Use your head: Take care of your hard hat

ES&H Section Head Nancy Grossman sets an example by wearing a hard hat that meets standards.

Is it time for a new hard hat? There is a common misconception that hard hats last forever. OSHA does not specify the service life of a hard hat, nor is there any standard expiration time frame for hard hats. The hard hat life span varies depending on its use and the conditions under which it’s worn.

As a general guideline, most hard hat manufacturers recommend replacing them every five years regardless of outside appearance. If you work under extreme conditions such as exposure to high temperatures, chemicals or long periods in sunlight, hard hats should be replaced after two years of use. In addition, some manufacturers even recommend replacing the suspension in your hard hat every 12 months. Since the main purpose of a hard hat is to protect your head, it’s important for you to inspect and replace hard hats on a regular basis. Here are some tips when it comes to wearing hard hats:

  • Wear it – Hard hats can’t do their job if they are not worn.
  • Inspect it – Inspect your hard hat before you wear it. Make sure there are no cracks, dents or tears.
  • Maintain it – Clean the hat and suspension with soap and water. Store your hard hat in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
  • Replace it – Hard hats are designed to protect you only once. If your hard hat has been damaged, replace it.
  • Recycle it – Hard hats can be recycled in the recycling bins around the lab.

All hard hats should be ANSI-Z89.1-approved, which means that they meet or exceed either Type I or Type II impact requirements. Any stickers placed on hard hats should follow OSHA recommendations, which state that they should be positioned three-quarters of an inch from the edge and should be small enough that they do not hide damage to the hat. For more information on hard hats, see FESHM Chapter 5101 Appendix F or talk to your supervisor or senior safety officer.

Hard hats are a stock item here at Fermilab. To order, log on to the Employee Self Service page using your services username and password, click on Stock Catalog in the left sidebar and enter the stock number. The stock number for white hats is 2650 150100. The stock number for yellow hats is 2650 150200.

—J.B. Dawson