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Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Hard Hats

 In Safety

Any workplace is required to ensure the safety of the employees from possible head and bodily injuries. When you work in an industrial or construction site, you should always protect your head with the right headgear.

Commonly known as a hard hat, this headgear is a necessity in any work environment where there is a risk of the employees suffering from head trauma and injury. For instance, in construction sites, falling objects are a major concern. Industrial workers can bump their heads into pipes, beams, and other fixed, hard objects.

Hard hats are also useful in preventing electrical hazards. Wearing this particular headgear can provide protection against water and chemical splashes, rain, heat, and ultraviolet light.

A Little Bit of Background

Did you know that shipbuilders were the first people who wore hard hats? These workers covered their heads with the earliest version of the hat. It had tar on them, which they would lay under the sun for curing. Then, the shipbuilders would wear hats to protect them from objects that could drop from ship decks.

The first hard hat is documented to have been created in 1912 for the Kingdom of Bohemia. However, there is not enough evidence to prove that this was the true origin of the hard hat. Protective headgear was already present in the US since 1898 or even before that. A company in California that Edward Dickinson owned sold leather hats to protect the workers’ heads.

Later on, his son came home with a steel helmet from the First World War. Edward further improved the helmet and later patented a hard hat in 1919. This hat was made with steamed canvas and covered with black paint. It was when the US Navy appointed Edward’s company to develop a protective cap for the workers.

Hard Hats Today

Hard hats have improved significantly from using metal and fibreglass to rigid plastic. Although the durability of metal and other materials was unquestionable, they were uncomfortable and heavy. Rigid plastic helped make the hats more convenient for the wearers.

Some newer cap-style hats have rolled edges, which allow them to drain rainwater off the bill of the hat instead of the wearer’s neck. Another type of hard hat is known as the cowboy hard hat, which resembles a cowboy hat. In Australia, many organisations do not let the workers use these hats.

Companies would often include their names or logos (sometimes both), along with other messages on the front of the hat. These hard hats today have become quite versatile that you can fit other accessories in them, including a visor, welding helmet, earmuffs, headlamps, and chinstrap.

Hard Hats in Australia

Just like in other countries, hard hats or helmets are a requirement in Australia, particularly in the construction industry. It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that workers wear the helmet in the workplace. If you are self-employed, the same rules apply. Meanwhile, the employee is also required to wear the hard hat properly.

Regulation 3.36 states that safety helmets should be worn at the construction site. It is a necessity whenever the worker is performing contractor duties, as well as during times when there is a risk of any object hitting the head of the worker.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996, employers should ensure that the working environment is safe. Risks in the workplace should be identified first. Some workplaces are considered high-risk, especially construction sites. They typically involve a risk of the worker falling more than two metres, while others work near pressurised piping, chemicals, fuel, and electrical components.

If the employer finds there is a risk of any head trauma or injury, it is essential to provide a hard hat or helmet that complies with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1801.

How Hard Hats Work

When you wear a hard hat that meets the standard mentioned above, it can help you stay protected against head injuries. The hat has a hard outer shell that can take impacts. Inside, it comes with a shock-absorbing material that spreads the impact. Therefore, the force you will feel will be greatly minimised.

According to the Construction Industry Profile statistics, 13,401 workers lost their lives in 2013 while at the construction site. Out of these fatalities, 15% of the deaths were due to electrocution, 12% of the workers got hit by a moving object, and 11% died because of a falling object that hit their heads.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 has made sure these issues are a priority. Preventing deaths and injuries can be possible with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) including hard hats.

How to Choose the Right Hard Hat

Before buying a helmet, it is important to know a few things first. For instance, the colour is an essential part of your decision. In many organisations, you cannot just use any colour of hard hat because they have meanings:

  • White hard hat

    This hard hat is intended for foremen, supervisors, and engineers.

  • Brown hard hat

    If a hard hat is brown, it is typically designed for welders. Those who work in high heat environments may wear this helmet.

  • Green hard hat

    Occasionally, green hard hats signify that the worker is new in the construction site. However, it is mostly worn by a safety inspector.

  • Yellow hard hat

    Most operators and general labourers wear the yellow hard hat.

  • Blue hard hat

    The blue-coloured hat is for carpenters and technical advisers. Temporary workers can also be seen wearing them in some firms.

  • Orange hard hat

    Visitors and new employees usually wear the orange hard hat. In some cases, road workers wear them as well.

It should be noted though that there is no official standard for these coloured hard hats. Some organisations choose to use just one colour, while others have specific meanings as well. All employers should provide this information to the employees, especially if there is a colour code to follow.

well used hard hats

When you are ready to select the hard hat, here are some tips that will help you arrive at the best decision for you:

  1. Pick a comfortable hard hat

    It makes sense that you should only wear a hard hat that fits your head snugly. It should stay on your head as you move without you trying to fix it every few minutes. For instance, this MSA V-Gard Brim Hard Hat comes with self-adjusting straps, which allow you to achieve superior fit.

    Today’s innovations have made headgear more comfortable as they use composite materials. They are also designed to stay light yet sturdy, so they do not get in the way as you work.

  2. Choose a hard hat that uses new materials.

    Composite materials, along with ABS plastics, can withstand impacts while staying lightweight on top of your head. These hats are designed to be hard and sturdy, but they should not be heavy. Take a look at this hard hat from Pro Choice that uses ABS plastic and HDPE/polyester for the harness.

  3. Consider the number of suspensions.

    The suspension of the hard hat refers to the internal framework of the headgear. It is an important element to think about before you decide on the hat because it absorbs and spreads the shock upon impact.

    A hard hat would often have four, six, or eight suspensions. These numbers show how many connections there are between the hat and the suspension. This hat comes with six-point suspensions, meaning it can spread weight and shock to a wider area. Furthermore, it maximises comfort and stability while wearing the hat.

  4. Select the right type of hard hat.

    In Australia and New Zealand, the standard AS/NZS 1801:1998 specifies all the requirements when it comes to protective helmets in the workplace. Everyone from builders to construction workers to shipbuilders and many other employees should have a hard hat, as required by the employer or company.

    According to the standard, there are three different types of protective helmets. They are categorised based on their materials, construction, shell, and hardness. Some workplaces need a heavier duty hard hat than others, which is why the type should be selected properly.

    Here are the classifications:

    • Type 1 hard hats are for the general industrial trade.
    • Type 2 helmets are for workplaces that are exposed to constant high heat.
    • Type 3 helmets are for workers who are involved in bushfire fighting.

    Knowing the type of hard hat to use will filter out the other options you do not need.

  5. Think about other considerations.

    There are plenty of hard hat designs, including a peakless hard hat. You should choose this hard hat if you often look up and you want an unobstructed view of the sky or whenever you look up. A peaked hard hat is usually for those who require protection for their eyes. Those who are always outside under the sun need shade for their eyes, making a peaked hat a great option.

    Meanwhile, a full brim hat offers full protection. It is considered the best choice for those who need to keep away from the dangers of falling objects hitting their heads. These hats are also useful against UV exposure and water-shedding.

The most important takeaway from this blog, is that you need to have the right protection for your work purposes. Here at The Workers Shop, we have a huge range of Hard Hats to suit your needs.

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