Table of Contents
How Long Does a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat 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.
What Exactly Is a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat?
A carbon fiber hard hat is just like any hard hat except for the fact that the outer shell has been made out of carbon fiber material. A hard hat is described as a protective hat that is made of a rigid or strong material. Hard hats are most commonly used in the construction industry, however, they are also used in other professions.
Hard hats are required to be worn when the employees are working in areas where falling objects could potentially cause a head injury.
Advantages of a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat
There are many different advantages of carbon fiber hard hats. For example, the carbon fiber material is five times stronger than steel and two times stiffer. Therefore carbon fiber hats are much stronger and more durable than normal plastic or polyethylene hard hats.
The most significant advantage of carbon fiber hard hats is that they are long-lasting, lightweight, 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 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 carbon fiber does not heat up until it is subjected to temperatures over 350°F, carbon fiber helmets are very useful for working in hot environments. This is great for employees who work in high temperatures or out in the sun, it helps to keep the user cool.
Disadvantages of a Carbon Fiber Hard Hat
Just like everything else a carbon fiber hard helmet has drawbacks. Hard helmets made of carbon fiber are conductive and offer no defense against electrical dangers. They cost upwards of $160, which is more than most other hard helmets do.
It can be challenging to find carbon fiber hard hats that come with extras or that are adaptable to aftermarket accessories. This simply means that the majority of carbon fiber hard hats are sold without any additional equipment, such as face shields or hearing protection.
Hard Hats: OSHA Requirements
OSHA states that the employer must provide a hazard-free work environment for their employees. This means that employers are the ones responsible for providing their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats.
As stated in an earlier section, it is also required that “employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shocks and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets” (OSHA).
OSHA Adopts the ANSI Standards on Hard Hats
OSHA Requirements for hard hats refer directly to the standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In other words, OSHA establishes and enforces the rules that companies must follow, but ANSI provides the details and specific steps that must be taken in order to comply with those standards.
Carbon fiber hard hats follow ANSI standards and are therefore safe for employees to use when it comes to protecting themselves from falling objects.
Does My Hard Hat Meet ANSI Standards?
Each revision of the ANSI hard hat standard has specific labeling requirements for hard hats. In order to be an ANSI-approved hard hat, it must have the following information clearly marked inside the hat:
- The manufacturer’s name
- ANSI standard that the hard hat conforms with
- ANSI type and class designation
- Size range for fitting
- Date of manufacture
Some other information that may be required depending on the standard the hard hat complies with could include:
- Two arrows curve to form a circle, indicating the helmet can be worn either forwards or backward
- When the helmet is designed to provide protection at low temperatures (LT)
- When the helmet meets all requirements for high visibility (HV)
How Often Should Carbon Fiber Hard Hats be Replaced: Damage and Reuse
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 break in the carbon fiber shell, whether visible or not, can compromise the integrity of the hard hat. This means that if it sustains another impact, it is possible it will not protect you.
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 absorb impacts.
If the hard hat cannot fit and sit on 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.
Hard Hat Classifications and Types
As stated earlier, carbon fiber hard hats coincide with ANSI standards. This means that they would be found and categorized under ANSI’s types and hard hat classifications. 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 be classified as a type I.
- Type II: These hard hats offer protection from both vertical and lateral impacts and penetration.
Hard helmets are divided into various classifications by ANSI. Based on the degree of protection offered against electrical risks, each class is assigned. The following are these classes:
- Class C hard hats are those that do not offer any electrical protection and are even conductive to electricity, this makes them dangerous for workplaces that could face electrical hazards. Carbon fiber material hard hats would technically be categorized as class C hard hats.
- Class G hard hats are those that are called general hard hats. These hats are rated for a minimal amount of electrical protection– (up to 2,200 volts). These hats are ideal for worksites or workplaces where employees could face electrical hazards but generally do not.
- Class E hard hats are those that are considered electrical hard hats. Class E hard hats 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 have electrical hazards.
Hard Hat Modifications
Modifying your carbon fiber hard hat is never acceptable. Many employees like to drill holes for ventilation or engrave designs on the surface of their hard hats, but this compromises the integrity of the hard hat. Any modification that punctures or in some way damages the hard hat makes it unsuitable for use and must be replaced.
The only “modifications” that are acceptable are cosmetic ones, although OSHA generally frowns upon these. Some employees like to add stickers to or paint their hard hats, which is only acceptable so long as the manufacturer of the hard hat has authorized it.
OSHA has these standards regarding cosmetic alterations of hard hats because painting the surface of a hard hat or putting labels on it could potentially eliminate its electrical resistance. Also, adding stickers or labels could hide cracks and wear that cause the hard hat to be unsafe.
How do Hard Hats Impact Employee Safety?
Beyond impacts and shocks, hard hats can protect employees from other hazards that may be present at the job site. Some of these hazards include:
- Penetration and cuts: The design of the materials takes a cross-molded pattern that prevents most sharp objects from penetrating the surface or slicing through it.
- Burns: All hard hats are made of a fire-resistant or fireproof material to protect your head from burns.
- Water damage: Hard hats keep water out by being either water-proof or water-resistant.
- Falling objects: A less common impact injury can result from falling objects. Hard hats are designed to take the impact and divert the force of it away from your head as much as possible.
Understand that hard hats cannot protect you from all hazards and there may be other PPE requirements for your workplace. Use all PPE available for your work, not just a hard hat, to ensure maximum safety.
Hard Hat Accessories
There are many accessories that can be included or attached to hard hats to provide you with additional protection against workplace hazards. It is important to note, however, that with many carbon fiber hard hats, it is hard to add on accessories after the purchase of the hat. If accessories are necessary for your hard hat you may need to consider a different hard hat material. Some examples of these accessories include:
- Hearing protection: These are used for employees that work in an environment with loud or repetitive noises.
- Face shields: These are heavy face shields used primarily by welders, but there are also more lightweight face shields used by employees that risk exposure to chemical splashes.
- Headlights: These are typically used by employees that have to work in dark areas, such as miners.
- Neck shades: These are used mostly by outdoor workers to protect the neck and sides of the head from exposure to the sun.
- Mirrors: This uncommon accessory can help increase the wearer’s field of view.
- Chin straps: These are more common on certain models of hard hats and help hold the hard hat in place on the wearer’s head.
- Padding: For cold weather conditions, some hard hats have padding inside to keep the wearer’s head warm.
- 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.
Who Needs to Wear Hard Hats?
Certain occupations require hard hats while others do not. The type of labor that you do will depend greatly on the need you have to wear a hard hat. For example, all construction workers are expected to wear hard hats unless there is no possible exposure to head injuries.
OSHA does not require employees to wear hard hats. However, OSHA expects employers to take charge in determining if there is a risk of head injury on the job and whether or not their employees should wear hard hats. Some examples of occupations other than construction workers that usually require a hard hat are:
- Freight handlers
- Lumberyard workers
- Warehouse workers
- Heavy machinery operators
More About Carbon Fiber Hard Hats
There are different styles of hard hats available to you. Carbon fiber hard hats can be purchased in many of these styles to suit your hard hat needs. These styles include brin, full-brim, cap, and ventilated. For more infomation on each of these hard hat styles check out our article Carbon Fiber Hard Hats, Are They Better?
Inspecting Your Hard Hat
Each component of the hard hat requires periodic inspection. It is important to keep your hard hat clean and inspect your hard hat prior to work each day. Look for cracks, holes, tears in suspension, and UV damage. Always store your hard hat away from the sun, since extreme heat and sunlight can damage it over time.
What is the Best Hard Hat for Me?
The best hard hat for you is the hard hat that suits the work you are doing. As stated above, some hard hats are rated for electrical work and others are not. Some have brims for protecting your face from the sun, and others do not. You should consider options such as these when looking for the right hard hat.
Construction workers, as a rule of thumb, use Class G hard hats since there is a risk of electrical exposure on the job. Electricians, of course, use Class E hard hats. Take into consideration the hazards and the conditions you may be exposed to in your workplace and then decide what kind of hard hat to get.