According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 16% of workers who sustained head injuries in recent years were wearing a hard hat. There are many jobs where there is potential for injury to your head caused by falling objects. This is why in these environments you need to protect yourself not only by making sure you’re wearing a hard hat, but wearing the correct one for the job site. I want to go into detail and explain hard hats to help you make an informed decision which one is best for you and the job at hand.
What is a hard hat?
First, let’s begin with what is a hard hat. A hard hat is a piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) gear. It’s predominantly used in workplace environments such as industrial or construction sites. They are used to protect the head from injury due to falling objects, impact with other objects, debris, and electric shock.
Suspension bands The suspension system of a hard hat absorbs the force of an impact. The amount of suspension points spread out the force of an impact to protect the wearer, dispersing the initial shock. Below is an example of what would happen when a ten pound impact hits a 4-Point and a 6-Point suspension. This is designed in the event an object strikes the shell, the impact is less likely to be transmitted directly to the skull. Some helmet shells have a mid-line reinforcement ridge to improve impact resistance.
The suspension inside the hard hat is adjustable to properly fit to your head. You have some options for ease of use and cost.
- WHEEL RATCHET Provides quicker and easier adjustment, and is less likely to snag in longer hair.
- SLIP RATCHET A more economical solution that is still simple to adjust. Some may use a system of pinlocks.
- 3D Height Adjustment Unique to JSP® Hard Hats, 3D Precision Fitting allows the harness to be adjusted by depth with three receiver settings at each suspension point.
Who needs to wear a hard hat?
Wearing a hard hat is a vital part of your PPE gear. They provide protection for the most important part of your body, the brain. In any industry where potentially damaging impact to the head is possible, hard hats must be used. OSHA Standard 1910.135 states “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires hard hats be used in these occupations … it’s the law.
General Industry: According to 29 CFR 1910.135(1) The employer shall ensure that employees wear a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.
Electrical: According to 29 CFR 1910.135(2) The employer shall ensure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by employees when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head.
Construction: According to 29 CFR 1926.100 Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.
While OSHA doesn’t regulate how hard hats are designed and constructed, it does require their use. The construction, testing, and certification are deferred to Standards ANSI Z89.1-2014 in the United States, and CSA Z94.1-2015 in Canada.
Quick Glance Occupation List:
- Mechanics and repairers
- Plumbers and pipe fitters
- Assemblers packers, wrappers, and freight handlers
- Timber cutters and loggers
- Stock handlers, and warehouse laborers
Understanding the different types of hard hats
Let’s talk about the Type:
Now, let’s discuss the Class:
In addition to having 2 types of hard hats, there are also 3 different classes of hard hats. The classes of hard hats are customized and designed to protect against different electrical impacts:
Class G (General) Hard Hat: These helmets are manufactured to reduce the impact of falling objects and exposure to low-voltage electrical conductors. A hard hat under this category is proof-tested at 2200 volts of electrical charge; this means that class G hats will withstand 2,200 volts for one minute.
Class E (Electrical) Hard Hat: Called electrical helmets, these are also intended to lessen the impact of falling objects; however, they reduce the danger of exposure to high-voltage electrical conductors. Hard hats under this category receive certification only after they pass the test at 20,000 volts of electrical charge. Class E will withstand 12,000 volts for 3 minutes.
Class C (Conductive) Hard Hat: These are conductive hard hats and minimize the impact of falling objects, but offer no protection against electrical exposure. To clarify, class C hard hats are not tested for electrical insulation.
Use your head, don’t use the excuse of discomfort to jeopardize your safety. Hard hats have come a long way and have evolved. They come in many different variations and countless accessories to allow you more comfort. From chin straps and sweat bands to vented air pads and sun protection, whether you’re working in cold or hot temps we have options for you.
Is There A Difference Between Different Hard Hat Colors?
As you’ve probably noticed (or will notice) hard hats also come in a number of colors. The different colors can occasionally signify different roles on construction sites. While there is no official rule or regulation on hard hat safety color codes there are “common” color codes among jobsites. Keep in mind these color designations are common but can vary from job to job and company to company.
- White Hard Hat: Managers, architects, engineers, foremen or supervisors.
- Blue or Orange Hard Hat: Carpenters, technical advisors and temporary employees.
- Green Hard Hat: Often signifies a safety inspector but can also be used for new workers.
- Brown Fiberglass Hard Hat: Welders or those working in high-heat applications.
- Orange Hard Hat: Frequently used for road crews, new workers or visitors.
- Pink Hard Hat: Loaners to those who forgot theirs.
Expect the unexpected
When we think about needing to use a hard hat we tend to think big… climbing an electrical pole, entering a construction jobsite with cranes carrying wood and heavy machinery moving large objects. But, what about the small things? These are easily missed. Even the smallest of tools can be deadly weapons when gravity gets involved. The terminal velocity of a 1 pound tape measure is 38.21 mph when dropped from a 400 foot high building (see the article here) and in 2019 killed a man who was delivering wall board to a jobsite. This man was not wearing a hard hat, his life could have been saved if he had a simple hard hat on. So, please think outside the simple picture at the little off chance possibilities. Often accidents happen when we least expect them.
Finally, most of us will agree that it is of the utmost importance to talk about all these plans and hazards with your crew. Many companies hold toolbox talks before each shift. This is a great time to talk about PPE and hard hat importance. None of us want to have an accident, no-one wants to have something fall on them. Most importantly if these accidents happen, we want to be able to walk away and make it home to our family after work. Let’s work together to get #EveryoneHomeSafe.
In short, make sure the hard hat you choose to wear is rated for the task you have at hand.
It’s a matter of keeping yourself safe!Shop Hard Hats
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Read up on other workforce safety measures.
Start with this article about fall protection.
Rescue Planning for Fall Arrest