Basic hard hat designHard hats use a rigid shell and internal suspension system to protect the head from impact. The shell acts as a barrier to prevent penetration, and the suspension dissipates impact energy. Though hard hats have been used for decades, their basic materials and mechanisms have been slow to evolve. Recent research and advances in design and materials are paving the way for a new era of head protection.
Hard hat use is required, but...The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) states that hard hats must be worn wherever the risk of electrical shock, burns or impact or penetration from falling or flying objects exists. OSHA says it is the employer's responsibility to provide head protection for its workers. But anyone who has spent time in a hard hat knows that comfort is key to keeping them on workers' heads.
Key factors to consider when selecting hard hats for your workforce:
- Protection FirstSelect a hard hat that meets ANSI standard Z89.1-2014 for industrial head protection. Consider if workers need top-of-head or lateral protection, electrical protection, brims or back-of-head protection. New, lighter-weight shells with low-profile designs provide improved comfort and fit compared to heavy old-style hats, while still affording required protection.
- Proper FitThe hat should sit securely on the head to ensure it won't move out of place on impact, or when workers move or bend over, but without pinching or pressure points. Suspensions commonly feature a single adjustment in the rear, but newer styles offer multiple adjustment points to fine-tune the fit. Chin straps are another consideration. Rigid plastic suspensions are less comfortable than newer materials. Be sure to consider additional PPE that may be worn with the hat, such as hearing protection. PPE accessories will add weight and can interfere with hat fit and balance.
- Try Before You BuyConsider asking for a trial and set up a test committee. Have workers try hats and give feedback so you can determine which style best meets the needs of your workplace.