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How Hard Hats Protect You
Hard hats protect you by providing the following features:
  • A rigid shell that resists and deflects blows to the head.
  • A suspension system inside the hat that acts as a shock absorber.
  • Some hats serve as an insulator against electrical shocks.
  • Shields your scalp, face, neck, and shoulders against splashes, spills, and drips.
  • Some hard hats can be modified so you can add face shields, goggles, hoods, or hearing protection to them.

Why Head Protection is Important
Your head is a very delicate part of your body. In and around your head are:
  • Your eyes, with which you see.
  • Your ears, with which you hear
  • Your nose, with which you smell
  • Your mouth, with which you eat and speak
  • Your brain, with which you think.

Injuries to the head are very serious so use your Head and wear your hard hat. It might just save your life today...


Prevention of head injuries is an important factor in every safety program. A single injury can handicap an employee for life, or it can be fatal. A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of accidents and injuries noted that most workers who suffered impact injuries to the head were not wearing head protection. The majority of workers were injured while performing their normal jobs at their regular worksites.

The survey showed that in most instances where head injuries occurred employers had not required their employees to wear head protection. Of those workers wearing hard hats, all but five percent indicated that they were required by their employers to wear them. It was found that the vast majority of those who wore hard hats all or most of the time at work believed that hard hats were practical for their jobs. According to the report, In almost half of the accidents involving head injuries, employees knew of no actions taken by employers to prevent such injuries from recurring.

The BLS survey noted that more than one-half of the workers were struck on the head while they were looking down and almost three-tenths were looking straight ahead. While a third of the unprotected workers were injured when bumping into stationary objects, such actions injured only one-eighth of hard hat wearers. Elimination or control of a hazard leading to an accident should, of course, be given first consideration, but many accident-causing head injuries are of a type difficult to anticipate and control. Where these conditions exist, Head protection must be worn to eliminate injury!

Safety helmets for head protection on construction sites

Wearing a safety helmet on a construction site may prevent or lessen a head injury from falling objects or a person hitting their head against something.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1983:

  • Employers have a "Duty of Care" to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees and others.

  • Employers must take all practicable measures to control risks against injuries in the workplace.

  • Employees have an obligation to co-operate with their employers on health and safety matters.

  • Failing to comply with the "Duty of Care" provisions of the Act is an offence.

Duty of Care

There is a legal requirement for industry to be responsible for managing - workplace health and safety. This requirement, expressed as the "Duty of Care" principle, is the basis of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1983. Implementing the Duty of Care principle means planning for prevention of workplace accidents, injuries and illness.


The need for safety helmets to be worn on construction sites should be established by the person in control, conducting a hazard assessment.

1. Employers are responsible for ensuring that a safety helmet is worn on a construction site where:

  • There is a possibility that a person may be struck on the head by a falling object.

  • A person may strike their head against a fixed or protruding object.

  • Accidental head contact may be made with electrical hazards.

2. Every person on a construction site should wear a safety helmet:

  • Where there is a risk of a head injury.

  • If required to do so by an employer and/or the person in control of the workplace.

NOTE: It is Compulsory to Wear a Safety Helmet When Carrying Out Demolition Work. Construction Safety Regulation 84(32).

All safety helmets worn on construction sites should conform with the requirements of AS1801 - Industrial Safety Helmets and be maintained in accordance with AS1800 - The Selection, Care and Use of Industrial Safety Helmets

Assessing the Need for Personal Protective Equipment:

A Guide for Employers

Small Business Safety Management Series

U.S. Department of Labor

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA 3151


Head Protection

When do my employees need head protection?

You must provide head protection for your employees if:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head;
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; or
  • They work near exposed electrical conductors.
  • What should I look for in head protection?

In general, protective helmets, or hard hats, should

  • Resist penetration by objects,
  • Absorb the shock of a blow,
  • Be water resistant and slow burning, and
  • Come with instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and headband.
Hard hats require a hard outer shell and a shock-absorbing lining. The lining should incorporate a head band and straps that suspend the shell from 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.54 cm to 3.18 cm) away from the user's head. This design provides shock absorption during impact and ventilation during wear.

As with devices designed to protect eyes, the design, construction, testing, and use of protective helmets must meet standards established by ANSI. Protective helmets purchased after July 5, 1994, must comply with ANSI Z89.1-1986,(7) whereas, those purchased before this date must meet the ANSI Z89.1-1969 standard.

What types of head protection are available?

Hard hats are divided into three industrial classes:

Class A. These helmets are for general service. They provide good impact protection but limited voltage protection. They are used mainly in mining, building construction, shipbuilding, lumbering, and manufacturing.

Class B. Choose Class B helmets if your employees are engaged in electrical work. They protect against falling objects and high-voltage shock and burns.

Class C. Designed for comfort, these light-weight helmets offer limited protection. They protect workers from bumping against fixed objects but do not protect against falling objects or electric shock.

Look at the inside of any protective helmet you are considering for your employees, and you should see a label showing the manufacturer's name, the ANSI standard it meets, and its class. Figure 2 shows the basic design of hard hats.

How do I choose the correct protective helmets from among the different types?

Each kind of protective helmet is designed to protect against specific hazards. By completing the hazard assessment outlined above, you will identify the specific workplace hazards that pose a threat to your employee's head.

I have purchased new hard hats that meet the ANSI requirements. Have I fulfilled my responsibility to protect my employees' heads?

No. Issuing appropriate head protection to employees is a major first step, but you must make sure that the hard hats continue to provide sufficient protection to your employees. Do this by training your employees in the proper use and maintenance of hard hats including daily inspection of them. If your employees identify any of the following defects, remove the hard hats from service:

The suspension system shows signs of deterioration such as:

  • Cracking
  • Tearing
  • Fraying

The suspension system no longer holds the shell from 1 inch to 1 1/4 inches (2.54cm - 3.18cm) away from the employee's head. The brim or shell is cracked, perforated, or deformed. The brim or shell shows signs of exposure to heat, chemicals, ultraviolet light, or other radiation. Such signs include:

  • Loss of surface gloss
  • Chalking
  • Flaking (a sign of advanced deterioration)

Could employees wearing hard hats and working at elevations create a potential hazard for the employees working below?

To protect employees working below, you must provide chin straps for the protective helmets worn by employees working at higher elevations, whether in an aerial lift or at the edge of a pit. The chin straps should be designed to prevent the hard hats from being bumped off the employees' heads.

Can I require employees to cut their hair if it is long enough to get tangled in machinery?

Long hair (longer than four inches) can be drawn into machine parts such as chains, belts, rotating devices, suction devices, and blowers. Hair may even be drawn into machines otherwise guarded with mesh. Although you need not require your employees to cut their hair, you must require them to cover and protect their hair with bandanas, hair nets, turbans, soft caps, or the like. These items, however, must not themselves present a hazard.

Once I have selected helmets to protect my employees' heads, how do I make sure they use them properly?

Train your employees to use the hard hats. Checklist D will help you instruct your employees to use and care for the head protection you provide. Click here.

How do I make sure that the hard hats I provide will be kept in good condition?

  • You must train your employees to maintain and care for the head protection. Your training communicates the importance of wearing head protection and taking proper care of it. Important information you will want to consider when training employees on how to care for their hard hats includes the following:
  • Paints, paint thinners, and some cleaning agents can weaken the shell of the hard hat and may eliminate electrical resistance. Consult the helmet manufacturer for information on the effects of paint and cleaning materials on their hard hats. Keep in mind that paint and stickers can also hide signs of deterioration in the hard hat shell. Limit their use.
  • Ultraviolet light and extreme heat, such as that generated by sunlight, can reduce the strength of the hard hats. Therefore, employees should not store or transport hard hats on the rear-window shelves of automobiles or otherwise in direct sunlight.

Also, instruct employees to clean the protective helmets periodically by:

  • Immersing for one minute in hot (approximately 140o F, or 60o C) water and detergent,
  • Scrubbing, and
  • Rinsing in clear hot water.
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