• Protective helmets (i.e. hard hats) reduce the amount of force to the head from impact, but cannot provide complete head protection from severe impact and penetration. Hard hats are intended to provide limited protection against small objects.
  • Hard hats must be marked to indicate the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the ANSI designation Z89, the applicable type and class designations, and the head size range.
  • When purchasing hard hats, ensure that they comply with the most recent ANSI standard. Hard hats already in use must be inspected carefully prior to use for signs of deterioration and defects.
  • Although OSHA does not indicate an expiration date for hard hats, some manufacturer’s do. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding inspection and replacement recommendations. If an expiration date is not indicated by the manufacturer, and the hard hat is in good condition and has not been previously dropped (more than 8-10 feet) or subjected to impact, it may be used. Replacing hard hats every 5 years regardless of outward appearance is a good rule of thumb. Hard hats used in environments which have temperature extremes, sunlight, or chemicals should be replaced more frequently, such as every 2 years.

 Head Hazards

  • Impact /low clearance
  • Electrical Shock
  • Entanglement

General Requirements

  • Each hard hat should bear a label inside the shell that lists the manufacturer, the ANSI designation, the type, and the class of the hard hat.
  • A visual inspection should be performed prior to use each day. Any hard hat that fails the visual inspection should be removed from service and replaced.
  • Hard hats should be free from signs of impact (i.e. dents, cracks, or penetration) and rough treatment (i.e. abrasions, gouges, or excessive wear).
  • Check the suspension system on a periodic basis. The main purpose of the suspension system is to absorb the shock of a blow. Excessive wear, defects, or damage can weaken the protection it should be providing. Look for excessive wear, cracks, tears, frayed or cut straps, loose or damaged stitching, and loss of pliability. The attachment points to the shell should fit tightly and securely into their respective key slots.
  • Remove the hard hat from service or replace the suspension system in kind if there are signs of damage. Make sure to match the hat size with the suspension system.
  • In addition to everyday wear and tear, ultra-violet (UV) radiation can pose a problem for hard hats constructed of plastic. Hard hats should be free from UV damage (i.e. loss of glossy finish, chalky appearance, flaking, peeling, brittleness, fading, or dullness of color).
  • Electrical PPE for the head is covered in Appendix G PPE Body Protection Information.

 Types of Head Protection

Head protection must be worn when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects or impact, or where close contact with live electrical conductors is possible. (env-health-occ-safety@ncsu.edu)

  • Type 1 Hard Hat
    • Type I Hard Hats are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting from a blow only to the top of the head and have a partial or a full brim around the entire hat.
  • Type 2 Hard Hats
    • Type II Hard Hats are intended to reduce the force of lateral impact resulting from a blow which may be received off-center, from the side, or to the top of the head. This form of impact, for example, may result from contact with the sharp corner of a side beam, or a flying object.
  • Bump caps
    • Bump caps be used when head impact protection is not required, but where personnel may be exposed to minor bumps to the head or laceration hazards.
    • Bump caps are not approved for use where impact protection is required.
  • Electrical Classes of Hard Hats
    • Class G (General) Helmets
      • Class G helmets are proof-tested at 2,200 volts. Protection is against impact, penetration, and low-voltage electrical conductors.
    • Class E (Electrical) Helmets
      • Class E helmets are proof-tested at 20,000 volts. Protection is provided against impact, penetration and high voltage electrical conductors.
    • Class C (Conductive) Helmets
      • This class provides no electrical insulation. Protection against impact and penetration only.  Usually made of aluminum, which is an electrical conductor, and therefore should not be used in situations involving electrical hazards.

Storage and Care

  • Always remove and replace a hard hat if it sustains an impact, even if damage is not noticeable. Suspension systems are offered as replacement parts and should be replaced when damaged or when excessive wear is noticed. It is not necessary to replace the entire hard hat when deterioration or tears of the suspension systems are noticed.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning head protection. Generally, a mild detergent and warm water is sufficient, followed by rinsing in clear water. Wipe the shell of the hard hat dry and allow the suspension system, sweatband, and accessories to air dry thoroughly.
  • Hard hats should not be altered for any reason. Accessories must be compatible with the hard hat to avoid compromising protection. Alterations may result in a lower level of protection than originally intended.
  • Do not expose to extreme temperatures for long periods of time.
  • Do not drill holes in the shell for added ventilation.
  • Do not paint or inscribe on the shell without consulting the manufacturer.
  • Do not store in direct sunlight.
  • Do not wear backwards (unless welding apparatus is attached and welding is being performed).
  • Do not wear with the shell tilted to one side. Do not place stickers on the shell which can hide signs of deterioration.