Hard hats, like food, have an expiration date. In addition, their useful life can be reduced if they get damaged too many times or are not properly cared for.
The Lifetime of the Hard Hat
It is an important part of your PPE gear which provides protection for your head. In all kinds of industries where a damaging to the head is possible, you must use hard hats. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) suggested using hard hats in these occupations.
As per 29 CFR 1910.135(1) for the general industry: The employer will make sure that each employee will wear a helmet when they are working in places where there is a chance danger to the head from falling objects.
As per 29 CFR 1910.135(2): The employer will make sure that all employees will wear a helmet for decreasing electrical shock risk when they are near to exposed electrical conductors which can damage their head.
29 CFR 1926.100 for the construction industry. Employees in places where it will be a possible danger of head damage from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock, will be protected by wearing helmets.
While OSHA does not regulate how hard hats are made, it still requires their use. The testing, construction, and certification are done as per Standards ANSI Z89.1-2014 in the USA, CSA Z94.1-2015 in Canada. These both develop testing requirements for hard hats by Type and Class. Type I hard hats are tested for only top impact, and Type II is tested for top and lateral impact both. As for electrical hazard resistance:
• Class G must endure 2,200 volts for 1 minute
• Class E must endure 12,000 volts for 3 minutes, and
• Class C hard hats aren’t tested for electrical insulation
Does a hard hat have an expiry date?
The answer is “NO” Technically. Many manufacturers have recommendations on lifespans of helmet and suspension. MSA hard hat shells should not be used for more than 5 years, and suspensions need to be replaced every 12 months. The manufacture date is stamped onto the hard hat shell, on the brim underside generally. The suspension is marked with the manufacture month and year, with the headband size.
The recommended replacement date is from the day when you will start using it. You can use Markers or labels to identify the date, the hard hat was placed first in service. This can help to replace a sound hard hat very soon. Depending on the atmosphere, use, the shell should be replaced every 2 years. Some visible signs for its damages include cracks, dents, or holes, which you can see easily and are reasons which need to replace the hard hat. However, scores or scuffs on its surface can show that it’s time to replace it. If a hard hat is impacted or penetrated, then replace it immediately.
Dents stress the hat material, which causes weak spots that aren’t acceptable. Scuffs or scores can also deteriorate the hat by thinning out the shell. Think about its replacement as soon as possible. If the suspension straps of your hard hat are frayed or ripped, remove it instantly and replace it with a new suspension. Inspect the plastic clips to ensure that they are not weakened or broken.
When you are replacing the suspension, or any other attachment, use parts only whose are made by the original manufacturer for that specific model and size. Hard hats are certified and tested with the manufacturer’s suspension installed and approved. Incorrect parts or accessories made from other sources make the certification null and void. Also, an incorrect headband can decrease or eliminate the impact protection. The impact of space may not be sufficient. Fading, in fiberglass or plastic shells, is a sign that sunlight or Ultraviolet rays have begun weakening the shell. It shows up as a brittle surface or discoloration. It will cause brittleness, which can be noticed easily by flexing the brim. Too much flexibility may be a sign of shell weakness also. Harsh chemicals or other conditions can break down the shell material, hence creating brittleness. It frequently shows up as fading or discoloration. Chemicals can also damage the suspension as well.
How you can extend the life of this important PPE?
Appropriate care and use of hard hats
Your hard hat is the most robust piece of your personal protective equipment. Proper care can make sure that you will get the recommended lifespan from your hard hat. It is important to check your hard hat regularly. Make sure to do rapid inspections in the workday.
Hard hats should be cleaned with an appropriate cleaner
While cleaning your hard hat, no harsh chemicals should be used. Oil-based solvents can weaken the shell, so make sure to not use gasoline or products like this, to remove tar, grease, and other sticky chemicals.
Do NOT use scrapers, knives, or abrasive tools for removing debris
Cleaning your headband and webbing in a mild soap and water solution will remove the buildup of oil and other contaminates.
A quick note about helmet decoration
Various workers want to show their loyalty to their companies like logos and other information on hard hats. Is this permitted? Some paints can damage and attack the shell materials. It decreases the degree of hard hat protection. However, hard hat manufacturers offer to imprint when you purchase. They have the appropriate inks that cannot damage the shell integrity and will be resistant to fading or cracking. You can use Some decals as long as they aren’t metallic, the adhesives are not affecting to the shell’s composition and are placed no closer than half-inch from the helmet’s edge.
The hard hat protects your head which is the most important part of your body. Make sure to check your hard hat for signs that need it to get replaced:
• Cracks, dents, and punctures
• Fading, chalkiness, and discoloration
• Loss of flexibility or too much flexing
• Torn, broken, or damaged webbing components
The hard hat is an essential part of your PPE. It protects your head from damages. You should take proper care of it. You need to use your hard hat whenever you see that there is a chance of falling or flying objects. It is the right thing to do for protecting your head.