Common questions about hard hats.

Hard Hat

Hard Hat with lots of stickers

Common questions about hard hats

The hard hat is one of the most recognizable pieces of safety equipment in the industrial workplace. It’s also one of the most important pieces of safety equipment because it protects your brain.

  1. Can I wear a ball cap beneath my hard hat?
  • A baseball cap may interfere with the capability of the suspension of our helmets to work properly during an impact because it may limit the clearance that must be maintained between the wearer’s head and the hard hat shell.
  • The cap may contain metal parts, which may diminish the dielectric protection provided by the hard hat. For example the metal button at the top of a baseball cap or the metal length adjusting clips on the strap at the back of the cap.
  • The performance of the hard hat may be affected by any item placed above or below the crown straps. Be aware that fabric winter liners and cotton sunshades are designed to work in conjunction with hard hats.
  1. Am I allowed to wear my hard hat backwards?
  • Since the suspension attachment points on some hard hats are the same from front to back, the suspension can be reversed and the cap worn with the brim facing the rear and still meet the requirements of the applicable protective head wear standard. Be sure that the suspension has been reversed so that the nape strap is in the rear. The suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the headband is oriented normally to the wearer’s head (i.e., with the brow pad against the forehead and the extended nape strap at the base of the skull). In this manner, only the shell of the helmet is backwards on the head. Some hard hats cannot be worn backwards because of the lower rear edge of the shell and the asymmetrical pattern of protection offered by their more complex design.
  1. When should I replace my hard hat?
  • The first question you should ask yourself is; “What is my brain worth?”
    • Since it is your brain that is being protected you should inspect the shell, suspension and headband of your hard hat visually on a daily basis.
  • OSHA does not specify the service life of a hard hat, and there is no standard expiration time frame for hard hats. Employers are responsible for defining a solution for hard hat service life issues. Be aware that based upon the conditions at your work site, such as temperature extremes, chemical exposure, sunlight and normal daily wear and tear, the life span of your hard hat may vary significantly. Regardless of outward appearance, most manufacturers recommend replacing your hard hat every five years. Some manufacturers recommend the replacement of the hard hat suspension every 12 months.
  • The protective properties of the helmet WILL be degraded by exposure to many common work environments.
  • Hard hats must be replaced when they can no longer provide the protection intended, and sometimes this can be difficult to detect.
  • To check the condition of your hard hat perform this simple field test to determine possible degradation of polyethylene shells:
  • Using both hands compress the shell inward from the sides about 1”
  • Release the pressure without dropping the shell
  • The shell should quickly return to its original shape, exhibiting elasticity
  • Compare the elasticity of the sample with that of a new shell
  • Replace immediately if your hard hat shell does not exhibit elasticity similar to that of a new shell, or if it cracks because it is brittle
  1. Can the shell of my hard hat be painted?
  • Paint may attack and damage the helmet’s shell
  1. Can I personalize my hard hat with stickers?
  • Although some manufacturers advise against the use of stickers as they can cover cracks or damage, the stickers glue is unlikely to cause damage to the hard hat shell. The number of stickers should be kept to a minimum and placed at least ¾ inch away from the hard hat edge to permit regular inspection of the shell. The best practice is of course to not modify your hard hat in any way and consult the manufacturer before making any modifications.
Real life Story About How Hard Hats Save Lives.

The picture below, is the hard hat my brother-in-law was wearing, when a crane operator knocked two steel beams off a building, that his crew was working on. One of the beams hit my brother in law on the head, while the other hit him across his back. He ended up with a broken back but no head injury. The hard hat was crushed in on the top and right side. My brother-in-law kept the hard hat as a reminder of how very lucky he was and to always work safe.
He was back to work within a few months as soon as his back healed. That would not have been the case if he had not been wearing a good hard hat like the Fibre Metal he had on that day. Needless to say he had a few choice words for that crane operator when he returned to work. When our loved ones go onto the construction sites we need them to be safe so that they come home to us at the end of the work day.

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