Hard hat vs. safety helmets: What's the difference? [New info]

2022-06-07

The short answer: safety helmets offer better protection and fit.

Hard hats are being replaced by a more modern version of the popular head protection necessity – the safety helmet. This transition brings some much-needed upgrades to one of the most used personal protective equipment pieces on the job – and for good reason.

Even in mandated hard hat areas, workers may have sub-par PPE options that aren’t worn or aren’t sufficient in the workplace because of poor and uncomfortable fit, accessories that are difficult to use together, unfixed chin straps, and suspension systems that are confusing for the user to put together. If that’s the case, compliance could end up being a big problem, thereby increasing the potential for injury.

Bottom line – with concerns like the ones above, it could be time to replace your hard hat with a safety helmet.

Let’s talk safety helmets (and what "climbing style" means)

The concept behind better protection and fit for head protection isn’t new – it’s been around for years in the sporting world.

In fact, the same protection methods used in mountain climbing, biking, and other sports have been worked into the safety helmet design, with some featuring better side impact protection and a more secure and ergonomic fit for the wearer’s head.

The idea is that these upgrades will offer better functionality and comfort for head protection that’s used on the job – just like it does for sport-lovers and athletes.

Additional features, such as added front, side, and back protection; shorter brims for better visibility; and secure adjustable chin straps, are included to keep the PPE fastened to the head in dangerous situations (for example, a fall from a ladder or scaffolding).

This leads us to our next topic: “climbing style” safety helmets.

What about climbing-style safety helmets?

Oftentimes the term “climbing style” or “at height” is used to describe safety helmets in the market. However, there are currently no U.S. standards or requirements for climbing style or at-height helmets - both with OSHA and ANSI (though all helmets must meet ANSI Z89.1 to be sold in the U.S.).

Instead, these helmets are more of a “style,” meaning they have certain characteristics that other safety helmets don’t – but nothing official.

Most often, they have one or more of these characteristics:

  • Chin strap: Keeps safety helmet securely in place
  • Short brim: Allows for greater field of vision when looking upwards
  • More compact fit: Keeps safety helmet balanced, with more clearance
  • Added padding: utilized to protect against impacts to the top and sides of the helmet, as well as falling from a greater height

This means that there are no truly “at-height rated” helmets in the U.S. – only helmets that are recommended for at-height use.

There is, however, a European mountaineering helmet standard – EN12492 – that requires safety helmets to meet several rigorous tests. Meeting this EN12492 mountaineering standard is what many safety helmet manufacturers mean when they talk about their “climbing style” or “at-height” helmet – but not all of them. Read more about this standard here

Confused? You’re not alone. Read more on why there’s so much confusion in the market regarding “climbing style” safety helmets.

Final thoughts on head protection

Like hard hats, safety helmets can have attachable hearing protection and face shields. Make sure to do your research into the best safety helmet type, accessory options, and feature offerings that you might need for your industry and application(s).

The most important aspect to remember about all safety helmets is that they must provide the means to keep workers safe on the job, meeting both OSHA and ANSI (or other) standards and aligning with worker application and environment. As long as you have that understanding, you’ll help to mitigate injury on the job.

HexArmor® can help

If you need help finding the right safety helmet for you, HexArmor® can help. With innovation and design in mind, we’ve reinvented the protection that saves one of your most important assets: your head.

The HexArmor Ceros® family of safety helmets brings you thoughtful, reimagined head protection with more comfort, more stability, more style, and more safety.

Plus, there are options for a magnetic integrated accessory system and anti-fog and scratch-resistant face shield coatings.

Learn more about HexArmor's safety helmet technology.

Let us know if you have questions or would like to start a trial - our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1-877-MY ARMOR or send us a message.

Browse HexArmor's Ceros® safety helmets

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