSHA compliance.
9. How do I clean my hard hat?
Using mild soap and warm water is usually the best way to clean hard hats and suspension. You can wash and scrub the shell with a soft-bristled brush while you can hand wash the suspension with detergent. Then, rinse thoroughly with warm water and wipe or air dry the hard hat after washing. Never put a hard hat inside a washing machine, always do the cleaning manually to prolong the life of your helmet.
When sap, tar, and other materials do not come off using this method, most manufacturers recommend replacing the affected component. Using abrasives or solvents to remove these materials may damage or weaken either the shell or the suspension.
10. Is labeling my hard hat appropriate?
Customizing hard hats, like placing a label, names, stickers and other information or decoration on your helmet are not restricted by ANSI Z89.1 regulation. However, OSHA standard 1910.132(a) stated that PPE must be “maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition”.
The OSHA (in its Letters of Interpretation to hard hat manufacturers on October 27, 2009) reiterated that labels, paints, stickers, and other items adhering to the hat may affect electrical resistance and may “conceal defects, cracks, penetration, and any damage that would be otherwise readily identifiable.”
In other words, labeling is permitted if it does not adversely affect a helmet’s protective capacity while it will not also make it more difficult to find possible defects and damages that might be hidden by the labels or stickers. Consequently, the addition of hard hat light is not prevented by OSHA. Customizing hard hats without affecting the integrity of the protective helmet is also not discouraged by OSHA.
Additionally, placing names, certifications, titles, and other info on the hat has some benefits. These labels or names can help in identifying the workers in cases of emergencies. The certifications, meanwhile, can aid in identifying when workers are authorized or not to be in a specific area of the workplace. To be safer and informative at the same time and every time, labels should be placed strategically in the hat and should not be used as graffiti or for purely decorative reasons.