Hard hats are considered the most commonly used form of PPE as dedicated by OSHA. Whether a worker is conducting a job in construction, manufacturing, welding, or oil and gas, a hard hat is the first PPE (also known as personal protective equipment) line of defense against injury. As with riding a motorcycle or playing baseball, the head is a person’s most valuable asset. In addition, impacts or flying objects hitting the skull can cause some of the worst damage as the brain is the commander and chief of the entire body.
Head injuries are among the most common types of short-term injuries as reported by OSHA for the last couple of years, and therefore require the upmost attention. From both a general safety standpoint and an OSHA standpoint, hard hats are an essential lifeline in worker protection. Ensuring these hard hats are up to code for workable standards is one of the premiere safety regulations to date.
If you are interested in whether your hard hats are up to standard, I have five simple ways to ensure compliance.
How Do You Know Your Hard Hat Is Up to Standard?
Pick the Right Type – There are a few types of helmets used for safety. The catch is identifying which one the best is given your job function and industry. Type I hard hats are used as general protective helmets to shield workers (or comparable users) against impact and penetration of the crown. The “crown” is considered the top of the head and, therefore, the rest of the head and face is exposed to potential dangers. If you’ve ever been rock-climbing or visited a construction site as a surveyor, you have worn a type I hard hat before. Type II, on the other hand, is slightly larger, heavier, and warmer. They add an extra level of protection and comfort. If you are working in a more dangerous environment, type II hard hats are recommended – always make sure the helmet is trademarked with an ANSI logo on the side.
Pick the Right Class – ANSI separates protective hard hats into different types and different classes. As stated above, there are two main types of protective hard hats, but classes are specific to industry requirements. If you are working in an electrically conductive environment, your hard hat must be up to code for the industry. There are three main categories of helmets used in most industries around the country. Class G helmets, also known as general use helmets, are proof tested at 2,200 volts, which is considered minor conductivity. On the contrary, Class E helmets, also known as electrical helmets, are designed for professionals working with electrical lines and transformers. These helmets are proof tested at 20,000 volts. Finally, there is Class C, also known as conductive helmets, which provide no electrical insulation. As with all protective gear, make sure you purchase from an ANSI certified seller.
Understand the Current Standards – Both ANSI and OSHA provide the current minimal standards of compliance for PPE, including hard hats. The national consensus standards can be located at the following sections on both ANSI and OSHA websites. These are the standard section codes: (ANSI/SEA 789.1) and (OSHA1910.135). If you’re uncertain whether your hard hats are up to current OSHA standards, there are companies that provide training and software to assist with finding answers to these questions such as eCompliance.
Other Optional Hard Hat Test Criteria – Some hard hats can be worn forward or backwards, depending on manufacturer’s wearing instructions. Any hard hat can be worn both ways will be indicated on the product by labels expressing a “reverse donning arrow.” In addition, some hard hats are engineered for low-temperature environments and will have a label of “LT” on the side of the product. This indicates that the helmet passed all the standard requirements preconditioned at a temperature of up to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, marked helmets “HV” indicate high profile and are usually very easy to see at job sites. These helmets meet quality standards for high visibility colors and are great for use at night or during fog.
Matthew Hall is his workplace’s health and safety coordinator, responsible for making sure everything about the business is up to date with current standards. To learn more about Matthew, you can visit him on Google+.