What is a hard hat? A hard hat is a helmet that is predominantly used in workplace environments like industrial and construction sites. They are designed to protect the user’s head from an injury that may arise due to falling objects, accidental impacts with other objects, debris, rain, and even electric shock. But the question is, do you know how long do hard hats last?
What makes hard hats ideal for both industrial and construction use are the protection features they are equipped with. Features like suspension bands and reinforced ridge lines help improve the resistance of the impact that occurs as well as reduce the impact effects.
The suspension also provides an adequate space of about 30mm between the shell of the helmet and the user’s head.
So, in this article we will talk about; hard hats users, types of hard hats, how to choose the suitable type, and hard hats expiry dates.
How Long Do Hard Hats Last – Understanding the Facts
Users of Hard Hats
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to ensure that, each of their affected employees puts on a protective helmet when working in areas whereby the risk of injuries to the head from falling objects is present.
This serves as a non-mandatory compliance guideline required for hazard assessment and the selection of personal protective equipment. These hard hats are primarily recommended for the following people:
- Warehouse laborers
- Freight handlers
The Recommended Design for Hard Hats
For the best hard hat design, OSHA has specific requirements designed for protective head wear meant for industrial workers. The hats primarily consist of the shell and suspension, as mentioned in the introduction.
For the appropriate head protection, both parts must be in good working condition. An efficient hard hat should be capable of resisting penetration and absorbing the shock dealt from a blow.
The crown straps well as the shock-absorbing lining headband keep the shell and the worker’s head separated. The shell on the other hand resists an impact thanks to its hard material.
Types of Hard Hats
The hard hats classification is based on the specific impact and electrical performance needs they are designed to meet. Usually, hard hats are classified into two categories:
These helmets feature a full brim that typically encircles the hat’s dome. They are intended to lower the impact force resulting from a blow only on the top of the head.
These types of hard hats are meant to reduce the impact force resulting from a blow to the top as well as the side of the head.
Classes of Hard Hats
The following are the available three classes of hard hats designed to protect the head against shock from impacts.
Class G (General) Helmets
These hard hats are produced to reduce the impact caused by falling objects and exposure to any low-voltage electrical conductors. The hard hats samples that fall under this category are usually proof-tested at about 2200 volts of electrical charges.
Class E (Electrical) Helmets
Also called electrical hard hats, these helmets are designed to lower the impact force of falling objects; However, they tend to reduce the dangers of exposure to high-voltage electrical conductors that Class G helmets may be unable to handle.
The hard hats samples that fall under this category are usually proof-tested at about 20,000 volts f electrical charge.
Class C (Conductive) Helmets
They are also referred to as conductive hard hats and are designed to lower the impact force of falling objects. They, however, offer no protection against exposure to any electrical charge, unlike the previous classes.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Perfect Hard Hat
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Hard hats are essential in almost all industries because the involved workers or employees need them to defend against any possible head injury while on the job.
Similar to any other safety and personal protection device, one needs to be careful when choosing a hard hat for the maximum protection of their head.
While it may seem like an easy task, selecting the best hard hat is more involving than one would think. For the best results, consider the following factors in your decision-making process and for your specific work environmental needs.
When assessing the type and class of hard hat suitable for you, you firstly need to consider the kind of job that you’re involved in and the environment in which you handle it. Ensure that the hard hat is worn is most suitable for the type of work handled.
There are many types and classes of hard hats designed to provide maximum protection from varying levels of safety hazards. You are, therefore, required to assess your work environment entirely and identify how and where the possible safety hazards could arise.
The market holds several different hard hat materials. While it may be advisable to choose those made of lightweight material, you should always ensure that your choice doesn’t end up compromising the level of protection that your head requires.
Typically, plastic serves as the most common material for such hard hats, but there are also helmets made from other compounds designed to cater to specific industrial and work environments.
A good example would be a hard hat made of fiberglass, which would be essential for protection in jobs that involve molten metals. Such material is designed to withstand extreme heat unlike plastic which easily melts when subjected to such elevated temperatures.
Some jobs require specially designed hard hats due to their intense working conditions or environments, and a few manufacturers strive to achieve this. Some manufacturers offer hard hats that can be optionally worn backward to accommodate jobs with such working requirements.
However, such hard hats are only produced by specific brands; therefore, wearing a standard helmet backward could be risky.
The suspension system is the vertebrae of the hard hat and an essential factor to consider when selecting a suitable helmet that meets your job specifications. The suspension in hard hats comes in two designs and is defined by the available adjustment mechanism equipped in them.
These types of hard hats have a locking mechanism that is similar to a standard belt. When adjusting this hard hat, one is required to take it off and lock the pin to the most suitable hole.
These hard hats include a quick and straightforward ratchet-adjusting knob and require one to loosen or tighten the knob without having to take the helmet off.
These dictate the ability of the hat to spread out the impact force. Many hard hats come equipped with four, six, or even eight suspension points. It is important to note that the more the suspension points, the higher the hat’s ability to spread the force of impact and lower the risks of an injury.
There are two types of recognizable hard hats, as discussed before; Type 1 protects against impacts from above, while Type 2 protects against lateral effects and those from above altogether.
Also, if your job involves any contact with electrical charges, you need to consider the electric shock level that the hard hat you desire can withstand.
Class E hard hats can withstand up to 20,000 volts while class G accommodates only about 2,2oo volts. Class C, on the other hand, provides no defense against electrical charges.
Additional Manufacturer Features
Many brands produce hard hats in the market, and to deal with the intense competition, some of them tend to offer additional features that would capture the user’s attention.
You might find brands that provide vented hard hats to keep your head cool while working under elevated temperatures while others offer a terry cloth as well as a vinyl brow pad to help keep sweat away from your eyes.
Other brands may even feature winter liners to provide the best insulator for your head.
There are various options to consider when choosing the most appropriate hard hat. It is a decision worth taking as much time and research to evaluate these factors because when it comes to head protection, imprudent choices could be dangerous.
Hard Hat Color Options
Initially, in the early 19th century, there was a single color for all hard hats, and this was black. However, the options have increased, and although there are variances within specific industries, each color has a generally accepted meaning.
These are easy to spot in a mixture of other colors and are typically worn by anyone in a supervisory position like managers, architects, engineers, and even forepersons.
These are commonly worn by firefighters and other employees equipped with emergency training.
These hard hats are usually found in construction sites and worn by workers who operate any heavy machinery or even earth movers. They are also used by other employees who are involved in general construction labor.
These hard hats are regularly worn by inspectors or site safety officers and can also be used by trainees.
Orange is a highly visible color and, therefore, worn mostly by road construction workers as well as site visitors.
Hard hats with this color are usually used by electricians, carpenters, employees, and interim staff with a technical advisory role.
They are usually worn by workers who do any type of welding or jobs that involve extreme temperatures.
Visitors commonly use them on any work or industrial site.
Can I Wear Anything Beneath My Hard Hat?
You can wear bandanas, hoods, skull caps, and even welder caps that don’t contain any metal parts. These materials should also be worn smoothly on the top of the head, and precautions adhered to avoid pressure points to allow the suspension to be adjustable for a comfortable fit.
One should avoid wearing baseball-style caps beneath their hard hats because they tend to interfere with the proper functioning of the suspension during impacts.
Winter liners are also allowed, but only after careful inspection to ensure that they don’t adversely affect the fitting or operation of the helmet.
How Long Do Hard Hats Last?
For the products to meet the required standards set by CSA and ANSI, manufacturers must produce products with the recommended design guidelines and use durable materials for the construction.
However, as much as these hard hats are expected to be durable, they cannot last forever. This is because various work environmental variables like exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures, chemicals, and level of use, play a significant part in knowing how long hard hats last and the right time for replacements.
What If My Hard Hat Has Expired?
Like every other product in the market, hard hats have an expiry date, and once they reach this period, it means that the helmet is no longer in service. If your hard hat has expired, it is essential that you find a suitable or better replacement rather than keep using the hat.
The metal components may be loose or rusty, which makes the entire device a risk when used as a safety measure.
When Should A Hard Hat Be Replaced?
Hard hats are required to be replaced whenever they show any signs of damage such as dents, penetration, cracks, or even fatigue due to rough treatment conditions.
Knowing how long the hard hats last is a mystery because depending on their type and level of use, some could even last a day due to impact forces while others can last up to the completion of the entire construction project.
Therefore, it is essential to inspect hard hats for any signs of damage or fatigue every time they are worn. With visual inspections, one can practically test the viability of their hard hat by grasping it in their hands and applying force through squeezing it.
If you notice any creaking or peculiar sounds, they serve as a red flag, indicating that the helmet needs to be replaced.
Maintenance Tips for Hard Hats
Do not place or store objects between the shell and suspension of the hat because they might affect the efficiency of the protection mechanism.
Do not store the hard hats in direct sunlight when not in use because it degrades most plastic shell.
Do not use chemicals, solvents, adhesives, paints, or similar substances on the hard hat.
Dispose of a hard hat that may have sustained any impact immediately, even if the damage isn’t accurately visible.
Never puncture, engrave, modify or alter the shell or suspension mechanism of the hard hat.
For maximum protection, the hard hat must always fit securely on the head of the user, and the suspension mechanism adjusted to the right fit.
Frequently inspect the shell and suspension mechanism of your hard hat.
Over the years, hard hats have and continue to improve the safety of dangerous work environments. While the colors might not be an essential feature, knowing the best type of helmet to use could offer maximum protection in potentially hazardous work environments.
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