Your Hard Hat has an Expiration Date

Yes, Your Hard Hat has an Expiration Date

What do a carton of milk, bread, paint, and your hardhat all have in common? Expiration dates.

Your hard hat is a very important part of your personal protective equipment. They’re the only piece of equipment made to protect you from blows to the head, and shouldn’t just be used in hazardous workplaces with lots of imminent danger—But any job that presents a risk for head injury.

Which injuries are you at risk for when you don’t wear your helmet? Some of the possible injuries that might not cross your mind right away include:

  • Bruises, bumps & cuts that cause physical impact
  • Heatstroke, caused by overexposure UV rays
  • Burns: Nobody wants their hair to catch fire. Your head can get burnt when in contact with molten metal, cutting oxyacetylene, manufacturing metal, machining, welding, or any type of work involving fire or high-heat.
  • Burns, electric shock and electrocution caused by active conductors or electrical loads.

 

HARD HATS: DO’S AND DON’TS 

What are the do’s and don’ts of hard hats?

DO   

  • Wear the right type of hard hat for the type of work being done.
  • Be mindful of potential electrical issues onsite, and choose your headwear accordingly.
  • If possible, choose a hard hat with a smooth shell as objects will deflect, or slide off them easily—Hard hats with ridges can actually cause your headwear to be knocked over more easily.
  • Select a thick shell (at least 2mm), especially if performing heavy work.
  • Use an adjustable chinstrap, especially if there is a risk of your hard hat falling.
  • Replace your hard hat when signs of scratches, gouges or wear emerge, and if the hard hat has been struck—Even if no signs of wear appear.

DON’T

  • Wear just any hardhat—They are not created equal.
  • Modify your hard hat (ex. drilling holes). Try to purchase hard hats that have available attachments or accessories for the type of work to be done.
  • Paint the hard hat shell—Paint solvents can make plastic headwear brittle & more likely to crack, and it can even hide cracks that might have developed. Check manufacturer recommendations, which will tell you if and which parts of the helmet you may be able to paint.
  • Use metal labels on G or E class headwear – Metal labels can negatively impact the voltage protection these hard hats provide (learn more about hard hat classes below).

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HARD HATS? 

The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Read on…

In Canada, most personal protective equipment (PPE) follows the standards (standard Z94.1, to be exact) set by the CSA (The Canadian Standards Association)—This includes hard hats. There are two types, and three classes for hard hats.

Two hard hat types are:

  • Type 1: Reduces the impact of dropped objects & piercing to head.
  • Type 2: Protects from impact, penetration at the crown (top) and laterally (sides and back).

The CSA identifies three different types of hard hats, which are based on their level of protection and the type of work each is best suited for. These three categories are:

  1. G—General usage: Recommended for nearly every workplace. G-class hard hats protect against impacts and blows, resist voltages up to 2,200 volts.
  2. E—Electrical trades: Designed to resist impact, penetration, and protection against electric shock from high-voltage electrical conductors. In experiments, E-class hard hats resisted up to 20,000 volts from a ground connection. E-class helmets contain no metal and are typically made of high-density polyethylene and polycarbonate, with no holes, fasteners or metal. The E-class helmets’ suspension is made of vinyl, leather and/or nylon and resists electrical shocks. These are suitable for people who work in: transportation (railways, specifically), mining, forestry, manufacturing, construction & industrial trades. An E-class hard hat should be worn anytime work is done near an area that could expose you to active conductors or high-voltage electrical loads.
  3. C—Conducting headwear: Only C-class hard hats are ever made with aluminum, and they have no electrical rating. C-class hard hats aren’t meant to protect from electrical conductors, and may even have ventilation to provide extra comfort and breath-ability.

WHY DO HARD HATS EXPIRE?

The reason hard hats expire is pretty simple—They become less effective over time.

Since hard hat manufactures must meet safety standards, they are created to be extremely durable—However, they do not last forever. Depending on your work environment, your hard hat might need to be replaced at different rates.

Things that can affect how long your hard hat will last include:

  •  Sunlight exposure
  •  Temperature extremes
  •  Chemical exposure
  •  Sweat, liquids, and other substances coming in contact with your hard hat
  •  Daily vs. occasional use

The best way to determine if your hard had requires replacement is through daily inspections. These should be performed before each use.

Things to look for in daily inspections:

  •  Cracks, dents or cuts in the hat’s shell
  •  Cracks or tears in the hat’s suspension
  •  Cut or frayed suspension straps
  •  Chalky, dull or crazing pattern on the outer shell – This can be a sign of damage sustained by heat, sunlight or chemical exposer.

Remember, the suspension of your hard hat is actually just as important as the outside (known as the shell). Hard hats have an inner layer that provides shock absorption—Without this, your hard hat can actually do more to damage your head than save it.

If your hard hat is showing signs of any of these things, it should be replaced and disposed of, to avoid further use.

WHEN DO HARD HATS EXPIRE? 

Most hard hats will include manufacturer’s replacement recommendations. For example, 3M hard hats come with a suggestion to replace the hat’s suspension after 12 months of use and the shell every two to five years of use.

Be sure to take note of your hard hat’s replacement recommendations and ensure you are keeping on top of replacing the necessary parts in a timely manner. However, no matter how long in the future the replacement recommendation date is, you must continue to perform inspections before each use, as these recommendations should ONLY be followed if your hard hat shows no sign of expiry before then.

It is very important to remember that if your hard hat sustains an impact of any kind, dispose of it immediately, even if there is no visible damage. Impacts can cause the materials to become weakened, and even if there’s no visible damage, it may no longer be able to provide the same level of protection.


hard hat and safety gloves in toolbox


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PPE-volution – How the Golden Gate Bridge Inspired PPE

Brooklyn bridge workers

America’s Industrial Revolution and ingenuity brought about many important advances in worker safety and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).

At the start of the American Industrial Revolution, worker safety and health were nowhere near the priority they are today. As manufacturing grew, so too did worker injuries and deaths. The idea of safe work grew slowly from a small glimmer to a bright flame inside the collective consciousness of the American workforce.

Although the creation of OSHA regulations was many decades away, the evolution of PPE progressed on its own with the creation of new types of protective devices and advancements in pre-existing devices. Much of this early PPE had a major influence on worker safety’s advancement and will continue to do so.

Hard-Headed PPE Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, built in 1933, is an excellent early example of PPE’s influence on safety. Constructing a cable-suspension bridge that was 4,200 feet long was a task that had not been attempted before, one that presented many hazards. The project’s chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, was committed to making its construction as safe as possible.

The bridge’s construction played a particularly significant role in the successful development of one form PPE: It was the first major project that required all of its workers to wear hard hats. Although the hard hat was in its infancy at the time, head protection wasn’t new; gold miners had learned long before the importance of taking steps to protect against falling debris. Michael Lloyd, head protection manager at Bullard – a company in business since 1898, said many early miners wore bowler hats, which were hard felt hats with rounded crowns. Often dubbed “Iron Hats,” these were stuffed with cotton to create a cushioning barrier against blows.

Inspired by the design of his “doughboy” Army helmet, Edward Bullard returned home from World War I and began designing what was to become known as the “hard-boiled hat.” The hat was made of layered canvas that was steamed to impregnate it with resin, sewn together, and varnished into its molded shape. Bullard was awarded the patent in 1919. Later that year, the Navy approached Bullard with a request for some sort of head protection for its shipyard workers. The hat’s first internal suspension was added to increase its effectiveness, and the product’s use quickly spread to lumber workers, utility workers, and construction workers. By the time of the Hoover Dam’s construction in 1931, many workers were voluntarily wearing the headgear. Soon after, the Golden Gate Bridge construction provided a true test of the hard hat’s protective capability because falling rivets were one of the major dangers during the project.

Other innovations came in the form of different materials. In 1938, Bullard released the first aluminum hard hat. It was more durable and comfortable, but it conducted electricity and did not hold up well to the elements. In the ’40s, phenolic hats became available as a predecessor to fiberglass hats. Thermoplastics became the preferred material a decade later for many head protection products; it’s still used by many manufacturers today.
PPE-Hard-hats
From Left to right: Vintage Bullard Miners hats, Vintage Bullard Hard Boiled Hard Hat 1930’s (Used on the Golden Gate Bridge Project, Hard Boiled aluminum Safety hard hat w/Liner and a current day hard hat

In 1953, Bullard introduced the process of injection-molded hats. “Before, [thermoplastic] was kind of laid out on a mold. In the injection-mold process you actually have a closed mold that you pump into. It makes a more consistent helmet and a higher-quality product, which in the long run is also going to be the same thickness all the way through. It’s going to be a safer helmet,” Lloyd said.

Despite the hard hat’s effectiveness and relatively low cost, its use wasn’t officially required at most job sites until the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. OSHA’s head protection standard, 1910.135, obligated employees to protect workers and instructed manufacturers and employers to turn to the American National Standards Institute’s Z89.1 standard for the appropriate usage guidelines.

Many new materials have since been created, such as the use of General Electric’s high-heat-resistant polyphthalate-carbonate resin in firefighters’ helmets. New hard hats have been designed that provide side protection, which are designated type 2 hats in ANSI Z89.1. “A hard hat was originally designed to protect if something falls from that sky and hits you in the head,” Lloyd said. “But what happens if you run into something? What happens if you bend over and something hits your helmet?”

Because hard hats are a mature market, except for the development of other materials, most innovations will be comfort features and technologies enabling them to withstand different temperature extremes, Lloyd predicted. Easier-to-use designs are appearing that allow users to adjust a hard hat’s suspension with one hand. In the last couple of years, manufacturers have come up with different types of vented helmets designed to help workers keep cool. Hats are accessorized with attachable face shields, visors, and ear muffs, and some have perspiration-absorbing liners. Some come with AM/FM radios, walkie-talkies, and camcorders.

Netting a Safe Return
Although primitive by today’s standards, the solution for the problem of falls also was addressed during construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Three years into the construction, delays had convinced Strauss to invest more than $130,000 (these were Depression-era dollars, remember) on a vast net similar to those used in a circus. Suspended under the bridge, it extended 10 feet wider and 15 feet farther than the bridge itself. This gave workers the confidence to move quickly across the slippery steel construction. There were reports of workers being threatened with immediate dismissal if found purposely diving into the net.

Strauss’ net was heralded as a huge success until the morning of Feb. 16, 1937, when the west side of a stripping platform bearing a crew of 11 men broke free from its moorings. After tilting precariously for a moment, the other side broke free and the platform collapsed into the net, which contained two other crew members who were scraping away debris. One platform worker, Tom Casey, managed to jump and grab a bridge beam before the platform fell; he hung there until rescued. The net held the platform and the others for a few seconds before it ripped and fell into the water. Two of the 12 men who fell survived.

Read the original article here.

At Hercules SLR we provide a wide range of PPE solutions, from Lanyards and harnesses, to hard hats and rescue equipment.  We also repair, service and certify PPE equipment. We stock leading industry brands and can provide you with expert advise on your PPE options depending on your project. Call us on 1-877-461-4876 for more information.

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