How to Comply with Head Protection Requirements

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: February 21st, 2012
Topics: PPE |

OSHA head protection requirements are contained in Section 1910.135 of the General Industry regulations. Here’s an overview of the requirements and how to comply with them.

OSHA Head Protection Equipment Requirements

The OSHA Standard for head protection requires that all head protection meet the criteria established in the ANSI Z89.1 Standard (1986, 1997, and 2003), which requires protection to a worker’s head from impact of objects falling onto a worker’s head as well as situations when a worker might bump into an object such as a pipe or low hanging ceiling. They also require protection from impact with electrical conductors.

The OSHA Standard for the Construction Industry, found at 29 CFR 1926.100, also requires head protection to be in compliance with ANSI Z89.1, but it references 1969 version. However, as with eye protection, most head protection purchased from vendors will meet the most recent ANSI Standard criteria.

Hard Hat Selection Requirements

The typical hazards to a worker’s head include:

  • Falling objects;
  • Bumping their head against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; and
  • Contact with exposed electrical conductors.

Hard hats vary by the type of hazard they protect against. Some are designed to protect against falling objects, while others are designed to protect against bumping into objects and some protect against contact with exposed electrical conductors.

If you let workers purchase their own hard hats, make sure the hard hats they buy meet the ANSI or CSA Standard. An indication of this is found inside the shell of the hat.

Classifications of Hard Hats

Hard hats are classified by two type categories of protection, impact and electrical.

Impact Hard Hats: There are two types of impact protection hard hats:

  • Type 1: Protect heads that may bump against fixed objects, but do not protect against falling objects or electrical shock.
  • Type II: Designed for general service (e.g., mining, building construction, shipbuilding, lumbering, and manufacturing) and provide good impact protection as well as protection from bumping a head against a fixed object.

Electrical hard hats: These hard hats are designed to provide both impact protection as well as contact with exposed electrical conductors such as high-voltage shock and electrical burns. There are three classes of hard hats in this category:

  • Class G (General), for contact with low voltage conductors; previously known as Type A,
  • Class E (Electrical), for contact with high voltage conductors; previously known as Type B, and
  • Class C (Conductive), which provide no protection from electrical hazards.

The hard hats you purchase will have both a Type and a Class, depending upon your needs. Hard hats also come with full or partial brims as well as the ability to attach ear muffs and/or face shields.

Proper Use and Care of Hard Hats

Head protection must be inspected to ensure that it’s kept free from damage or defects that impair its effectiveness. Hard hats found to be defective should be immediately removed from service.

It’s also important to ensure workers properly care for and use their hard hats. Thus, for example, caution workers not to cover their hard hat with too many stickers or paint as it impedes the ability to notice cracks or damage. Head protection is also typically designed to be worn with the brim facing forward and not as a kind of baseball catcher’s helmet.

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