Protecting the head should be a no-brainer
Not everyone looks good in a hat - but workers who don't wear hard hats while exposed to possible falling objects or electrical hazards run the risk of looking like fools.
Fortunately, most employers, and their workers, understand the value of head protection and instinctively don their hard hats when required to do so on the job.
Hard hats and all other types of PPE are designed to protect against impact and penetration hazards of falling objects. Some hard hats even protect against electric shock and burns, the same way as welding helmets.
OSHA defines three classes of hard hats:
- Class A hard hats protect against impact, penetration and low-voltage electrical conductors.
- Class B hard hats protect against impact, penetration and high-voltage electrical conductors.
- Class C hard hats protect against impact and penetration only.
Class C hard hats are usually made of aluminum, which is an electrical conductor, and therefore should not be used in situations involving electrical hazards.
You should look for the following features in a hard hat:
- hard outer shell that is resistant to penetration
- able to absorb the impact of a blow
- meets ANSI Z89.1-1986 standard (if purchased after July 5, 1994)
- bears a manufacturer's label listing the ANSI standard it meets
When hard hats should be worn
OSHA requires that hard hats be worn in workplace situations where falling object hazards are a risk. Some workplace scenarios that require headgear include when someone is working
- below other workers who are using tools and materials that could be dropped
- around or under conveyor belts that carry materials or parts
- below machinery or processes that could cause objects or materials to fall
- in areas with low ceilings where the worker can bump his/her head on exposed energized conductors.
Like all safety equipment, hard hats need to fit well and be in good repair. If the hard hat becomes cracked or damaged, or if its inner suspension lining no longer provides a 1 to 1¼ inch space for shock absorption, the hard hat will need immediate replacing to ensure proper head protection.
Additionally, hard hats need to provide instructions on how to properly adjust and replace the suspension and headband, which are located inside the shell.