Tips To Help You Select the Right Hard Hat
Hard hats are one of the most important pieces of protective gear on a job site. For good reason, too – they protect your head from potentially life-threatening danger while also shielding you from the elements.
There are dozens of jobs that require a hard hat, and while you may think that just any hard hat will do, not all are created equal. There are significant differences between protective headgear options with several types, classes, and styles that offer unique features and safety benefits. We’ll discuss all that you should consider so you can shop with confidence and purchase the hard hat that’s best suited for your needs.
Industry and Work Environment
Your work environment is one of the first things to consider when deciding what hard hat is right for you. You’ll want to make sure the hard hat you buy is appropriate for the job you’ll be doing and the setting you’ll be in.
For example, if you’re working on a road construction job site near heavy traffic, a high visibility hard hat is an extra precaution you can take to make sure civilians driving vehicles can clearly see you.
Additionally, if you’re working in dimly lit areas, you’ll want to be sure your hard hat has attachment options available so you can hook up a flashlight or additional equipment as needed.
Overhead and Lateral Impact Protection
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has designated types of hard hats that provide impact and penetration protection for different areas of the head. The ANSI Z89.1 clause defines the two types of hard hats:
Type 1 hard hats are intended to reduce the force of impact when objects make contact to the top of the head.
Type 2 hard hats are designed to reduce the force of impact when objects make contact to the top and the sides of the head.
It’s important to note that both helmet types comply with ANSI head protection standards. Generally, the only difference is that Type 2 helmets have an inner foam liner that provides the extra protection.
Additionally, there is also a third option that does not meet the ANSI Z89.1 safety standards for protection against falling objects. This style is called a bump cap, and they’re primarily used to defend against minor cuts and bumps that result from stationary objects.
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The ANSI Z89.1 also designates three classes of helmets that protect against electrical hazards. This is especially helpful if you’re an electrician or you’re working in an environment where there could be potential electrical threats. You’ll want to become familiar with these classifications:
Class C hard hats (Conductive) provide no protection against electric currents. These helmets are not intended to protect against electric conductors, however they often come with ventilation that can increase breathability and comfort.
Class E hard hats (Electrical) have been tested to withstand 20,000 volts. This coverage is only for the head area and does not provide protection to the entire body.
Class G hard hats (General) have been tested to withstand 2,200 volts. This coverage is one of the most commonly worn helmets as it provides defense against low voltage conductors but is not necessary for specific environments
Suspension and Comfort
The suspension system on your hard hat may be as important as the helmet itself. It’s the part of the helmet that actually rests on your head and it can drastically affect comfort. Some suspension systems come with a sweatband to help control perspiration from your forehead while other units swing back and forth, like the Skullgard Standard 4pt Suspension to allow you to wear your hard hat backward.
Suspension units come in 4-point, 6-point, or 8-point attachments. These suspension points help dissipate the force of impact when objects hit your helmet. Generally, a suspension system with more points will do a better job of spreading out the force of an impact. Suspension systems also come with a few different size adjustments mechanisms; the ratchet, slide-lock, and 1-touch options are the most common.
Standard Brim vs. Full Brim Hard Hats
As you shop around for hard hats you’ll notice two primary styles, the full brim and standard brim helmets. Both offer unique features and benefits that you may be interested in:
Full brim hard hats provide additional protection with an extended rim that wraps all the way around the helmet. This acts as a shield against the sun, protecting your ears and the back of your neck from sunburn. The 360-degree brim also provides a bit of extra protection from falling objects.
Standard brim hard hats are what you would typically see on a job site. Many prefer their sleek design as they closely resemble a baseball cap. The biggest feature of most standard brim hard hats is the incorporation of slots. The slotted design allows you to attach accessories such as a flashlight, face shield, or mounted hearing protection.