Any work environment where there is the potential risk of head injury requires a hard hat to be worn. Workers in construction, telephone repair, and electrical repair are all examples of employees who need to wear hard hats. You may wonder at what point should your hard hat be replaced, since it is an item which is worn daily. The answer is not simple, since there is no pre-determined standard as to when hard hats should be retired. Instead, employees should learn to make their own evaluation and determination themselves, based on the work conditions, the job's specific hard hat requirements, and the physical condition of the hard hat itself.
Jobs where there is more exposure to intense conditions, such as heat and sunlight, water pressure, or construction sites where there is much dust and grime, will subject their hard hats to more wear. These hats will need to be replaced more often than ones worn by employees who are inside and in cleaner conditions. The sun and heat will dry out the plastic of the had, causing it to crack. This can cause it to not be up to standards. Some hard hats are rated based on the number of volts of electrical charge they can withstand. When they crack, they may not be able to withstand as much charge. Hardhats that are visibly damaged should be discarded and replaced with a new one.
Decals and paint can applied to hard hats but should be done so with proper consideration to the condition of the hard hat. Stickers may cover damaged areas and make them harder to detect. Certain paint can degrade the plastic quicker, especially if the employee wearing it is outside most of the time. Try to limit the amount of decals applied to the hard hat, and check with the manufacturer of the hard hat before painting to find out if it will affect the integrity of the hard hat's safety rating. When stickers are present, be sure to carefully inspect to make sure that any cracks are discovered.
As a general guideline, manufacturer's of hard hats suggest replacing them every 5 years, despite its outward appearance. However, replacement every 2 years is suggested for hard hats that are exposed to higher temperatures, extreme sunlight, harsh chemicals or other adverse conditions. Since hard hats are typically made of two components, the outer shell and the inner suspension, both parts need to be regularly inspected to ensure compliance. If either part is damaged, the hard hat needs to be replaced.
Individual workers have to remain vigilant of the condition of their hard hats since, ultimately, it is they who will decide with it is time for a new one. Visual inspections should be done on a daily basis. Hard hats are an important part of job safety, however, if damaged, they may fail to adequately protect you. If you are in doubt about whether or not to replace your hard hard, replace it, because you should always be thinking, “Safety first.”