Plant.ca

Keep proper hard hat use top of mind

Although masks may be dominating the headlines lately for their role in public safety, you’d be hard pressed to find a more universal workplace safety symbol than the hard hat.

December 10, 2021   CCOHS

Photo: ©eakgrungenerd / Adobe

And with good reason, head injuries, which a hard hat can be designed to help prevent, can be among the most life-altering for workers.

But not all hard hats are created equal, and they require regular cleaning and care to effectively protect workers from injury. Employers have a responsibility to train and educate workers on the proper selection, fit, maintenance, and use of all personal protective equipment.

Here’s how to get started:

Why wear a hard hat?

Your workers know that hard hat use is mandatory in certain areas of the plant, but do they know why?

A deeper understanding of the hard hat’s function, such as protecting the worker from the impact of falling objects or tools and, when designed to do so, reducing the risk of shock from contact with electrical hazards, is a great motivator to make sure their hard hats are in good working condition.

Advertisement

You can also help drive home the importance of proper hard hat use by outlining some of the preventable injuries that occur due to improper hard hat use, such as injuries like cuts and bruises, to the more serious concussions, and traumatic brain injuries.

The right hard hat for your plant

Some workplaces require everyone to wear a hard hat. The class and type of headwear will depend on your workplace’s risk assessment of the work being performed and on your jurisdiction’s legislation.

Most legislation in Canada references CSA Standard Z94.1 Industrial protective headwear – performance, selection, care, and use. In the absence of a requirement, this standard is a good guidance document to follow.

It’s good practice to include hard hat training as part of your onboarding process and as part of ongoing training. Even the most experienced worker will benefit from a review on proper fit and care. They may also need to upgrade to the required type of hard hat for your workplace.

The right fit

Hard hats should be assembled and fit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The hard hat is properly secured when the headband fits comfortably and is tightened so that it’s unlikely to fall off your head when you bend forward. Nor should the hat shift when you turn your head side to side. Secure any liners within the hat. Bandanas, welder’s caps, and other accessories should only be worn if they are approved by the manufacturer and do not affect the fit.

Cleaning and maintenance

Clean hard hats last longer and are more easily inspected for damage. Teach workers to avoid the use of abrasives or petroleum-based products as they will weaken the plastic. The best cleaning product is a mild soap and warm water. They should focus on the outer shell as well as the liner to remove any perspiration or oils.

When to replace

Inspect shells and suspensions daily before use. Look for cracks, dents, cuts or any other signs of damage and wear. Hard hats exposed to heat, sunlight, or chemicals may become chalky, dull, or less flexible. Instruct workers that if any of these signs appear, they must not use the hard hat and should replace it immediately. Headwear should also be replaced if it is struck by an object, even if there is no visible damage. Make it a part of your incident reporting procedure to follow up with the worker about replacement in these instances.

Check the manufacturer’s date codes on shells and suspensions to make sure they have not exceeded their maximum lifespan. For the shell, this length is generally five years, though it may be less with heavy use. Replace the suspension at least every 12 months.

Staying alert

Encourage your workers to inspect and care for their hard hats as part of your workplace’s daily routine. Include hard hat training part as part of your onboarding and ongoing training processes, so all your workers know when it’s time to replace their hats. Plus, they can look out for their co-workers whose hats may be ready for replacement or aren’t being worn properly. Send regular, company-wide reminders about hard hat maintenance.

A hard hat can save your workers from serious injury if worn correctly and properly maintained, but it is most effective when combined with a comprehensive health and safety program, within a proactive culture of identifying and addressing potential hazards.

Classes of head wear can include:
Type 1 – protection from impact and penetration at the crown (top) only
Type 2 – protection from impact, penetration at the crown (top) and laterally (sides and back)

Each type is also available in the following classes:
Class E (20 000 V electrical rating) – provides head protection against high voltage conductors
Class G (2200 V electrical rating) – provides head protection against low voltage conductors (general trades)
Class C (no electrical rating)

________________
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well-being — physical, psychosocial, and mental health — of workers in Canada by providing information, advice, education, and management systems and solutions that support the prevention of injury and illness.