Health, Safety, Security and Environment

Hard Hat Questions Answered

2 min read

We are  often asked these four questions on hard hats:

1.  Are hard hats required for this job?

2.  What type of hard hat do I need?

3.  Are stickers & paint allowed on hard hats?

4.  Can hard hats be worn backwards?

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In the USA, OSHA’s General Industry standard uses vague and non-specific language where it talks about where hard hats are required,  it reads –  “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.”  I determine if there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects by:

  • performing an hazard assessment survey of the area in question to determine if it is possible for overhead objects to fall onto an employees’ head.
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  • evaluating historical OSHA recordable accidents and workers compensation claims to determine if there have been prior head injuries from falling objects striking an employee.
  • interviewing employees in the area to determine if there have been near miss incidents where objects have fallen to the floor at a location where employees periodically frequent.

What type of hard hat should be worn?   The OSHA General Industry standard says –  “Head protection must comply with any of the following consensus standards: ANSI Z89.1-2003, ANSI Z89.1-1997, and/or ANSI Z89.1-1986.”   So, to determine what type and class of hard hat you need to review a copy of  ANSI Z89.1-2014 .  For readers in Canada, your hard hats will need to comply with CSA Z94.1.

As far as painting hard hats or applying stickers to them, OSHA has an official interpretation document on this subject.  Ourt advice has always been to not paint or apply stickers to hard hats.  Hard hat manufacturers offer hundreds of styles of hard hats these days.  If, for example, employees want to wear hard hats that look like NFL football helmets, they can purchase them that way from the manufacturer without needing to modify them.  Also, most larger hard hat suppliers offer custom imprinting of hard hats by the factory.

Many workers like wearing hard hats backwards, but is doing so acceptable to OSHA?   In the USA, OSHA will accept the wearing of hard hats backwards if the hard hat was designed by the manufacturer to be worn backwards.   These days, many hard hat manufacturers offer models that are designed to be worn both frontwards and backwards.


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