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November 1, 2012 - When I teach OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour classes for construction and general industry, we inevitably talk about head protection; and that means we discuss hard hats. Over the years I’ve noticed there are five questions about hard hats that are repeatedly asked by trainees during that section of the OSHA training class. However, the Federal OSHA standards on head protection do not directly address these five questions (although some of the state OSHA programs might). And if you’ve ever researched the Federal OSHA letters of interpretation about hard hat use in construction (see list) or general industry (see list), you’ve found they generally defer to the hard hat manufacturers on issues about proper use and care, recommending employers follow their guidance.

So I thought I’d list these five questions that often come up about hard hats, and provide the answers that are provided by three of the major manufacturers of hard hats on their web sites. And you may be surprised (or maybe not) to find that the manufacturers are not always in agreement on the answers! Please note these recommendations are based on these manufacturers’ web sites as of the date this blog was created; always check the manufacturer’s web site as well as the printed materials that come with your hard hat for their latest recommendations. And be aware that in some cases, the manufacturers’ guidance listed here are restricted to a particular model or type of hard hat; in those cases, information about a different model of hard hat will have to be obtained from that manufacturer.

QUESTION #1 – Can I wear a ball cap beneath my hard hat?

MSA V-Gard: “The use of a baseball cap may interfere with the capability of the suspension of our helmets to work properly during an impact. Therefore, it is MSA’s recommendation that you should not place a baseball cap between your head and the suspension.”

BULLARD: “Bullard hard hats/caps meet or exceed ANSI Z89.1-2003 standards for industrial worker protective headwear. Currently, there are no requirements or tests to examine the effect that a cap or any other object worn inside a hard hat may have on hard hat performance. Therefore, Bullard recommends that hard hat users should never carry or wear anything inside a hard hat. Bullard makes this recommendation for the following reasons:

1. A clearance must be maintained between the hard hat shell and the wearer’s head for the protection system to work properly. An additional cap or other object may limit this clearance.

2. Wearers may be unaware that the cap or object contains metal parts, such as a metal button at the top of a baseball cap, which may diminish the dielectric protection provided by the hard hat.

3. Under no circumstances should any item be placed above or below the crown straps. This will affect the performance of the hard hat. Users should note that some products, such as fabric winterliners and cotton sunshades, are designed to work in conjunction with hard hats.”

NORTH/FIBRE-METAL: “Wearing a baseball hat under a hard hat will interfere with the suspension and shell which work together to reduce the force of an impact. The bill of the baseball cap worn under a hard hat will not allow the head protection to sit level on the head, in the work position. North/Fibre Metal recommends NOT wearing a baseball hat under a hard hat.

A hooded sweatshirt, winter liners and cooling headwear should not affect the performance of a hard hat if these products are worn properly and are fitted smoothly on the head. Winter liners are designed to attach to the hard hat suspension and seat down onto the head. Cooling bandanas and kerchiefs should also be worn completely down on the head so it does not interfere with the suspension bands.”

QUESTION #2 – Can I wear my hard hat backwards?

MSA V-Gard: “Since the suspension attachment points on an MSA V-Gard helmet (except those with a UniPro® suspension) are the same from front to back, the suspension can be reversed and the cap worn with the brim facing the rear and still meet the requirements of the applicable protective headwear standard (ANSI Z89.1-1997). Be sure that the suspension has been reversed so that the nape strap is in the rear.”

BULLARD: “Bullard ANSI Z89 Type 1 hard hats have been tested and found to be compliant to the requirements of the standard when worn with the shell turned backwards. To perform properly in this manner, the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the headband is oriented normally to the wearer’s head (i.e., with the brow pad against the forehead and the extended nape strap at the base of the skull). In this manner, only the shell of the helmet is backwards on the head. This applies to Z89.1-2003 Type 1 helmets only (Bullard models C30, 3000, C33, 303, 302RT, 4100, 502, S51, S61, S62, S71, 911C & 911H).

ANSI Z89.1-2003 Type 2 helmets (Advent® and Vector), because of the lower rear edge of the shell and the asymmetrical pattern of protection offered by their more complex design, should not be worn backwards.”

Source: www.oshatraining.com
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