Wearing the proper hard hat onsite reduces potential head injuries. While personal protective equipment (PPE) may vary between workers on the job, the appropriate hard hat for the specific task is vital in construction, manufacturing, welding, and oil and gas industries. This equipment protects employees from impact or penetration of falling or flying debris, as well as from electrical shock.
Every company’s safety program should ensure employees wear head protection wherever hazards to their heads may exist. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) call for this safety measure. Despite these national and even private standards, head injuries still account for a large portion of occupational injuries and time away from work.
Head injuries persist because many workers fail to act in accordance with safety standards. Poor comfort, fit, and style are contributing factors to an employee’s non-compliance. Feeling invincible or thinking no one is looking also factors into the hard-headed employee. Head injuries, however, can be catastrophic with short- and long-term effects such as concussion, memory loss, paralysis, or even death.
Head protection must resist penetration and be shock absorbent. Both ANSI and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) set forth standards for hard hat selection and wear. While the United States specifies ANSI Type I/CSA Type I caps be worn to protect impact to and penetration of the top of the head, Canada requires protection against lateral and crown impact as provided by ANSI Type II/CSA Type II hard hats.
Any hard hat worn for protection should have “ANSI” on the shell. This marking denotes the hat meets or exceeds national standards for each part of the hat.
The internal framework of the hard hat, or the suspension, absorbs and distributes energy upon impact. For maximum protection, there should be one inch of clearance between the shell of the hat and the skull of the wearer. Hats with more suspension points not only disperse the force of the impact over a wider area, but they also provide more stability and comfort by distributing the weight of the hat more evenly. Adjust the suspension to ensure a proper, snug fit for maximum protection.
Some work environments expose workers to electrical hazards. Hard hats can protect against electrical shocks, burns, and electrocution. ANSI and CSA have rated hard hats into three classes of electrical insulation. Class G hard hats are the most common and protect up to 2,200 volts. Class E caps protect up to 20,000 volts. Class C hard hats are generally made of aluminum and offer no protection from electrical current.
Regardless of the type or class of hard hat you wear, the shell, suspension system, and headband should be visually inspected daily for signs of dents, cracks, penetration, or other damage. Be cautious about adhering labels to the hard hat. Clean it with soap and water and not chemical solvents. Avoid storing it in areas with direct sunlight or extreme heat.
Protecting against potential head hazards is a vital part of your safety. Encourage others to wear hard hats wherever needed. Don’t be hard-headed about safety. Do your part to protect your head every day.
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