June 12, 2019

We get it – there’s a lot to know about safety helmets. And there should be – head injuries are the costliest injury in the safety industry, both literally and figuratively. There’s an average of 84,750 injuries per year, and the average cost per injury claim is almost $81,000 (BLS).

Safety helmets have a big job and are imperative in virtually any safety program across the industry spectrum. In addition to their main objective in helping workers avoid head injuries sustained from falling overhead objects, bumping into fixed objects, or contact with electrical hazards, some head protection also helps protect employees from liquid splashes, high heat, and sun exposure.

With the high profile of this PPE, we want to share the knowledge we’ve accumulated to ensure you’ve got the answers to your questions, and then some.

Commonly Asked Questions – Solved

What standard does my safety helmet meet?

The easiest way to find this information is to check for permanent labels or markings on your safety helmet. These are required by both ANSI and CSA head protection standards. Both standards also require instructions for use to be supplied with the hard hat; be sure to review these prior to using your safety helmet.

  • ANSI standard labels are the United States’ safety helmet regulations. You’ll find the name or identification mark of manufacturer, date of manufacture, ANSI/ISEA Z89.1, applicable Type, applicable Class, and approximate head-size or range. Optional markings are Reverse donning, Low Temperature (LT), High Temperature (HT), and High Visibility (HV).
  • CSA standard labels are Canada’s safety helmet regulations. You’ll find manufacturer’s identity, model designation, Type, Class, reverse orientation mark (if applicable), year and month of manufacture, size or size range, and user warning.
  • EN standard labels are Europe’s safety helmet regulations. You’ll find the standard number it complies with (“EN397”), name or ID mark of the manufacturer, manufacture date, helmet name/style designation, size or size range, and material (i.e. HDPE, ABS).

Learn more about safety helmet standards here.

What can I wear under my safety helmet?

OSHA recommends that employers permit only liners that are specifically designed to be compatible with the protective properties of the safety helmet. Additional qualities for the liner are that they can lay smoothly on top of the head and do not contain metal parts, such as bandanas, skull-caps, hoods, or welder’s caps.

Do not place items, such as a cell phone or keys, in between the suspension system and shell while wearing, as you could be putting yourself in extreme danger if an impact were to occur.

OSHA also recommends that the employer contact the safety helmet manufacturer to determine if any type of liner or garment is compatible with the use of the safety helmet.

What do the different safety helmet colors mean?

Though no official standard exists in the United States regarding the color code, there are some preferred colors that many job sites use.

White is the most popular and is mainly reserved for managers or supervisors on site. Other typical colors include brown fiberglass for welders and other workers for high heat applications; green for safety inspectors or new workers; yellow for general laborers and earth-moving operators; blue for carpenters or technical advisers; and orange is mainly used for road crews, new employees, or visitors.

Each site may not follow the same color guide, so we recommend speaking with your site manager or supervisor to confirm. Learn more about safety helmet color here.

Can I paint or put decals on my safety helmet?

Long story short – only if acceptable. OSHA considers painting or placing adhesive stickers acceptable if:

  • The manufacturer authorizes the alteration
  • The employer can demonstrate the reliability of the helmet is not affected by the paint or the adhesive on the stickers
  • The employer can demonstrate that the paint or placement of stickers would not reduce the ability to identify defects that would indicate a reduced reliability

Does the ANSI Z89.1 standard cover bump caps?

No, it does not; nor does the American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection (Z89.1) cover firefighting helmets or head protection devices used in recreational activities.

Can I mix and match different suspensions and shells?

Overall, it is not recommended due to the nature of safety helmet testing. The two primary components – the shell and suspension – are tested as a unit to meet ANSI, CSA, and other standards by the manufacturer of the safety helmet. Sometimes suspensions are tested with various shells within one manufacturer to ensure compatibility; check with your manufacturer to determine whether this is the case. Suspensions and shells from different manufacturers should not be interchanged, as there’ll likely be no testing done to ensure compliance with the standards and, therefore, would likely void certification and potentially put the wearer at risk.

Is it safe to wear a safety helmet backward?

That all depends on who manufactured your safety helmet. Look on the underside of your safety helmet near the brim. If your safety helmet is approved to wear in reverse, you will see a symbol of two arrows moving in a circle, following each other. If not, then your safety helmet can only be donned one way.

Do not attempt to wear safety helmets backward or reverse-donned if not denoted, as compliance or performance cannot be guaranteed, compromising your safety.

What’s the best way to clean and store my safety helmet?

Use mild soap and warm water to clean your safety helmet and suspension. Thoroughly rinse, wipe, and air dry. Using other solvents or methods to remove tough materials could weaken the protective elements of the helmet and suspension system and are not recommended.

Store your safety helmet in a clean, dry place. Do not leave it sitting out in the sunlight, as sunlight or UV light can damage the shell over time and make it brittle.

How long will my safety helmet last?

If proper care is taken and no impact has occurred, your safety helmet shell should last up to four years, and the suspension should be replaced every 12 months. Consult your manufacturer for more detailed service life guidelines and remember to always replace your safety helmet if it sustains an impact, penetration, or there are any signs of visible damage.

Proper care includes understanding that some paints, paint thinners, and cleaning agents can weaken a safety helmet’s shell, as can prolonged direct sunlight and extreme heat can damage them. Learn more about how you can care for your safety helmet here.

Are you using the right safety equipment?

Put your head protection to the test and discover how the safety helmet industry is changing for the better.

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