Hard hats are one of the most universally recognizable forms of personal protective equipment and one of the easiest ways to protect workers from permanent and devastating head injuries. Also known as industrial safety helmets, har hats protect the wearer’s heads from object-generated impacts, penetration hazards, electrical shock, and even burn hazards.
OSHA mandates the use of hard hats – Regulation 1910.135 reads, “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,” – but does not specifically cover criteria, instead requiring hard hats to comply with ANSI/ISEA Z89. 1. OSHA does mandate those working in areas at risk of falling objects, near exposed electrical conductors, or in proximity to head hazards wear a hard hat.
ANSI/ISEA Z89.1: American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection provides testing, performance, and classification requirements for hard hats. Every hard hat meeting compliance will have user information (sizing instructions, care guidelines, manufacturer’s information, and “ANSI Z89 Safety.1-2014”) marked or printed on the inside. Helmets must have a hard outer shell and a shock-absorbing lining with a suspension system to maintain clearance between the two. These systems are typically comprised of a headband and straps and they must be able to absorb and dissipate impact by suspending the outer shell from 1 to 1 ¼” away from the head.
When selecting hard hats, it’s important to first know the type of helmet you’re looking for; type I hard hats are designed under ANSI standards to protect the wearers head from the top and type II hard hats provide protection from any lateral impacts. Both are tested for impact attenuation and penetration resistance. The three classes of hard hats indicate the electrical insulation rating: Class G (general) helmets are tested at 2,200 volts, Class E (electrical) are tested at 20,000 volts, and Class C (conductive) are not tested for electrical resistance and are not intended to offer any electrical protection.
The ANSI/ISEA standard also covers the design and use of hard hat accessories, maintaining that any accessories used alongside hard hats must not compromise the hat’s effectiveness Some hard hats are meant to be used with accessories and will have open slots for safety glasses or mounted lights. Other protective headgear accessories include visors, liners for staying warm, cooling products, face shields, chin straps, and more.