As far as your personal protective equipment goes, head protection is arguably one of the most important pieces that you wear – so it’s essential that you take care of it. Properly maintaining your safety helmet helps to ensure it’s working at its finest to protect you.
Here are some useful tips for the inspection, care, and use of your safety helmet:
Inspect your safety helmet daily – All safety helmet components and accessories should be inspected daily for excess wear or damage, such as dents, cracks, penetration, and heat or chemical exposure that might reduce the degree of protection originally provided. Any safety helmet with worn, damaged, or defective parts should be removed from service and replaced. Additionally, note that any safety helmet that sustains an impact should be replaced even with no noted signs of damage.
Inspect suspension system straps and clips for fraying, tears, cracks, hair products, perspiration, and insecticides - all can affect suspension components. If a helmet contains a foam lining, inspect and replace if any signs of damage.
Wear correctly – Safety helmets should be adjusted according to proper fit and donning instructions to provide the best possible protection.
- When on your head – Never wear or store anything under your safety helmet except your head, even a sock cap or ball cap, as performance cannot be guaranteed and may result in injury (unless manufactured specifically for safety helmets, such as cooling technology).
- Suspension adjustments – Always adjust the suspension straps to maintain the proper fit to your head. You’ll want to find a spot where the safety helmet feels secure, yet not painfully tight. A loose safety helmet will not protect you as well as a properly fitting one.
- Reverse-donning – Before wearing backward, check if your safety helmet can be worn reverse-donned, which is represented by a reverse-donning symbol of two arrows following each other in a circle. The manufacturer is required to add this symbol if the helmet has reverse donning qualifications that meet the American National Standards Institute. The manufacturer may also specify that the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the brow pad is against the forehead and the extended nape strap is at the base of the skull, leaving only the shell of the helmet positioned backward on the head.
Check the service life –Specific service life, defined in terms of the number of years, is not required to be included on safety helmets, so you may not find one. Although, individual manufacturers may choose to include such information, as well as identify certain conditions that may affect a helmet’s protection capability over time.
If proper care is taken and no impact has occurred, your safety helmet shell should last up to five years, and the suspension should be replaced every 12 months. Consult your manufacturer for more detailed service life guidelines.
Sun exposure – For safety helmets constructed of plastic materials, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can pose a problem over a long period of time. The good news is that this kind of damage is easy to notice, as the glossy finish will eventually take on a chalky appearance. Further degradation may cause the shell’s exterior to flake. Any safety helmet with noticeable sun damage should be replaced.
Proper cleaning and storage – It’s important to clean your safety helmet, both the shell and suspension system, regularly. Only use mild soap and rinse with warm water, as cleaning solvents can weaken the head protection.
When you're done with your helmet for the day, store it in a clean, dry area that does not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store it in direct sunlight. Manufacturers recommend that workers never leave their safety helmet in the rear window well of a vehicle or anywhere it would be exposed to sunlight while not in use because UV rays can do significant damage over time.
Be mindful of adhesives – Use caution when using stickers or paints on your safety helmet and always check with the safety helmet manufacturer. Anything covering your safety helmet can make your daily inspection more difficult by hiding or minimizing the appearance of damage.
Do not modify the shell or suspension – Any unauthorized alterations to your safety helmet will void the effectiveness of its ability to protect you on the job.
- Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell
- Avoid having your safety helmet come into contact with electrical wires
- Never use a suspension that is not intended to be worn with a particular shell
- Never use a shell made by one manufacturer with a suspension made by another
Are you wearing the right safety helmet?
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