Most people don’t think of Hard Hats very often, we definitely take them for granted. They are heavily used daily yet are an understated piece of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The International Safety Equipment Association( ISEA) points out that they have done a good job protecting workers in a variety of work environments. They will provide a reasonable service life if given a little care and regular inspection. To learn more about head protection regulations, click on: ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009 Standard, OSHA 1926.100 for Construction and OSHA 1910.135 for General Industry.
Here’s a little Hard Hat 101. There are two basic parts to it: the shell and the suspension, which work together as a system. Both need regular inspection and maintenance. The shell is rigid, light and is shaped to reflect a falling object. The suspension’s main purpose is to absorb energy. The suspension system inside the helmet is as important as the shell itself. It holds the shell in place on your head and holds it away from your head for free air flow. For that reason, it is important that the suspension be in good condition to perform that function. Over long periods use, the suspension can become damaged and worn.
Here are some ISEA recommendations:
1) Wearers should inspect the shell regularly. When cracks (even as small as hairlines), become noticeable, the helmet should be replaced because experience has shown, these cracks will spread and widen once they begin to form. Look for signs of abuse such as scratches or gouges. Shells exposed to heat, sunlight and chemicals can become stiff or brittle. There also can be visible craze pattern- it can be dull in color or have a chalky appearance. Be sure to replace these helmets also.
Also, never alter or modify the shell other than in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions to permit the use of accessories. Such accessory attachments may reduce the limited protection provided by the helmets. If it is necessary or desirable to use the numbers or symbols in the helmets for identification purposes, the ISEA recommends the use of reflective marking tape. Only the helmet manufacturer should paint the helmet to avoid the problem of the solvents in the paint that can make the helmets brittle and more susceptible to cracks
2) Replace the hard hat if it has sustained an impact from an object, even though no damage may be visible.
3) Whenever the fitness of a hard hat is in doubt, it should be taken from service immediately and destroyed.
4) Look closely at the suspension for cracking, torn adjustment slots, fraying material or other signs of wear, especially at the suspension lugs. Common causes are: by hair oils, perspiration, and normal wear. It should be routinely replaced at least once a year under normal wear conditions.
5) The service life of the protective headgear can be lengthened by cleaning the suspension and shell as part of a regular inspection program. A wet sponge or soft brush with mold detergent and water will remove dirt and stains from the suspension and shell.
6) Employees should not carry anything inside the helmet. A clearance must be maintained inside the helmet for the system to work. In the event of a blow to the head, the space must be used to help absorb the shock of the blow.