OSHA Regulation 1915.155(a)(1) mandates the use of hard hats when employees may encounter falling debris. In this case, a 1979 statute says that construction worker can use a Class C Hard Hat even though it may not provide protection from electrical shock (Standard Number 1926.100). There haven't been many updates to the hard hat regulations since the 1970s. A recent change came in 2004 in which OSHA assured employers that Hard Hats are not required "when there is no exposure to head injury." No kidding. But a more mindful regulation came in 2009, when OSHA added testing for reverse donning, cold weather hard hats, and high visibility.
The principle behind common sense head protection has not changed since the 19th century. However, the material technology has. First, Bullard sold leather hard hats that failed to provide protection from falling debris. Shipbuilders would cover their hard hats with tar and leave them in the sun to bake to create a firm surface. Still, the baked tar film on top of the leather was not enough to protect from debris. Metal replaced leather, and construction at the Hoover Damn began with a Six Company Inc. mandate requiring hard hats. But by 1938 the first durable plastic hard hats were created to protect workers from electrical shock. The thermoplastics of the 1950s provided protection of up to 10,000 volts. After the invention of plastics, hard hats haven't changed much in form or function. The same regulations set in the 1970s still apply today, with tweaks. The same principle applies: fit the protection to your application.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Hard Hat do you need?
Every hard hat must be marked with the name of manufacturer, the legend (ANSI Z89.1-1968), and the class designation according to ANSI (G, E, C). Since 1997, hard hats must contain information on the date of manufacturer, sizing instructions, and service-life care instructions.
OSHA has three classes of hard hats defined in ANSI Z89.1-1986:
- Class E - Electrical. Tested Against 20,000 Volts.
- Class G - General. Tested Against 2,200 Volts.
- Class C - Conductive. No dielectric protection.
There are two types of hard hats according to ANSI Z89.1-1986:
- Type 1 - Full Brim that encircles the hard hat.
- Type 2 - No encircling brim with an optional front brim.
Optional ANSI Testing Standards (ANSI Z89.1-2009):
- RD - Reverse Donning. Hard Hats marked with the Reverse Donning arrow can be worn front and backward. The manufacturer has tested the hard hat in both positions and maintain equitable standards.
- LT - Lower Temperature. Head protection meets testing requirement standards at -30°C (-22°F).
- HV - High Visibility. Hard hat meets ANSI high visibility standards through its reflective colors.
The colors of hard hats are not officially regulated, but a standard has emerged.
- Hi-Vis Orange - Construction, Road workers, Visitors.
- White - Site Managers, Foremen.
- Blue - Technical Operators, Electricians.
- Lime Green - Safety Inspectors, New workers.
- Red - Fire Officials
- Yellow - General labor
High-density polyethylene hard hats are durable. Still, manufactures are required to put an expiration date somewhere on the cap, sometimes inside in embossed lettering. Cracks, dents, and brittleness are all common sense signs to replace your hard hat before it expires. Anytime an impact causes damage to the material, it is best to replace. It is recommended after 4-5 years from the date of manufacturing to replace every hard hat regardless of wear. However, use your best judgment so as to not create unnecessary waste or cost. The goal of hard hats is head protection. Periodic cleaning can prevent discomfort and wear..