Thursday, November 1, 2012

Answers to Top Five Questions about Hard Hats

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 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 . . . 
 
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32 comments:

  1. Thanks Curtis. This is very useful information that will help me better educate our workers in the field.

    Keep up the good work.


    Robins & Morton
    Project Safety Manager

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  2. Curtis - great info, thank you! I will be sharing throughout the USACE!

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  3. These are all questions that I have come across in the industry. Great article! Lori Ann.

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  4. Good read! Will definitely be using some of this information in my next safety meeting! Nick

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  5. Good information and reiterates what I preach. I usually pass around the plastic bag that a MSA hat comes in and it addresses these issues. I like the test for aging.

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  6. I go case by case and do not generalize,look at the engineered design and how does the hard hat protects. I look for proper fit, the front is for face protection, although Petzel doesn't have it because is more important you see where you are going when climbing; a good inspection will tell you if a sticker is covering a flaw on the hard hat, it the sticker is scratched, then it could be a sign of damage, just like a scratch on the surface of the hard hat; regarding the space, are the suspension straps really shock absorbents? and would really be the force of impact to actually push a hard hat down two inches (the specs tells you how much protection does the hard hat provides-a weight droped so many feet-), by then we are talking contussions and neck injuries or worse. I would say that it is more for ventilation, otherwise it would have foam. I realize that you hear a lot of statements, but are more of hearsay. So be carfefull on what is required and what is said without basis. My background is Mechanical engineering turned safety consultant over 15 years of experience and I tell you there are a lot of misguided info out there.

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  7. Great summary! Thanks for your work on this.
    Susan

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  8. When it comes to safety all PPE has proper use manufactures instructions. I feel its like asking if you can wear ear muffs over a beanie or cold weather hat. The regulations are specific. It all comes down to proper PPE training.

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  9. I have presented the same information to employees at their initial Safety Orientation. The information is "to the point."

    The manufacturers' inputs do clarify their design parameters with regards to wearing their product backwards. Nevertheless their statements do not dictate policy on any jobsite.

    Most "reasons" given by many employees for wearing their hard hats backwards are simply excuses to copy a bad practice. Winston

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  10. In my construction days welders and Iron workers were allowed to wear hard hats backward. One incident discovered welders storing hard hats in welding rod warm boxes overnight. Hats became brittle in a matter of a few weeks. Second incident Job Superintendent decided to color code the hard hats of the different craftsmen. Instead off buying different colored hats he had them spray painted. End result brittle hard had shells. Third incident Plant Manager refused to change out his obviously old & non functional hard hat. Cure was to wait until he went on vacation and drilled holes of the initials of rival football team into his hard hat. Problem Solved.

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  11. Great article it is nice to see data the will help clear up worksite confusion.

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  12. Curtis - Thanks for sharing this information all in one place. These questions and the associated myths have probably been asked since the invention of the hard hat. Sam.

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  13. I sent your website to our Director of Field Safety. He had not been been checking hard hats. He has now incorporated that into his plan. Thanks so much! You may well have saved someone's life!!

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  14. I work in both general and with construction contractors and the wearing of the hard hat backwards seems to be primarily with the construction guys. It looks like a fashion statement. I am not a big proponent of wearing the hard hat backwards. It seems like the general industry guys want to wear a ball cap under their harhats. I enjoyed reading the article. Thank you for creating it.

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  15. I learned a few things, including the point about wearing baseball caps under the hard hats/bump caps.

    The concern that I have with personal stickers on the hard hats/bump caps would be that if they are personalized... the First Aid, Emergency Team, Safety Team, Nurse, and Fire Team stickers would become lost in their personalization and that is something that would need to be established in the company policy. Hey, I am in favor of personalizing things, but when it has a potential impact on safety and/or food quality and safety concerns, then guidelines need to be established to protect employees and food products from obscurity and potential sparkles/glitter and/or stickers falling into the product.

    Just some thoughts.
    Best Regards,
    Dolores

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  16. Good information Curtis! I've forwarded on to our Construction unit as an FYI. Keep up the good work - I enjoy your blogs.

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  17. I work with both general industry and construction standards. I am firmly against of wearing hard hats backwards. My reasoning is that wearing them backwards removes the protection offered by the brim. If something from overhead work drops onto a worker below, there is the tendency for the brim to kick the object away from the face. Wearing them backward completely eliminates that possibility, and I have seen various facial injuries that may have been prevented. I'm very flexible on the job, but my job as a safety professional is the protection of the employee, as is the intent of ppe. PPE must be worn as it is intended; I am adamant about that as it's meant to provide some protection in an environment where safety is already compromised. Much time is often spent unnecessarily arguing this point. If the worker wearing a hard hat needs to jeopardize his/her safety to make a fashion statement, they are in the wrong business and are not welcome on my job.

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    1. it is not a fashion statement you idiot I would rather have the brim protecting the back of my neck also I cannot use my peripheral vision to see something falling over head, 30 percent of your vision is lost wearing a hard hat forward the manufacture test it that way so its okay. most of the work you do anyway your head is down so the front of your face is protected anyway. its a worker is wearing his hard hat and wearing it according to manufacturer's safety recommendations leave them the hell alone and worried about something more important

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  18. Good information. I always stress two additional points. The employer can make his/her own work rules which stricter than OSHA's. Also hard hats have a front brim for a reason. I have seen that brim save a worker's eyes/ face from serious injury. The hard had should be worn with the brim forward unless a specific task requires otherwise even though the design allows for a suspension refit to position the brim to the back. Just some points to consider!

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  19. Good one, Curtis! Thanks! After 34 years, I still get these questions…..and that’s from the same people who have also been around for that long!....Nothing like having the answers all in one place!.......Much obliged!.....STEPH

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  20. Great article. Thanks for the information, Curtis!

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  21. Thanks for the info. It was just last week that my manager and myself was asked this question by an employee. Besides the opportunity to utilize this in our training, I will share this with our contractors safety committee also.

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  22. Thanks Curtis , Useful info and eyeopening.

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  23. I prefer to wear my hard hat in the reverse manner, I have had an employer that has required employees to wear the hardhats in a forward manner. The angle of the brim right over the eyes in many instances hides head knockers(refinery product lines, conduits, scaffolding) my neck has been jammed hard more than once with the visibility issues. For many wearing it backwards it's not a fashion statement, it's for better visibility. I find that most people that complain about working with the backwards hard hats aren't the ones working the tools in tight spaces.

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  24. Can you wear a toque under your hardhat?

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  25. What is the stance or requirement for welders who are wearing a dedicated welding shield on a hardhat construction project? Say they wear their hardhat to their work position, when ready to weld remove their hardhat and put on their welding shield? Is this sufficient or does the escalation to a dedicated hardhat/weld shield warranted?

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    1. If the worker is exposed to a falling object hazard, then the hard hat would have to remain on their head. There are shields designed to attach to the hard hats available from safety gear suppliers like Airgas (http://www.airgas.com/browse/productDetail.aspx?Category=79&product=3MRL-701).

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  26. Great Questions but, here is another. Can you wear a sweat shirt hood over your hard Hat? I can't find anything that prohibits this. Can anyone help?

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    1. Thomas. You would have to check with the manufacturer of the specific brand/model hardhat you use to get their guidance on that.

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  27. Curtis,
    I am currently responsible for safety issues at our outdoor learning center. At one of our learning facilities we require visitors to wear hard hats. We provide the visitors with them for the duration of their visit (1 to 2 hours) and then we collect them wash and re-bag for the next use. A visitor to our facility complained that our hard hats were out of date and required replacement. The manufacturers date on the brim indicated that they were manufactured in May 2011. Do we need to replace them based on OSHA recommendations. They have only had 2 uses to-date.
    Thanks
    Rich
    Evergreen Heritage Center

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  28. Rich. Replace the hard hats per the manufacturer's recommendation. They vary from one manufacturer to the other. See the links to hardhat manufacturers website Q&A in our blog, some of them address when they need to be replaced. Hope this helps.

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  29. Well, not sure how or why I came across this posting, but I did and I read it just to see what it was all about and I'll be quite honest, it was interesting and to the point. As a retired (32 + years) OSHA CSHO and the latter an OSHA consultant (OSHA On site Consultation Program) and now a Private EH&S Consultant, I also get similar questions associated with head protection. The two most (as noted in this article) is the: "Wearing hardhat backwards" and "Can I put sticker on them". Both were answered very good in this article and correct except for the "wearing backwards" question. One of the manf. was more concern (understandably) with the inner protection webbing and suggested if the webbing be reversed than there is no problem with wearing the hat backwards. My (and OSHA's) position: DO NOT WEAR YOUR HARDHAT BACKWARDS. The true concern is the loss of (when wearing backwards) the protective front brim or as it it design, the "Nose Guard", other than that , the article was "Spot On"

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