Selecting the Best Hard Hats


Category : Industrial Safety


To many people selecting the best hard hat should be pretty simple.


Construction, industrial, at-height, utility, rescue, food production, and other workers electricians, welders, firefighters, and loggers – among others – need helmets as their first line of safety protection against possible head injuries on the job.


You may think that selecting and fitting a hardhat is as easy as picking one out and putting it on. In reality there is a bit more involved in the hard hat selection process. Here is a list of the factors you should consider in choosing the best hard hat for your specific workplace needs:


Nowadays, hard hats are necessary in almost every industry. Just like any other safety and personal protection device, it is crucial to select the best hard hat to protect your head.

 1. Job and Work Environment

OSHA requires, in 29 CFR 1910.135 and that if the following hazardous conditions are present, then head protection is required (OSHA Head Protection

:The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.)


Objects might fall from above and strike employees on the head

There is potential for employees to bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams

There is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards


Other countries or organizations may have additional requirements, but most regulations are hazard based and start with a thorough workplace hazard assessment. Be sure to check your national safety database (e.g., OSHA, ANSI or other) for specific standards and requirements.


In assessing the type and class of your hardhat, consider first what job it is you do and where you do it. Make sure the hard hats you wear are the best for the work to be done. Assess your work environment fully and identify how and where possible hazards could arise.

2. Rating

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a rating system for hard hats. The agency has listed two types of this head protection:

Type I hard hats protect only against objects that drop or penetrate from above.
• Type II hard hats protect from blows not just from the top, but also from side to side and front to back. They could protect your head against lateral impacts.

In addition, if your job or work environment involves coming in contact with electricity, you should also consider the level of electrical shock the hard hat could withstand. The following are the three classes of hard hats set by the ANSI:

• Class E (Electrical) hard hats could protect up to 20,000 volts.
• Class G (General) hard hats could protect up to 2,200 volts.
• Class C (Conductive) hard hats have no defense against electric current.

3. Material

Hard hats available in the market are made of a number of different materials. While it is practical to choose those that are made of lightweight materials, make sure that your choice will not compromise the level of protection that you need.

Plastic is the most common material for hard hats. However, there are hard hats made with other compounds to cater to specific industries, positions and work environments. For example, a fiberglass hard hat should be the choice when you are working with molten metals because it provides better protection in extreme heat.

4. Suspension Mechanism

As the backbone of hard hats, the suspension system is an important factor in your process of selecting the best hard hat for your specific needs.

Hard hat suspension comes in two types that are defined by the adjustment mechanism used:

• Pin-lock suspension
• Ratchet suspension.

Hard hats with a pin-lock suspension have a locking mechanism that could be compared to a regular belt. To be able to adjust this kind of hard hat, you have to take it off and lock the pin to the appropriate hole.

Hard hats with ratchet suspension feature a quick ratchet-adjusting knob. To be able loosen or tighten this kind of hardhat, you just have to turn the knob without removing the hard hat from your head.

5. Suspension points

Most hard hats are available with 4, 6, or 8 suspension points. The more suspension points, the higher the hard hat's ability to spread out the force of an impact and reduce the risk of injury.

6. Flexibility

There are some manufacturers that offer hard hats with a unique feature of having the option to wear it backwards. There are specific jobs that demand this kind of hard hat. Please take note that these are specific models designed for this type of functionality and that wearing a standard hard hat backwards is risky.

7. Additional Features

With the numerous brands of hard hats now in the market, you may also have the luxury to selecting the best hard hat based on which of them offer additional features.

Some brands offer hard hats that are vented to keep your head cooler. There are brands that offer hard hats with terry cloth and vinyl brow pads to keep sweat off your eyes. Others feature winter liners to insulate the head.


Fitting and Choice

Comfort and fit are important: you have a unique head; and let’s face it – if you’re not comfortable, you’re probably spending time to fix the challenge and aren’t concentrating on the task.


Ideally, your helmet should fit your head well, and provide space between the hard shell and the internal suspension structure for air flow. Your hardhat should fit securely, but not too tight. Hardhats are designed to be adjusted to your unique head size and dimensions. For example, you can adjust the sliders that allow you to loosen or increase the tightness by 1/8-inch increments.

You can see that there are lots of options to consider in the hard hat selection process. However, given the importance of head protection in a work environment it is worth taking adequate time to evaluate these factors and select the best hard hat for your needs.

NOTE: The hardhat shell and suspension should be inspected daily before use. Hardhat users should examine the helmet for cracks, dents, and cuts/gauges in the shell. Users should also examine the hardhat suspension for cut or frayed straps, cracks, or tears in the plastic. Your hardhat (plastic) shell may become chalky, dull, or have a crazing pattern or be less flexible when exposed to heat, sunlight, or chemicals. Replace the hard hat shell and/or suspension immediately if you discover any flaws, cracks or fraying.

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