The chances of seeing a construction worker without a hard hat on his head are very slim. Understandably so, since such a hat offers protection against the head injuries to which a worker is very prone in a hazardous environment.
It may look trivial, but when you’re at risk of having something fall on your head every 5 minutes, it becomes a crucial item of your equipment. This way, it’s not difficult to understand why the most comfortable hard hat will be your best friend if you’re working in a place that warrants you to wear it.
Most people don’t know much about hard hats. They just wear them, and that’s it. If you want to find out everything about them, from material to types and brands, then this guide will definitely come in handy.
A hard hat is a helmet that protects a worker against getting injuries from debris and objects falling on his head. It also protects him against electric shocks and other unpredictable dangers.
As the years passed, this type of construction hard hat has become increasingly modern. Therefore, it can be endowed with numerous accessories that increase the level of safety: flashlights, visors, chinstraps, head warmers, and mirrors.
The hard hat comes in different sizes and colors, with the latter playing a role in telling who is who on a construction site, for instance.
Hard hats have been used since World War I when they were made of leather and occasionally from steel. The “inventor” of the hard hats as we know them is Dickinson Bullard, an entrepreneur that specialized in providing equipment for miners.
This was taking place in the late 19th century. Gradually, hard hats became more secure and offered an improved safety for workers. By the early 20th century, workers were compelled to wear them on construction sites and docks.
In a short period, hard hats went through a transition, material-wise: leather gave way to canvas, then to aluminum, fiberglass and them softening plastic. Rudimentary helmets were obviously used before Bullard came up with his model that would spread like wildfire.
Nowadays, hard hats are made according to the same principles they were made decades ago, but they are even safer. For instance, there are helmets that can absorb up to 8.ooo-9.000 volts, and even more.
Constructions represent an unpredictable industry. Workers are faced with daily hazards, from falling from high altitudes to being hit in the head by all sorts of materials. The same thing applies to electricians and linemen, who risk electrocution.
Head injuries are lethal more often than not. If not, your life can still be changed forever. The fact that even the best lightweight hard hat can make the difference between life and death should be enough of a reason to start wearing it, especially if you work in an environment that is replete with health risks.
A hard hat is not as uncomfortable as it looks, especially if it’s a state-of-the-art one. Make the right call and start wearing it when at work. You know what they say, it’s better to prevent than to cure. We subscribe to that saying wholeheartedly.
Hard hats can be made according to a huge variety of designs. They can even be customized, so there is virtually an endless bulk of choices. The most common ones are round, with a large brim.
Another common design is that of the hats worn by police officers, shaped like regular hats but reinforced with certain hard materials that withstand blows. Some companies are specialized in customizing hard hats, so if you want something out of the ordinary, you can create your dream hard hat with the utmost of ease.
Usually, hard hats are cast or made as 1-piece. Of course, one can add or ask for complementary accessories, about which we will talk later on in this article.
But just for the sake of providing as much information as possible, the most common hard hat can have two parts: the hat itself + a visor or a large brim. Everything else falls in the category of “Accessories.”
In the past, hard hats were made of metal, and they were quite heavy. Nowadays, we have a large choice of materials. For example, one can find a carbon fiber hard hat and a fiberglass hard hat anywhere on the Internet.
Carbon fiber and fiberglass are the most common materials, although aluminum hard hats can still be found on the market. Rigid plastic, too, is a widespread material, especially famous with construction workers, because they are simultaneously light and durable.
A cowboy hard hat is usually made with HDP – high-density polyethylene. The thing about cowboy hard hats is that they are not advised by many suppliers of equipment. They’re stylish, yes, but their form does not make them fit to be worn on construction sites.
This type of hard hat is used by electricians, most of the times, as well as by workers who are exposed to direct and powerful sunlight (thanks to its large brims). Such a hat is perfect for house maintenance and other things that are not especially dangerous.
Hard hats can be classified on the echelons: types, classes, and types of work. There are two main types of hard hats: Type I and Type II. It is really easy to understand them.
A Type I hat will protect a worker from a blow on the top of his head. A piece of wood falling, for example, from a superior story. The Type I hat doesn’t offer any lateral protection. This is where the Type II comes into the play.
A Type II hard hat protects a worker from both lateral impact and impact on the top of his head. To cut it to the chase: it offers full head protection, unlike the Type I.
Classes are applied to electrical hard hats; there are three of them:
E hard hats can protect linemen against a voltage of up to 15,000 volts or even more. The E in the denomination stands for “Electrical.” Bear in mind that only your head is protected with a Class E hard hat, by no means your entire body. Make sure you wear properly insulated equipment.
G hard hats are for general use, hence the “G.” Their protection against high voltages is less efficient than that of electrical hard hats. If you’re working with low voltages, a class G hard hat is perfect, as it can keep you safe if the voltage does not exceed 2,000 volts.
The C stands for “Conductive.” This type of hard hat protects the wearer against impact. Do not use a C class hard hat if you’re working with electricity. It’s a life hazard since most hard hats in this class are made of or at least contain some aluminum. Don’t forget this.
Hard hat stickers are not put randomly. They serve a purpose. Colors, for that matter, are very important, as well. Let’s see the meaning of each color.
As for the stickers, they represent common messages like “Caution,” “Stop,” “Danger” and several other notices. These are important because workers usually perform on various stories of the same building. Instead of shouting to each other, they can look at each other’s hard hats.
These can be customized, so all in all, you can put a sticker with anything you want on your hard hat. If you’re a construction worker, you can consult the manager and ask which signs should go on your helmet. Also, take a look at your coworkers.
The hard hat suspension is a crucial element. Why? Because it absorbs the force of the impact. For instance, let’s imagine that a brick is falling from a story on top of your head. Your head won’t take all that impact because the suspensions will distribute it evenly.
If you’re wondering what exactly the suspension is, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: the suspension is represented by bands that are fixed inside the helmet. When you put it on, the top of your head does not touch the bottom of the helmet.
You should make a choice that suits your work environment because suspension can be weaker on some hard hats. A few millimeters or centimeters will exist between the two, for safety reasons.
As for the types of suspension, there are 4: ratchet suspension (mechanized knobs), pinlock suspension (locked with a pin), touch suspension (it works in the same fashion as a belt) and swing-ratchet (it adjusts itself). All of these can come with 8, 6 or 4 points of sustenance.
As mentioned previously, you can revamp your hard hat with numerous accessories. We’ve already tackled the most important ones, but it doesn’t do any harm to reiterate them:
There are many brands of hard hats on the market. Subsequently, there are multiple manufacturers. You’ve got plenty of options to choose from. If you’re not versed in hard hats, then let me show you the four biggest hard hat manufacturers.
MSA is one of the world leaders in safety products. The company was established in 1914 and has served the entire world ever since. Maybe more than 50% of the helmets you’ll lay eyes on will be MSAs.
Whatever it is you’re needing, you’re bound to find it in their catalog. They provide hearing protections, gas detection kits, head protection items, air purifiers, respirators and many other items that make the lives of the workers so much easier and safer.
MSA hard hats are made of polyethylene, so you can rest assured that you’re going to get the best protection against impact.
Pyramex or Pyramex Safety has become one of the biggest suppliers of safety equipment quite quickly. The company was founded in 1991, so it is pretty recent in comparison with other similar retailers.
They market their safety products worldwide and have been recognized as a trustworthy provider. Pyramex hard hats come in different shapes and sizes, but primarily those with large brims. Their helmets are made of high-density polyethylene, something you should pursue when working in constructions.
Whatever product you’ll buy from them, you simply cannot go wrong with Pyramex. These are highly recommended products.
Grainger, commonly misspelled as “granger” is a huge company and has probably the largest catalog of products until now. The brand offers all sorts of tools, supplies, maintenance items, electrical gear, abrasives, plumbing, etc.
Grainger is truly “industrial.” One of the main objectives of the company is to help other entrepreneurs cut down on their expenses. So far, so good, since Grainger is in business and does not give any sign that it’s going to stop ascending to the top.
Grainger hard hats come in a wide variety, and you will also find a lot of accessories for them. You can find C, E, G helmets on their website.
Safety Works has been in business since 1998. They sell their products under the auspices of numerous brands: West County Gardener, Brahmagloves and Mud. Even though Safety Works is focused more on gardening products, they also provide some of the best helmets.
The greatest advantage about the company is that almost all Safety Works hard hats are with 6-points suspension (offering unwavering protection) and of course, all are made of high-density polyethylene.
Believe it or not, you can wear a hard hat the wrong way. That will subsequently lead to risks of getting injured. Hard hats are not a joke and injuries even less than that. In order to be completely safe, you must know how to use that hard had properly.
Fundamentally, it’s all about the size of the hat. Don’t purchase a helmet that’s larger than your head. First of all, it won’t sit properly, and you’ll have to adjust it every once in a while, which is annoying.
Second of all, it can fall off of your head when you need it most, putting your life in jeopardy. Buy a helmet that fits perfectly on your head. Moreover, make sure it’s comfortable, so you won’t feel the need to throw it away.
You should not wear it with the tip towards the back of the head. This will limit its efficiency in absorbing the shock if something – God forbid – hits you over the head. Strap it under your chin, as you should, and ensure that it is oriented in the right way.
It doesn’t really matter what system of locking it has. It can be a belt or a system that works with a lock – what’s important is that it should be fixed on your head. If it balances to and fro, you’re not doing it right.
What should you adjust to make your hard hat fit properly? The collar, if your hard hat has one. This will make the helmet stay in place and will allow you to do your job without too much hassle.
The most important part of your hard hat is the suspension. If there are any signs that this is faulty, replace it immediately. Without good suspension, you could just as well wear a baseball cap.
The same goes for the shell: does it have any cracks on it? If yes, buy another hat. Don’t play around with this matter, especially if pieces of metal and wood rain from the sky on the construction site.
UV exposure can damage your hat. In the long run, too much sunlight will render it brittle, which is not a good thing. If the color on the outer shell is fading, consider replacing the hat with a brand-new one. Don’t store it anywhere where it is exposed to direct sunlight for hours.
As for the replacement of your hard hat, you should do it once every six months, just to be sure. Yes, you’ll be spending some money, but it’s a necessary expense.
Hard hats are not indestructible. They are affected by sunlight, high temperatures, low temperatures and of course, by impacts.
Inspect your helmet periodically to see if there are any cracks. It doesn’t really matter how small a crack is. Another blow to it might break the helmet in half.
Make the right decision and get a high-quality helmet, the best full brim hard hat, for example. Opt for one that is made with durable materials and withstands the most impact.
So, now you know everything about hard hats. Most people do not wear them when working, but this becomes an obligation when you are a worker on a construction site. Sometimes, it may be uncomfortable, and it could make you all sweaty, but your safety is privileged.
You cannot wipe a concussion with a towel. A hard hat can literally save your life, even though you might not give it the credit it deserves. Do not underestimate something that has the capability of protecting you against impact.
Of all the pieces of work equipment, none is as important as the hard hat.
Now you’re probably considering buying yourself one of these hard hats more than ever, and that’s no easy thing to do. There are simply too many brands out there for you to make sure you’re not flushing your money down the drain. We’ve all been there, so you’re far from being the only one in this situation.
Breathe and relax because I have the solution to your problem. In those that follow, I will provide you with an in-depth buying guide. I’ll teach you about the things you have to take into consideration when hunting for a good hard hat, as well as about a few models you should check out.