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Hard Hat Classifications & Ratings

Hard Hat Classes

Although all safety helmets should provide equally strong protection for your noggin, not all classes of hard hats offer up the same types of shielding. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has classified this indispensable piece of personal protection equipment into various categories to help wearers find the style that is best suited for their unique work environment. Whether you are working around electrical hazards or need full coverage from falling debris, there is a class of hard hats that will most efficiently guard against your daily risks.

ANSI Types of Hard Hats

ANSI Z89.1-1986 divides protective helmets into different types and classes. This standard consists of Type 1 and Type 2 Helmets.

  • Type 1 Hard Hats: have a full brim around the entire hat.
  • Type 2 Hard Hats: have a short brim only in the front. Type 2 hard hats are the dominant style in the field today.

ANSI Classes of Hard Hats

In terms of electrical performance, ANSI Z89.1-1986 recognizes three different classes:

  • Class A 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 Hard Hats: protect against impact, penetration and high-voltage electrical conductors. Sample shells are proof-tested at 20,000 volts.
  • Class C 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.

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.

  • Class G (General) Helmets: This is equivalent to the old Class A. Class G helmets are proof-tested at 2,200 volts.
  • Class E (Electrical) Helmets: This is equivalent to the old Class B. Class E helmets are proof-tested at 20,000 volts.
  • Class C (Conductive) Helmets: This class provides no electrical insulation; the alpha designation did not change from the old standard.
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