Construction work is high risk and can result in fatalities if the proper precautions aren’t taken to reduce risk. One of these precautions includes wearing a hard hat. Hard hats won’t necessarily guarantee that head injuries will not occur, but the risk is reduced greatly compared to not wearing a hard hat. 

National Building Specifications

According to Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Iowa, hard hats in the UK are required to be worn by construction workers when working in areas where they can be injured in the head by falling objects. In addition, they are to be worn when working on electrical projects where contact with the head may be made. Even quick visitors at a worksite are required to wear a hard hat, according to the National Building Specifications of the UK. 

Hard hats and their safety features

Hard hats can also include additional safety features to maximize protection and well-being. These include a rain gutter, ventilation holes, chin straps, earmuffs to prevent ear injuries, chemical-resistant materials and finally, a worker alert system that can activate a buzzer if workers and machines get dangerously close in proximity.  Ventilation holes are especially important to prevent overheating. Hard hats are very heavy duty and can become hot quickly without air holes to vent and circulate the air. Earmuffs are also important to have on a hard hat because heavy machinery can be loud and loud noises can easily damage the eardrums and result in deafness. Accidental explosions are likely to occur as well and can be deafening.

Reasons to wear a hard hat

What are some reasons to wear a hard hat? For starters, hard hats protect the head which is the body’s most valuable asset. The head contains the brain, which is very delicate and if bumped, can cause serious health implications. Construction sites near a busy highway, for example, can have speeding cars driving by, which can easily send rocks flying at a worker. Also, a hard hat will protect its user from potentially bumping their head on a machine. In construction sites, it can be very fast-paced, and it can be difficult to keep track and remember where things are located, increasing chances of accidentally bumping into something.  Wearing a hard hat can protect users from bumping into machines. Hard hats not only protect from flying objects, but they can protect the head in falls as well. In construction worksites, it can be easy to lose your footing given that there tend to be lots of dust and debris. It can be slippery as well, which is why you won’t often see worksites open during rainfalls. 

You have probably noticed that hard hats tend to be luminescent and bright in colour, typically orange and yellow. This is not because it is attractive but because it acts as a reflective surface and makes construction workers visible both day and night. 

History of the hard hat

Before 1919, the hard hat did not exist, which meant that construction work was a very dangerous, potentially fatal project. The hard hat was initially established in San Francisco by a family-owned company called Bullard. The company originally intended to only sell products like curbside lamps and mining equipment to gold and copper miners.  Before hard hats, the miners would wear a very soft material on the head similar to today’s baseball cap. 

Hard-Boiled Hat

It was in 1915 that the company began to work on a hat that would protect miners from falling debris. This hat was called the ‘Hard-Boiled Hat.’ It was definitely not up to safety standards of today but was much safer and effective than the previous baseball cap. The company then decided that they can invent a better hard hat, made of aluminium. The only limitation of this was that aluminium is a conductor for electricity rendering it practically useless for electrical work, and practically more dangerous.

3000 R and C30

Clients also started to complain that the hard hats did not have the proper suspension for fieldwork. As a result, the modern ‘3000 R’ was created. This hat was made from polyethene plastic, which meant it was lightweight, durable and safe for electrical work. From there, Bullard realized they were on the right track and made the decision to redesign the 3000 R and create the C30, which provided what its predecessors did not: comfort. The upgraded suspension system meant easy-lock snaps and easy height adjustment. This hard hat is still used to say by some and is considered standard. 

S62

However, the hard hat was not yet as perfect as it could be. Many clients complained that the hard hat was too hot. The S62 was created as a solution to this complaint. It allows air to flow through the hat to keep its user cool while also not reducing the integrity of its effectiveness to protect the head. 

Classes of Hard Hats

According to the Occupational and Health Administration, there are three classes of industrial hard hats and 2 types:

  • Type 1 hard hats reduce the force of impact resulting in blows to the top of the head, only.
  • Type 2 hard hats reduce the force of impact resulting in blows to the top and side of the head.
  • Class G, also known as the general helmet, has voltage protection up to 2,220 volts and protects against impact and object penetration.
  • Class E is known as the electrical helmet. The electrical helmet protects against electrical hazards up to 20,000 volts. They also protect against impact hazards from falling objects or objects flying in the air.
  • Class C, also known as the conductive helmet, provides lightweight protection and are is comfortable than the other classes. 

How to Wear a Hard Hat Properly

The first rule to wear a hard hat properly is finding the right fit. They should never be too large or too small. Everyone has a unique head shape. Ideally, a good fitting hard hat will leave breathing room between the shell and the suspension so that air can flow through the area. There are hard hats that allow you to finetune your fit and will adjust to the user’s head shape. 

Make sure it fits properly

In order to find the right fit, you must not wear any other headwear unless specified. An exception is in colder months when it is permitted for workers to wear a thin layer between the hat and the head. In addition, however, the extra headgear must be a specially designed hard hat liner. This is because they are specially designed to fit with the hard hat without reducing the effectiveness. If you are unsure of what liners you can wear with your hard hat, it is wise to contact the manufacturer to be sure. 

Find the right type of liner

What kind of liners are there to choose from? Hard hat liners come in different sizes, shapes, and colours and is not a one size fits all. There are also liners available for those who cater to brand as well as quality, as sort of a status symbol. Liners can also come in cotton and nylon shells which help retain the body’s natural heat and can be flame-resistant as well.  If you feel like you need extra protection, you can also purchase hard hat liners that have a double foam layer made of fleece and full-face hard hat liners. These are typically chosen by those working in below-freezing temperatures.

Orient the hat properly

Lastly, the hard hat should be oriented properly. The bill of the cap should be at the front of the head. You can wear the hard hat backwards if the labels permit it, however, the protection is greatly reduced. If no labels are apparent, the best way to wear your hard hat is facing forward. 

If it is recommended to never wear your hard hat backwards, then why is it that some workers do it anyway? There is no rhyme or reason, but simply out of convenience and vanity. Some may wear them backwards because it looks more attractive and others wear it backward because they say it is more comfortable that way. The front of the hard hat has padding which on a hot day can quickly collect sweat and become itchy and uncomfortable. It also can irritate the skin. These reasons are not worth risking your safety thus rules and regulations should always be followed.

Rules and Regulations

According to the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations of 2002, employers have duties to provide employees with functional, up to standard personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment includes hard hats as well as other safety measures such as gloves, eye protection, etc., that protects workers against health and safety risks. 

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment only needs to be worn as a last resort where risks cannot be controlled by other means. If it is concluded that personal protective equipment is needed (usually always at construction sites requiring a hard hat), employers need to provide employees with these measures, free of charge. 

Specifications of hard hats

In addition to the above, employers need to supply employees with hard hats that are CE marked and manufactured as BS EN 397, in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations of 2002. The hard hat also needs to suit the user in terms of weight, size, and fit, and needs to be able to be used together with other personal protective equipment (e.g. safety glasses,) if need be. Lastly, employers need to ensure the hard hat user is trained on the use and limitations.  The hard hat only benefits its user and does its job to protect the head only if the user understands how to use it properly, as with any kind of equipment.

Storage and maintenance

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations of 2002 also requires that the hard hat is stored well, cared for, and maintained appropriately. Most employers have a designated storage rack for workers to place their hard hat when not in use. It is also important to note that an employer should never allow an employee to remove their hard hat for jobs that do not take as much time. Doing so can subject the employee and/or employer to fines.

Hard hat maintenance, inspection, and care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries account for a 53 per cent increase in hospitalizations and deaths. In fact, in places like the United States, the construction industry has the highest prevalence of traumatic brain injuries and contributes to the deaths of more than 50,000 people per year. This is why proper maintenance and inspection of the hard hat is important. 

Maintenance procedures

According to the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations of 2002, the maintenance of hard hats is crucial. The employer must always keep an extra nearby in case a worker’s hard hat becomes damaged. The hard hat typically consists of three parts: shell, suspension system, and chin strap. Each of these components requires thorough inspections and maintenance. A good rule of thumb is to inspect them monthly at the minimum, though daily inspection is recommended as it is better to be safe than sorry. The shell should be inspected for dents and cracks, and anything that could affect the integrity of the hard hat. Some signs of damage include fading, stiffness, and brittleness. If damages are noted, the hard hat should be removed from service immediately. Also, if a hard hat is damaged by debris, it should be replaced as well. A typical hard hat can last for 5 years if cared for appropriately.

1. Prevent exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals

Some factors that can affect a hard hat’s integrity are exposure to extreme temperatures, sunlight, or chemicals. That being said, never store a hard hat in direct sunlight. Scrub dirt and stains off the shell with a mild detergent. Never use hot water on a hard hat (use warm), and always allow the shell to air dry. A good time to inspect the hard hat for damages is during cleaning. 

2. No modifications and additions

Hard hats should also never be physically modified. For example, you should never paint your hard hat as the chemical in the paint can wear the shell down. Also, you should never drill holes into the hard hat yourself, for ventilation, or subject the hard hat in contact with electrical wires. Never use a suspension that is not intended for the particular hard hat. Always consult the manufacturer for advice on what accessories you can use with your specific hard hat. As touched upon, hard hats are not a one size fits all and it should not be assumed that just because an accessory works with one hard hat, it will work with another.

3. Do not use for other purposes

You should also never store personal items inside the hard hat, such as cigarette butts or earplugs or wear your own hat underneath. Should you take a blow to the head from a flying object, the objects can transmit force to the head and neck, which can result in death or serious injury. 

Inspection procedures

These are several inspection procedures to help you check the functionality of your hard hats. These are provided and summarized below.

1. Inspecting for maintenance

To inspect a hardhat for maintenance, compress the shell from both sides and then release your hands to release pressure without dropping the shell. If the shell does not return to its original shape quickly, that could be a sign that the elasticity has worn down, meaning the hard hat should be discarded and replaced. 

2. Inspecting for UV exposure

You should also inspect your hard hat for UV exposure. Construction workers spend most of their time out in the sun. As a result, ultraviolet light can take its toll on your hard hat. This is why it is important to never store your hard hat in direct sunlight or leave it to sit in the back of your car. Also, the more time a worker spends in the sun, the more frequently the hard hat should be replaced.

3. Inspecting the suspension

Inspecting the suspension is also critical because the suspension is what will absorb the shock from the top of the hard hat. Ensure the suspension has no tears or cracks, and that the straps are not torn or frayed. All keys should fit tightly and should be assembled with ease.

Hard Hat Lights and Accessories

Hard hats are manufactured and rebranded constantly to get the most benefit. For example, you can now purchase hard hats that consist of their own LED lights. In addition, you can also purchase the LED light separately as LED lights are made to be fitted onto most hard hats. They come with their own batteries as well as adjustable straps so you can fit it around your head for a more comfortable, secure fit.

Benefits of LED

The benefits of using an LED on your hard hat is it increases safety and practicality. Sometimes you need to work in the dark and it can be difficult to constantly position a lamp around the worksite. LED lights on your hard hat ensure you can do work more effectively because you have both of your hands free. Should a worksite accident occur, it helps to have your hands free.

Other varieties of hard hat lights

What kind of hard hat light is best? That depends entirely on a case by case basis. Everyone will have their own preference on what is right for them. Some come in combination with a Xenon lamp and LED lights. A Xenon lamp is a specialized light source that consists of gas and electric light. It produces light by passing electricity through ionized xenon gas at high pressure. The light it produces is bright white, similar to that of natural sunlight. This is what makes Xenon lamps a popular choice among consumers. LED lights are not as bright as xenon bulbs, meaning that the hard hat user can easily switch between LED and xenon lights if depending on how much light they need.

Another light accessory for a hard hat is the brim light. As you probably can guess, the brim light is placed at the brim of the hard hat. These lights are flexible and made of weightless EVA foam so that they are easily fixed onto any form of headgear, not just hard hats. The benefits of having lights that can be placed on the brim are that they provide a better visual field than a flashlight or headlamp.

Should You Put Stickers on Your Hard Hat?

In the UK, it is recommended not to put stickers on your hard hat for safety reasons. However, it can be beneficial to utilize stickers in some cases. Some companies use hard hat stickers to ensure worker visibility as well as promote a brand. In factories, wearing a hard hat is crucial and mandatory. When combined with decals like hard hat stickers, they can become even safer.

Brand promotions

With regard to brand promotion, it is not uncommon for businesses to utilize hard hat stickers and engraving to promote brands. They are a cost-effective and relatively simple way to advertise. If a sticker wears out and fades, it is easy to print one off using Adobe Photoshop and replace it. It is much cheaper than engraving as well. While engraving is both beautiful and elegant, you can’t retain it. If the hard hat becomes damaged, you need to discard the entire hard hat and lose the engraving. With stickers, you can print out new stickers and place them on the new hard hat.

Safety instructions

Another way hard hat stickers can be beneficial is that they can be printed with safety instructions. This way, any employee can walk by and glance over and be reminded. Following safety rules can mean life or death. In fact, it is suggested that indirect tactics like this can reduce accidents.

There are a variety of examples of safety warnings and instructions that can be put on hard hat stickers. The slippery surface hazard can warn workers about slippery surface hazards. The falling object sticker can be used to prevent workplace accidents from a falling object. There is the heavy equipment sticker which reminds workers to follow safety instructions of heavy equipment. Lastly, there is the oxygen deficiency sticker which warns people in instances where oxygen deficiency can occur.

Identification of workers

Lastly, hard had stickers can be utilized to identify people in the workplace. For example, foremen can have a different-coloured sticker than the builders.

Why it is not recommended to put stickers

Despite the benefits of putting stickers on hard hats, there are also corresponding disadvantages and risks posed by doing so. Here are some of the reasons why it is not recommended to put stickers on hard hats.

Chemicals in the adhesive

One of the reasons it would not be recommended to put stickers on your hard hat is because the sticker adhesive can cause chemical effects on the shell. However, there are stickers made especially for hard hats that are pressure sensitive.

Placement of the stickers can pose risks

Also, whether the sticker damages the hard hat effectiveness depends on where the sticker is placed and how many stickers are placed on the hard hat. For example, it is recommended to apply hard hat stickers away from the rim (about ¾ inch to be precise). The reason is that placing the sticker near the rim reduces safety is because the sticker can act as a conductor inside and outside the casing. Hard hat stickers should be kept at a minimum because the fewer stickers there are covering the hard hat, the easier and more likely it is to spot damages.

Other alternatives to stickers

A company that does not want to take the safety risk using stickers can opt to use pad printing, which prints a logo directly on the hat, however, it is more expensive. Another alternative companies could use is to engrave the desired information below the brim. It is important to note that nothing should be engraved anywhere else besides below the brim of the hard hat. If there is any doubt on when and where to use hard hat stickers, it never hurts to contact the manufacturing company to be sure.

Some of the Hard Hats on the Market

The hard hat market is a rather large and growing one. Each comes with its benefits and limitations. Here is a rough summary of the most common hard hats in the market.

Pyramex Ridgeline, Matte Black, Full Brim

The Pyramex Ridgeline Matte Black Full Brim Hard Hat is a dependable one. It is strong, yet lightweight as well, which is difficult to find in a hard hat. It can also be used to protect against electrical hazards and sun protection. One limitation to this hard hat is that the paint is delicate and is prone to scratching and chipping.

MSA 475407 Skullgard

The second hard hat on the market is the MSA 475407 Skullgard Hard Hat. This hard hat is known for its attractiveness as well as sturdiness. It can handle heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit as well. The only limitation to this hard hat is that it is not as breathable as other brands on the market.

KaiWorldShop Fiberglass

The KaiWorldShop Fiberglass Hard Hat is known for its unique design. It fits comfortably and you can adjust the size as well, allowing you to customize the fit to whatever feels comfortable for you. This hard hat is also well-ventilated, so it stays cool and the fibreglass ensures it is durable given any hazardous environment. One of the issues people seem to have with it is its interior webbing.

Evolution Deluxe 6161 280-EV6161-10V

Lastly, there is the Evolution Deluxe 6161 280-EV6161-10V Hard Hat. This hard hat is characterized by its high-density polyethene plastic. This material provides structural strength and is durable, meaning it can withstand harsh elements like extremely hot and extremely cold weather. It has an all-around brim which increases effectiveness and has a well-ventilated shell. One of the limitations this hard hat seems to have is that the sweatband is too thin. However, the pros outweigh the cons. It comes in a variety of colours and guarantees a perfect fit.

What are Fibre-Metal Hard Hats?

Fibre-metal hard hats come from a popular manufacturer of hard hats, Fibre-Metal. These hats are characterized by their unique patterns, designs, and themes. One of the most popular hard hats from this manufacturer are the 8 Point Ratchet Suspension which comes with graphics that will not chip or peel. It also has an eight-point impact energy control system which helps pass impact energy to 8 points around the hat. The rest is distributed to the body’s shock absorbers.

A unique aspect of fibre metal hard hats is that they can be worn forward facing and backwards and the safety will not be affected. Also, these hard hats absorb impact and spread it out rather than let one part of the head absorb the shock, which happens with some hard hats. If you like a full brim hard hat, Fibre Metal has you covered. Full brim hard hats provide extensive protection along with comfort.

What are Welding Hard Hats?

A specific niche within the construction world is welding, which requires a hard hat. It is recommended that welders use a hard hat with a ratchet. Hard hats with ratchets are good for welders because they allow the attachment of visors, which protect from ultraviolet radiation. Welders can simply lift the visor or lower it without needing to physically remove the hat. You can also attach a spark shield to the hard hat to protect the eyes from sparks.

Hard Hats in the UK are Necessary for Safety Reasons

The main takeaway point is that hard hats are necessary for safety reasons and are very versatile to the needs of individuals on a case by case basis. If you don’t wear a hard hat on a worksite, you risk getting injured or even death. Hard hats are known to prevent traumatic brain injuries caused by construction accidents and are built specifically to absorb the shock of the impact. There are different classes and types and hard hats as well. Each type and class have different uses and is dependent on how many volts it can withstand if it can withstand electrical currents at all. There are also different accessories you can purchase, such as LED lights and lamps as well as ratchets which can be used to secure a visor or spark shield. You can also personalize your hard hat through the use of stickers and engraving, though it is not typically recommended to do so. The bottom line is that the hard hat is constantly changing and evolving as we find new ways to maximize safety and comfort.

This article was written on behalf of The Brand Perceptionist by Alexander Ffrost. Alex is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small business, and the creation of new stuff that no-one else has made or that beats the heck out of anything previously created. He loves starting and growing new companies in challenging sectors. Preferably with zero prior experience of the market or industry. In his spare time, Alex starts new brands and dreams of one day being Sir Alex. Or, alternatively, just designing another shirt with a “touch of Ffrost”.  To learn more about Alex and his awesome inventions, visit his website at www.alexffrost.com.