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Hats on for safety

News | October 1, 2012 | By:

Make sure your crew’s hard hats are up to the task.

Wearing a safety helmet or hard hat is one of the easiest ways to protect an employee’s head from injury. Not only do hard hats protect employees from impact and penetration hazards, they also protect from electrical shock.

Hard hats must have a hard outer shell and a shock-absorbing lining that incorporates a headband and straps that suspend the shell from 1 to 1.25 inches (2.54 cm to 3.18 cm) away from the head. This type of design provides shock absorption during an impact and ventilation during normal wear.

Types of hard hats

In addition to selecting protective headgear that meets ANSI Standard Z89.1-1986 (Protective Headgear for Industrial Workers) standard requirements, employers should ensure that employees wear hard hats that provide appropriate protection against potential workplace hazards.

Hard hats are divided into three industrial classes:

  • Class A hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts).
  • Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts). They also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying/falling objects.
  • Class C hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection from electrical hazards.

Another class of protective headgear is a “bump hat,” designed for use in areas with low head clearance. They are recommended for areas where protection is needed from head bumps and lacerations but are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI approved. It is essential to check the type of hard hat employees are using. Hats should bear a label inside the shell that lists the manufacturer, ANSI designation and class of the hat.

Size and care considerations

Head protection that is either too large or too small is inappropriate for use, even if it meets all other requirements. Most protective headgear comes in a variety of sizes with adjustable headbands to ensure a proper fit. A proper fit should allow sufficient clearance between the shell and the suspension system for ventilation and distribution of an impact. The hat should not bind, slip, fall off or irritate the skin.

Do not store protective headgear
in direct sunlight, such as on the
rear window shelf of a car, because sunlight and extreme heat can damage them.

Hard hats with any of the following defects should be removed from service and replaced:

  • perforation, cracking, or deformity of the brim or shell;
  • indication of exposure of the brim or shell to heat, chemicals or ultraviolet light and other radiation (in addition to a loss of surface gloss, such signs include chalking or flaking).

Always replace a hard hat if it sustains an impact, even if damage is not noticeable. Suspension systems are offered as replacement parts so it is not necessary to replace the entire hard hat when deterioration
or tears of the suspension systems are noticed.

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