Of all the pieces of personal protective equipment you wear, your hard hat is probably one of the most important. In order for it to protect you, it has to be properly worn and maintained.
The following tips will help you use your hard hat appropriately and keep it in optimal condition:
Inspect your hard hat before each use. Your hard hat is made up of the shell and the suspension. Begin your shell inspection by looking for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hard hat is made of thermoplastic materials, you should check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.
Ultraviolet light can cause deterioration to the hat’s shell over time. If your work is predominantly in sunlight, replace your hard hat every two years. The same is true if you work in an environment that has a high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. Most hard hats have date codes on the underside brim of the cap so you can readily determine a hat’s age.
Inspecting the suspension system is just as important as inspecting the shell, because the suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks or tears, frayed or cut straps, or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective slots. Any suspension that shows signs of damage should be removed from service and replaced immediately.
Limit the use of stickers. Stickers won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but you should limit their use so you are able to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.
Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. Any impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness, so a hat that has suffered a blow should be replaced, even if it is relatively new or shows no visible damage. A hard hat that has been dropped more than eight feet requires replacement.
Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Avoid having your hard hat come into contact with electrical wires. Never use a suspension that is not intended to be worn with a particular shell or use a shell made by one manufacturer with a suspension made by another. Never carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.
Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer says you can. Before wearing the hat backwards, you should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and found to comply with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the brow pad is against the forehead and the extended nape strap is at the base of the skull, leaving only the shell of the helmet positioned backward on the head.
Following these tips can help to ensure that your hard hat can protect you as it was intended to do.