The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for head protection are referenced in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.135 and 1926.100.
29 CFR 1910.135(a)(1) states, "Each affected employee shall wear protective helmets when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects." The standard also addresses situations in which electrical hazards are present.
1901.135(a)(2) states, "Protective helmets designed to reduce electrical shock hazard shall be worn by each such affected employee when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head." The OSHA standards themselves do not identify specific occupations or applications where head protection is required; Appendix B to Subpart I Part 9 lists some examples. It states "Some examples of occupations for which head protection should be routinely considered are: carpenters, electricians, lineman, mechanics and repairers, plumbers and pipe fitters, assemblers, packers, wrappers, sawyers, welders, laborers, freight handlers, timber cutting and logging, stock handlers, and warehouse laborers." The appendix also provides examples of general applications where head protection should be worn. In terms of what constitutes a "protective helmet," 29 CFR 1910.135 makes a distinction between hard hats purchased prior to July 5, 1994, and hats purchased after that date. Helmets purchased after July 5, 1994, must comply with the performance guidelines in the ANSI Z89.1-1986, American National Standard for Personal Protection-Protective Headwear for Industrial Workers Requirements. Hats obtained before that date must comply with the 1969 version of the ANSI standard (ANSI Z89.1-1969).
ANSI Z89.1-1986 Requirements
ANSI Z89.1-1986 divides protective helmets into different types and classes. This standard consists of Type 1 and Type 2 Helmets. Type 1 helmets have a full brim around the entire hat while Type 2 helmets have a short brim only in the front. Type 2 hard hats are the dominant style in the field today.
In terms of electrical performance, ANSI Z89.1-1986 recognizes three different classes:
Class A Helmets - hard hats protect against impact, penetration and low-voltage electrical conductors. For certification, sample shells are proof-tested at 2,200 volts of electrical charge.
Class B Helmets - hard hats protect against impact, penetration and high-voltage electrical conductors. Sample shells are proof-tested at 20,000 volts.
Class C Helmets - hard hats protect against impact and penetration only. Class C hard hats are usually made of aluminum, which is an electrical conductor, and therefore should not be used in situations involving electrical hazards.
Note: The voltages stated in Classes A and B are not intended to be an indication of the voltage at which the headgear protects the wearer.
Hard hats are also tested for impact and penetration resistance from blows to the top of the head, flammability resistance, and water absorption. Detailed testing requirements can be found in the detail of the standard.
All hard hats conforming to the requirements of ANSI-Z89.1-1986 must have the following marked inside:
In 1997 ANSI published a revision to its Z89.1 head protection standard. The revision eliminated the old Type 1 and Type 2 design designations. In the revised standard, "Type" is used to designate whether a helmet provides protection strictly from blows to the top of the head (Type I) or protection from blows to both the top and sides of the head (Type II).
Z89.1-1997 also changed the alpha designations for the classes of electrical performance.
Hard hats must also contain user information under the 1997 standard. In addition to the manufacturer's name, ANSI legend and class designation, Z89.1-1997 compliant helmets must be marked with the date of manufacture. Instructions pertaining to sizing, care and service life guidelines must also accompany the hard hat.
In 2003, ANSI published a revision to the Z89.1-1997. The most significant changes from the 1997 version were made to harmonize with other national standards that test and evaluate equipment performance. Many physical requirements for helmet components that did not provide added user value, limited design or performance had been removed.
ANSI published a revision in January of 2009. The significant changes from the 2003 version are three non-mandatory tests and are easy to understand. Each of these tests if elected to be tested by the manufacturer will display three new markings on the helmet.
The three optional test criteria are:
Reverse Donning: Helmets marked with a "reverse donning arrow" can be worn frontward or backward in accordance with the manufacturer's wearing instructions. They pass all testing requirements, whether worn frontward or backward.
Lower Temperature: Helmets marked with a "LT" indicates that the hard hat meets all testing requirements of the standard when preconditioned at a temperature of -30°C (-22°F).
High Visibility: Helmets marked with a "HV" indicates that the hard hat meets all testing requirements of the standard for high visibility colors. This includes tests for chromaticity and luminescence.
Hard Hat Life Span
OSHA does not specify the service life of a hard hat, and there is no standard expiration time frame for hard hats. Hard hat life span may vary depending on the conditions of each work sites. As a general guideline, most hard hat manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years regardless of outside appearance. If you work under extreme conditions such as exposure to high temperatures, chemicals or sunlight, hard hats should be replaced after two years of use. In addition, some manufactures even recommend replacing the suspension in your hard hat every 12 months. It's important to review each work site to ensure that degradation of employee's hard hats is not being accelerated due to work conditions.
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Commonly Asked Questions
Q. Can I put decals on my hard hat?
Q. Can hard hats be painted?
Q. Can I wear my hard hat backward?