ANSI-approved head protection is of course one of the essential types of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the construction site, particularly important for preventing injuries and deaths due to struck-by hazards. These days, there are so many different hard hats to choose from, as new research and development, new synthetic and composite materials, and engineering innovations regularly improve available products. Because the choices can seem overwhelming, we’d like to offer some basic head protection selection tips to help you supply your crew with the right hard hats.
Choosing the Right Hard Hats for Workers
- Opt for hard hats that come in multiple sizes (small, medium, and large). Your workers’ heads are different sizes, so providing them with options not only makes the head protection more effective, it also increases comfort—and therefore worker satisfaction, focus, and compliance with wearing the gear at all times when they should.
- Provide both cap and full-brim hat (AKA lineman’s hat) hard hat styles so crew members can choose their preferred style. This also improves comfort, providing the same benefits mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- High-quality hard hats serve as effective bases for other PPE, such as earmuffs, face and welding shields, sunshading attachments, etc.
- The hard hat’s suspension should be easy to adjust with a mechanism like a ratchet wheel setting or pin locking.
- Head protection should have a chin strap, and the chin strap should have a 3-pound breakaway force limit for safety in the event of a snag hazard. Cords, zip ties, and other makeshift chin straps should never be used or permitted.
- Refer to the date stamp and recommended service life to know when it’s time to replace head protection. Sometimes, the outer shell and the inner suspension have different service lives.
- Look for head protection with reflectors on the front, back, and sides, or apply reflective decals in these places. These are important for improving worker visibility and safety at the construction site.
- Remember, there are different classes of hard hat for different applications involving potential electrical hazards. Class C (conductive, no electrical rating) hard hats aren’t intended to protect against electrical hazards; Class G (general, non-conductive) hard hats are intended to reduce the danger of contact with low voltage conductors; Class E (electrical, non-conductive) hard hats are intended to reduce the danger of contact with higher voltage conductors.
- Consider low-profile/high-performance hard hats for specialty applications like free-climbing, steel erection, tower and wind turbine work, confined space entry, and others. These have long been used around the world and are currently becoming much more common in the US.