Table of Contents
How Lightweight Are Carbon Fiber Hard Hats?
Carbon fiber hard hats generally weigh around 17 ounces, which is a little more than a pound. An ABS plastic hard hat, which is the most common material for a hard hat, only weighs around 13 ounces or a little less than a pound. So no, carbon fiber hard hats are actually heavier than the average hard hat, even though the difference is only by a few ounces.
Compare it to Other Materials
There are many different materials that are used to make hard hats. However, any material that fits ANSI standards for hard hats is acceptable. Different materials for hard hats can affect the cost and the weight of the hard hat, something to consider when choosing the right one.
- Aluminum: An aluminum hard hat weighs around 14 ounces.
- Fiberglass: A hard hat made out of fiberglass weighs closer to 15 ounces.
- Resin: A resin hard hat can weigh anywhere from 17-19 ounces.
- ABS plastic: Hard hats made from this material are one of the most commonly used hard hats and weigh around 13 ounces.
- High-density polyethylene: Most polyethylene hard hats weigh around 18 ounces.
- Kevlar: Kevlar hard hats are known for their lightweight feel, weighing 40% less than standard hard hats at about 11 ounces.
Carbon fiber hard hats may not be the lightest hard hat available to use, however, there are still many advantages that make carbon fiber hard hats stand out from the rest.
The Advantages of Carbon Fiber Hard Hats
Despite them being heavier than the normal-everyday hard hat, there are still many reasons for why you should consider a carbon fiber hard hat. For example, the carbon fiber material is five times stronger than steel and two times stiffer. This means they are much stronger and much more durable than normal plastic or polyethylene hard hats.
The most significant advantage of carbon fiber hard hats is that they are long-lasting and significantly impact-resistant. Carbon fiber hard hats resist dents, scratches, and breaks more than any other hard hat. Oftentimes, the carbon fiber shell of the hard hat is coated with resin, increasing its durability further.
Carbon fiber hard hats can be ventilated as a class C hard hat, unlike class G and class E hats. Hard hat classes will be covered in more detail in a subsequent part. Carbon fiber hard helmets will be far more reliable than regular hard hats in work conditions where there is a high likelihood of overhead hazards that could hit, cut, or scrape your head.
Because the material does not heat up until it is subjected to temperatures over 350°F, carbon fiber helmets are especially useful for working in hot environments. In hot summer weather, this will aid in keeping the user cool.
Disadvantages of a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat
Like everything else, carbon fiber hard hats have some drawbacks, let’s discuss these for a moment. The fact that carbon fiber hard hats are only available in class C variants is their most worrying drawback. They are therefore conductive and offer absolutely no defense against electrical dangers. They can also cost anywhere from $110 to as much as $160, which is significantly more expensive than standard hard hat prices.
Although it is lighter than its hefty metal rivals, the weight is another crucial consideration to take into account because it is a little heavier than typical ABS plastic and aluminum hard helmets. Although the difference is only a few ounces, some customers might not see it as much of a drawback.
Locating carbon fiber hard hats that are suitable or have accessories is difficult. Therefore, most carbon fiber hats are sold as is, meaning face shields and hearing protection cannot be fitted to them.
Carbon Fiber Hard Hat Reviews
Reading reviews of various models is another useful technique to decide whether you should get a carbon fiber hard hat. You can determine if someone is a good fit for your job based on what other people have to say about them. The majority of evaluations state the buyer’s profession and the rationale behind their hard hat selection.
In general, the majority of assessments agree that carbon fiber hard hats are:
- Comfortable due to the lower suspension system of other hard hats
- Waterproof with an outer surface that deflects rain perfectly
- So lightweight that most can barely feel it on their head
- Comfortable even during long work shifts
- Good looking, carbon fiber hats offer unique and stylish designs compared to other hard hats
- And expensive when compared to other hard hats, but most reviewers noted that they were worth the price
Naturally, be sure to conduct your own research and determine whether another hard helmet might be available that can meet all of your needs at a cost you are comfortable with. But most employees who have bought carbon fiber hard hats generally think well of them and even suggest them.
The History Of Carbon Fiber Hard Hats
During World War I, the one saving grace of many soldiers who were able to return home was the helmet. One lieutenant, Edward Bullard, witnessed the effectiveness of the helmet firsthand, When he returned home, he started up a business developing safety hats for workers in 1919. The first hard hat was made of canvas, leather, and metal.
Unfortunately, the hat was too bulky and inconvenient for miners as well as some other professions. So Edward Bullard came up with the idea of a canvas hat and invented the suspension system. As word of the new safety headgear spread, workers in other industries began to wear it. Since then, hard hats have only been improved. Hard hats began being made in different materials and different styles in order to protect workers in all industries.
Hard Hat Types & Designs
Carbon fiber hard hats come in a variety of styles. Hard helmets come in a variety of designs and are used for various tasks. Depending on the work you are doing, numerous accessories that come with hard hats offer additional protection. We’ll go through some of the typical hard hat variations and the functions they fulfill. Hard helmets come in at least four different designs:
For more infomation on each of these different types check out our article Carbon Fiber Hard Hats: Are They Better?.
Hard Hat Accessories
To further protect you from occupational risks, a variety of accessories can be added to or affixed to hard hats. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that many carbon fiber hard hats make it challenging to tack on accessories after the hat has been purchased. You might need to think about using a different hard hat material if accessories are required for your hard helmet. These accessories, as examples, include:
- Face shields: Heavy face shields used primarily by welders, however, there are also more lightweight face shields typically used by employees who risk exposure to chemical splashes.
- Mirrors: An uncommon accessory that can help improve the wearer’s field of view.
- Hearing protection: For employees that work in an environment with loud or repetitive noises.
- Padding: Meant to be used in cold weather conditions, some hats offer padding inside to help insulate the wearer’s head from cold temperatures.
- Headlights: Typically used by employees that have to work in dark areas
- Neck shades: Generally used by outdoor workers as additional sun protection for the sides of the neck.
- Chin straps: Straps that help hold the hard hat in place on the wearer’s head while moving.
- Visors: If your hard hat is not a cap style or brim style hard hat, there are attachable visors to protect your face from the shade.
Should Construction Workers Wear Carbon Fiber Hard Hats?
Construction workers can wear carbon fiber hard hats as long as the project or job site they are working on has no known electrical hazards present. Carbon fiber hard hats have no protection against electrical hazards and can actually be conductive. Moreover, carbon fiber hard hats are great for other professions such as:
- Freight handlers
- Lumberyard workers
- Warehouse workers
Hard Hat: Carbon Fiber Types & Classes
ANSI states there are two types of hard hats. These types are defined by the area of the head that is unprotected.
- Type I: These hard hats offer protection from vertical impacts and penetration. Carbon fiber hard hats would fit the standards of type I hard hats.
- Type II: These hard hats offer protection from both vertical and lateral impacts and penetration.
As stated in an earlier section, carbon fiber hard hats fall into class C when it comes to hard hat classes. ANSI separates hard hats into different classes. Each class is based on the level of protection they provide from electrical hazards. These classes are explained below in greater detail.
Hard hats that are categorized in class C do not offer any electrical protection and are even conductive to electricity, making them dangerous for workplaces that could possibly face electrical hazards. Carbon fiber material hard hats are classified as class C hard hats. Aluminum, ABS plastic, and kevlar hard hats are other examples of materials that fall under class C hard hats.
This class of hard hats is commonly referred to as general hard hats. They are rated for a minimal amount of electrical protection– up to 2,200 volts to be exact. They are ideal for workplaces that could face electrical hazards but generally do not. Fiberglass, some ABS plastic, and most resin hard hats are class G.
Class E hard hats are considered electrical hard hats. They are rated for up to 20,000 volts of electricity, making them the most ideal for working with electricity. They are essential for workplaces that are certain to face electric hazards. High-density polyethylene, some ABS plastic, and some resin hard hats would be categorized as a class E.
Modifying Hard Hats: What is/is not Acceptable?
No hard hat should ever be modified. Many workers enjoy drilling ventilation holes or engraving graphics on the surface of their hard hats, although doing so weakens the hard hat’s structural integrity. Any change that causes the hard hat to become damaged or punctured renders it unusable and necessitates replacement.
Only cosmetic “modifications” are permitted, despite the fact that OSHA typically disapproves of them. Some workers want to paint or add stickers to their hard hats, which is only permissible if the hard hat’s maker has given the go-ahead.
Because adding labels or painting a hard hat’s surface could potentially render it useless, OSHA has regulations regulating aesthetic changes to hard hats.
How Long Does Lightweight Carbon Fiber Last?
As a general guideline, most hard hat manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years. The only reason any hard hat should be replaced before it hits the five-year mark would be if it was cracked, discolored, or damaged from an impact. According to ANSI standards, these same rules apply to the lifespan of carbon fiber hard hats.
The same goes for the suspension system in a carbon fiber hard hat as well. The maximum time frame for a replacement is 12 months. However, if the suspension is broken or worn down, it should be replaced immediately. If it cannot be replaced within an appropriate amount of time, the hard hat should not be used.
How Often Should Carbon Fiber Hard Hats be Replaced?
Even if there is no sign of damage on your hard hat, you should replace it immediately after it sustains an impact from any object. Any small crack or tiny break in the carbon fiber shell can compromise the integrity of the hard hat. This means that if it sustains another impact, it may not protect you well enough.
You should also replace your hard hat as soon as it expires. It is possible that the suspension straps on your hard hat wear out or break. Although this may not seem to compromise the surface of the hard hat itself, it is equally important. The suspension straps help keep the hard hat in place on your head and help to absorb the majority of the impact.
If the hard hat does not fit or adjust your head correctly, it cannot be suitable for use and should be replaced. As mentioned earlier, suspensions should be inspected and replaced every 12 months. Using an expired hard hat could compromise your safety.
Should I Get a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat?
In the end, it is up to you to decide whether carbon fiber hard hats suit your needs or not. Carbon fiber hard hats are the best option for class C hard hats because of their superior strength and durability. Both carbon fiber and standard types of hard hats are protective, however, if you work with electrical hazards, it may be better to stick to materials other than carbon fiber.
For more information about PPE like hard hats, check out our OSHA Aligned PPE training as well as our other, more job-specific training courses on our website.
For more infomation on carbon fiber hard hats check out our article Carbon Fiber Hard Hats: Are They Better?.