chat icon


Who Makes the Best Hard Hat?

The best hard hat for you will be determined by the kind of work you are doing. Not all hard hats are equal, however, and you should always try and get a good quality hard hat to protect yourself from head injuries. The accessories you need will also be determined by the work that you will be doing. 

What is a Hard Hat?

A hard hat is a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects your head. Hard hats reduce head injuries on the job and are made to be very durable and strong. Most modern hard hats are made of a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material or an advanced type of resin. 

Hard hats primarily are made to protect you from impacts to your head, but there are models that also are made to protect you from electrical currents and shocks. 

What Does a Hard Hat Protect Me From?

Hard Hats can shield you from dangers other than crashes and shocks. Some of these dangers consist of:

Recognize that not all risks may be avoided by wearing a hard hats, and that your company may have additional PPE requirements. To achieve the greatest level of safety, use all PPE available for your task, not simply a hard hat. 

Who Needs to Wear Hard Hats?

Hard hats are necessary for certain jobs but not all. Your requirement to wear a hard hat will be largely influenced by the sort of work you undertake. For instance, unless there is no potential for a head injury, all construction workers must wear hard hats. 

Employees are not required by OSHA to wear hard hats. However, OSHA expects employers to make the decision about whether or not their employees should wear hard hats and whether or not there is a danger of head injury at work. 

Other professions that frequently demand a hard hat include some of the following:

When Should Hard Hats Be Worn?

If there is even a remote chance that you are working in an area where something could fall and strike you in the head, you should wear a hard hat, always. Even taking off your hard hat for a minute could be potentially dangerous in certain types of workplaces. To demonstrate the importance of wearing a hard hat at all times, consider the following story:

Troy, a door installer, was working with a demolition crew to modify a passenger elevator. The concrete floor of the elevator shaft had to be removed and the basement door had to be rehung. Troy was removing debris on the first floor to an outside collection point, which required him to move through a location with two overhead swing stage scaffolds. He knew there were brick masons on the scaffolds, repairing the facade, but decided he wouldn’t be there long and didn’t need a hard hat. While attempting to move through this area, Troy was struck in the head by a falling brick, fracturing his skull. Although he was rushed to the hospital right away, he would end up dying from a traumatic brain injury later that day.

Troy was not wearing a hard hat in this incident. Had he been wearing one, he may have suffered a concussion at the very worst. Troy was aware that he was working somewhere with overhead hazards, and yet had decided to not wear a hard hat. 

When a hard hat should be worn is an easy question to answer: always. Only if there is absolutely no chance of overhead hazards should you not wear a hard hat. 

What Are Hard Hats made of?

The very first hard hats in the United States were made of leather in the late 1890’s leading into the early 1900’s. During World War I, many soldiers wore steel helmets, which sparked the idea of metal helmets that could be used to improve industry safety. This started the production of metal hard hats in the 1920’s up until the 1940’s. 

From there the material would change over the next decade to a Bakelite/resin composite material and then to fiberglass. In the 1950’s, most hard hats were generally made from molded thermoplastic. This significantly reduced both the weight and the cost of hard hats, without compromising their ability to protect the wearer’s head. 

Some hard hats today are still made of fiberglass or molded thermoplastics. But most modern hard hats are made from non-conductive, high-density polyethylene. It isn’t uncommon, however, to see hard hats made of different materials as well. 

What Styles of Hard Hats Are There?

There are several different types of hard hats available. Hard hats come in a variety of designs and are used for various tasks. Depending on the task you are performing, numerous accessories that come with hard hats offer additional protection. Here, we’ll talk about some of the most popular hard hat variations and the functions they each have.

Brim Hard Hat

A hard hat with a brim on the front, as the name indicates, is referred to as one with a brim. This protrudes just enough to give the wearer a tiny bit of eye protection. These hard hats are perfect for outdoor jobs where there is a significant likelihood of sun exposure. 

Full-Brim Hard Hat

Similar to a brim hat, a full-brim hat has a brim that wraps completely around the hard hat. Full-brim hard hats are more suited to deflecting rain away from the head and face than only shielding the user from the sun. 

Cap Style Hard Hat

These hard hats are similar to hard hats with brims, but the brim is often longer and offers additional facial protection. They feature an appearance that is quite similar to a baseball cap or other hats with a lengthy visor on the front.

Ventilated Hard Hats

To let air in and keep your head cool while working, these hard hats contain vents on the sides near the brim. If you’re working outside in hot weather, they are quite wonderful. These hard hats are frequently used by construction workers who perform their work in locations free from electrical risks.

There are many different types of suspension systems used with hard hats for adjusting to the wearer’s head size and for making the hard hat more comfortable. The suspension is also responsible for creating a gap between the outer shell of the hard hat and the wearer’s head. This way when it takes an impact, the shell absorbs most of the force and eliminates or reduces the amount of force that the wearer’s head takes. 

The suspension system is adjusted at the nape strap, a part of the system located above the nape of the neck at the back of the head. The three most common systems are:

The suspension system is the same for creating the gap between the outer shell and the wearer’s head, but the suspension system can vary in how it adjusts. It is all a matter of personal preference and doesn’t necessarily make a difference in how effective the hard hat is.

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. Some examples of these accessories include:

Can I Wear a Bump Cap Instead of a Hard Hat?

Bump caps are not approved by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Because OSHA relies on the standards of ANSI regarding head protection, OSHA does not count a bump cap as a hard hat. Bump caps simply do not offer sufficient protection employees need from falling objects and can only protect employees’ heads from minor impacts. 

How to Wear a Hard Hat

Hard hats usually have suspension straps that help you adjust the hard hat to fit snugly on your head. A well-fitting hard hat does not blind, slip, or fall off. Be sure that there is proper space between the shell and the suspension straps. This is to provide ventilation and impact distribution. 

After purchasing a hard hat, ensure that it is comfortable, fits properly, and does not irritate your skin. There are different thickness options and material options for suspension straps, so find what works best for you when choosing a hard hat.  

Am I Required to Wear My Hard Hat a Certain Way?

OSHA only asks that employees wear hard hats when there is danger of head injury in their workplace. OSHA does not regulate how you wear your hard hat. Some employees like to wear the hard hat backwards. Some hard hats can be worn backwards while others cannot. 

Certain brim and cap style hats can be worn backwards to protect your neck from the shade, but then expose your face. It all comes down to preference, but there is no requirement for how you need to wear it unless your employer says otherwise. 

Know however, that some hard hats cannot be worn more than one way and these hard hats should not be worn another way. If it can be worn backwards, it will have a “reverse donning arrow” and wearing instructions from the manufacturer. 

Classification of Hard Hats

ANSI separates hard hats into different classes rated for protection against electrical hazards. They are as follows:

There are also two types of hard hats that classify what kind of impacts they are rated for. 

Colors of Hard Hats

OSHA does not regulate the colors of hard hats or their designation. However, the colors of hard hats can be significant, especially in the construction industry. In certain work environments, they can designate what role the person wearing them has in the workplace. The colors and their meanings are:

You should wear the right color hard hat for your role in the workplace unless your employer has determined that color coding with hard hats to be unnecessary. 

Can Class G and Class E Hard Hats Be Ventilated?

Unfortunately, ventilation on class G and class E hard hats would be counterproductive in preventing electrical shocks to the head. There are no class G or class E hard hats that are ventilated for this reason. The only class of ventilated hard hats that are available for OSHA-aligned use are class C hard hats. 

What is the Best Hard Hat for Me?

The hard hat that is most appropriate for the task you do is the ideal hard hat for you. As was already mentioned, not all hard hats are approved for use when working with electricity. Others don’t, while some feature brims to shield your face from the sun. When searching for the ideal hard hat , options like these should be taken into account. 

As a general rule, construction workers wear Class G hard hats since the task may expose them to electrical hazards. Of course, electricians wear Class E hard hats . When choosing a hard hat (and accessories), consider the risks and/or environmental conditions you could be exposed to. 

Top Recommended Hard Hats

Many of these hard hats that fall under the top rated and recommended are the best for certain jobs or industries. This means that one hard hat is not necessarily better than another, but might be better for a certain employee or profession that requires a hard hat for the specific type of work. 

Which Material is the Best for Hard Hats?

Any material that fits ANSI standards for hard hats is acceptable. There are many different materials that can be used, all of which can affect the cost. However, understanding which materials typically fall under which class of hard hat is important in determining which hard hat is best for you.

A few companies have started using carbon fiber and Kevlar as their main composite for their hard hats. These hard hats are ANSI aligned and made with aerospace-grade carbon fiber and Kevlar. Learn more about thisnew hard hat tech.

How Much Do Hard Hats Cost?

On average, type 1 hard hats cost around $30 each. Type 2 hard hats tend to cost more, around $50 each. There are more expensive models and cheaper models of both types, but quality is what matters most. A more expensive hard hat does not always mean a higher quality or stronger impact-rated hard hat. 

Usually, a hard hat may be more expensive because it comes with certain accessories or comes in a special design or color. Hard hats with face shields built for welders, for example, will be significantly more expensive than traditional construction hard hats. 

Hard hat’s material can also affect the cost. For example, kevlar and carbon fiber hard hats tend to be more expensive than ABS and resin coated hard hats. 

Where Should I Buy Hard Hats From?

It doesn’t matter much where you buy your hard hat from, so long as it meets the ANSI/OSHA Requirements needed for your workplace. Different sellers will have different prices and options, so you don’t have to settle for something less than what you need. There are many viable options from popular online retailers like Amazon, and also from local businesses like Harbor Freight.

Buying them directly from the manufacturer is not a bad idea, but will not make a difference in how much you pay unless you plan on buying them in bulk. 

Hard Hat Inspections

It is important to keep your hard hat clean and inspect your hard hat prior to work everyday. 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 overtime. 

When Should I Replace My Hard Hat?

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. Dispose of that hard hat and get a new one before continuing work. Any small crack or break in the hard hat, 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 sufficiently. 

Another good way to tell that your hard hat should be replaced is if it loses its glossy texture. This is a clear indication of UV damage. 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. Suspensions should be inspected and replaced every 12 months. Using an expired hard hat could compromise your safety.

Do Hard Hats Expire?

Hard Hats don’t technically expire, but as a rule of thumb, any hard hat that goes undamaged should still be replaced every five years. This means regardless of how they look or how little wear they may have, they should be replaced five years after the manufacture date. 

To check and see when the hat was manufactured, flip your hat over and look on the inside. Usually, a stamped date will be on the brim, but it’s possible that it will be elsewhere on the inside. The stamp looks like a circular pattern of numbers. The number in the middle is the year of manufacture, and the arrow in the middle will point to the number that is the month of the year it was manufactured. The other numbers are the serial number of the hard hat and can be ignored. 

Can I Modify My Hard Hat?

Modifying your 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 this. 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 will deem a hard hat unsafe for use.