HARD HATS ARE IMPORTANT FOR MANY WORK ENVIRONMENTS
Throwing on a hard hat when you are in the warehouse or headed to a job site is a great habit, but it’s also important to know why it’s required and be able to evaluate if you are wearing the right hard hat for your job.
Head protection, specifically the use of a hard hat, isn’t only a construction site requirement. Even though most construction work requires head protection, it is important that workers recognize work tasks where helmets or hard hats are needed even when they are not on a construction site.
Examples of jobs where head protection may be required include: electricians, mechanics, pipe fitters, assemblers, packers, wrappers, welders, freight handlers, cutting and logging, stock handlers, and warehouse personnel.
OSHA Standard 1910.135(a)(1) The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.
OSHA rules state that where falling object hazards are present, helmets (hard hats) must be worn. But that isn’t the only time that a hard hat may be required. It is important that workers are aware of any possible hazards to their head such as:
- Falling objects or items that could potentially fall from heights above them such as parts, tools, packages, boxes and other stored or racked materials
- Flying parts or particles from cutting, conveyor or grinding operations
- Moving parts, pieces or objects being handled by overhead lifting equipment such as gantry cranes
- Striking the front, sides or top of the head by walking under shelves, racks, pipes or structures
- Contact with electrical lines, wires or energized parts
OSHA Standard 1910.135(b) Criteria for head protection (1) Head protection must comply with… 1910.135(b)(1)(i) American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z89.1-2009, “American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection,” incorporated by reference in Sec. 1910.6.
Workers need to know that not every hard hat is the same! The type of protection provided by a hard hat can be very different depending on the style and the manufacturer.
Head protection, such as hard hats, must be designed to provide protection from impact and penetration hazards caused by falling objects. OSHA requires hard hats to meet special requirements and be marked with ANSI Z89.1.
Depending on the job, some workers may be required to wear hard hats that also provide protection from impacts that happen to the sides of the hard hat, in addition to the top of the head. These types of hard hats are classified as Type II helmets according to ANSI Z89.1.
There are also three classes of hard hats related to electrical protection.
- Class G or General hard hats provide some electrical protection
- Class E or Electrical hard hats provide significant protection from electrical hazards
- Class C or Conductive hard hats do not provide any protection from electricity
OSHA Standard 1910.135(a)(2) The employer shall ensure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by each such affected employee when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head.
OSHA Standard 1910.335(a)(1)(iv) Employees shall wear nonconductive head protection wherever there is a danger of head injury from electric shock or burns due to contact with exposed energized parts.
Just because wearing a hard hat seems basic, don’t assume that workers don’t need training in this area. It is important that all employees required to wear head protection receive training on how to recognize hazards that require head protection, how to properly wear and maintain personal head protection and when to replace the hard hat.