Don’t Be Hard-headed
Hard hats must meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z89.1-1986 for vertical impact and penetration. An appropriate hart hat should protect a head from injury from small falling objects. The shell, or outside of a hard hat, should be rounded to protect the crown of the head. If worn properly, the shell – in conjunction with the suspension inside the hat – will reduce the impact of the blow to the head.
In 1997, ANSI published a revision to its Z89.1 protective standard that has not yet been adopted officially as part of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, but most manufacturers already comply with it:
- Type I hats are designed to reduce the force of impact from a vertical blow to the top of the head.
- Type II hats are intended to provide protection against both vertical and lateral impact and penetration requirements. It has an additional foam inner lining made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). Safety managers will determine which jobs and areas of the work site require Type II protection.
- Hard hats are also made to protect workers from electrical currents and checked for combustibility and flammability.
Hard hats are available in different colors, which can be used to signify workers’ roles: for example, white for supervisors, blue for technical advisors, red for safety inspectors, and yellow for workmen.
Care for your hard hat
Employers are also responsible for training workers on when and where to wear hats and on how to care for them to preserve their protective qualities.
Last summer, MSHA issued a Program Information Bulletin (P07-16) about hard hats because officials had become alarmed by the practice of cutting apart and re-gluing the shells of hard hats among workers in the industry who wanted to make their hats more stylish and comfortable. The PIB insists that hard hats should not be modified in this drastic way. It states that mine operators must ensure that hard hats are not modified and that they are properly maintained.
The PIB warns miners that these modified hats are unlikely to provide the level of protection promised by the manufacturers. This extensive structural modification reduces the hat’s performance capability and puts workers in greater danger of injury. “Miners must wear suitable hard hats and maintain them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions,” it reiterates.
Training should include a review of the following general guidelines for maintaining safe hard hats:
- Inspect your hard hat before and after each use.
- If your hat is involved in an impact accident, replace it immediately.
- If your hat is dropped from an elevation of 20 feet or more, replace it.
- If you wear your hard hat every day in a harsh environment and sunlight, such as a quarry or yard, replace it after two years. Factory, warehouse, and office workers hats may be effective for three years. When your hat is new, write the two-year replacement date clearly inside the hat with a marker. Inspect your entire team’s dates at routine training meetings to keep everyone aware of the importance of staying on schedule with replacements.
- Replace interior suspension webbing every year. Sweat, hair lotion, and sunscreen can contaminate it and accelerate wear.
- Clean your hat with mild soap and warm water. Let it air dry.
- Never use solvents or a cleaner on your hat.
- Never store your hat where it will be exposed to direct sunlight or to extreme hot or cold temperatures – for example, avoid leaving your hat in the window of your car or pickup where it is exposed to direct sunlight and heat.
- Don’t place stickers within 1/2 inch of brim and don’t cover up cracks or other damage. Although stickers are okay as an expression of corporate identity or a worker’s individual personality, beware that they could have a metal component that could act as a conductor and cause electric shock.
- Don’t drill holes in hard hats to apply nametags. This will weaken the ability of the helmet to absorb a blow.
- Check for a good fit, especially with the suspension on the nape of neck. The brow cap should fit snuggly on the forehead.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for sizing the hat correctly for your head.