Anyone who’s been in construction for less than five minutes knows how hazardous the occupation is. At any given moment, tools and supplies can rain from the sky and land on the head of an unfortunate passerby. This is the second leading cause of death of construction workers across the US after falling from heights, but the show must go on.
The most effective way to protect one’s head from falling objects is by wearing a hard hat. This type of headwear is designed to save the head, neck, and face from fatal impacts, scratches, and even electric shocks. On all construction sites, it’s required by law (in some countries) to wear a hard hat.
So whether you’re a contractor who needs to provide hard hats for his or her employees or you’re doing home or driveway renovations on your own, you’ll need to find the most reliable hard hat that could potentially save a life. Here are our picks of the best hard hats available today.
Ultimate Hard Hat Buying Guide
There are several things that shoppers need to take into account when scouring the market for a reliable hard hat. In this guide, we’ll go over what these factors are in detail. Please read this section carefully since this relates to safety in the workplace.
Do not purchase a hard hat simply on looks or whatever model you come across first. Your occupation or what project you plan on taking up should dictate your purchase decision. Hard hats are designed to protect against one of three occupational hazards – electricity, plunging headfirst, and falling objects.
Two types of hardhats are available for purchase – I and II. Type I hard hats are most commonly used in the US and protects the head, neck, and offers protection from above. Type II (used mainly in Europe) has a brim that extends from the front to the sides and back of the hat. This type of hat is considerably safer than Type I since it offers protection from all sides.
There are three classes – G, E, and C – used to describe every hard hat based on their resilience to electricity. Class G (general) hard hats can withstand shocks of up to 2,200 volts, Class E (electrical) of up to 20,000 volts, and Class C (conductive) has no protection and will absorb the shock. So once again, your occupation has a lot to do with what type of hard hat to get.
The three most commonly used materials to construct hard hats are polyethylene, fiberglass, and aluminum. Class C hats’ conductive properties come from aluminum, so this is something to avoid when working with electricity. Most models are made of high-density polyethylene with fiberglass coming in second. All of these materials are suited for different work sites, and won’t weigh down your head and neck.
All high-quality hard hats have a suspension system in place to prevent your cranium from taking the full force of an impact. The existing suspension systems are touch, ratchet, swing-ratchet, and pin-lock; they’re all good, so choose which is the more comfortable fit. You should also take a look at how many suspension points there are in the hard hat. In general, the more suspension points the hat has, the better it will absorb blows.
All hard hats are made with certain degrees of flexibility. The slight give allows them to take blows from high-speed objects or falls without cracking – an important factor that extends the longevity of the hat. However, there’s such a thing as “too flexible” which you can test by simply bending the hat with minimal force.
Like any piece of headwear, the hard hat should be adjustable to conform to the size of the wearer’s noggin. The adjustability system is usually joined with the suspension system, but they shouldn’t take away the effectiveness of each other. If the hat can’t be adjusted, it’s not worth considering. There’s absolutely no point in spending money on a hat that falls off your head with the slightest tilt.
Hard hats can come with a wide range of accessories, including a frontal screen for welding, a flashlight to illuminate dark spaces, and cotton liners to protect your ears against the cold, a sweat band for keeping beads of sweat from obstructing your view, and a chin strap to keep the hat in place when worn. Once again, the accessories you need depend on what you’re doing and where you’re working.
Hard Hat FAQs
Does one-size-fits-all fit all sizes?
Some hard hats may be marketed as one-size-fits-all models, but this isn’t always the case. Double-check with the manufacturer to ensure that the hat will fit snugly on your head. If it’s too tight or too loose, you’ll end up sorely disappointed.
Are hard hats DOT approved?
This is a very good question. No, hard hats are not approved by the Department of Transportation (at least in the US). Head protection for construction purposes are vastly different from those that protect your head when riding a motorcycle. Do not use a hard hat when zooming through the streets.
When does the hard hat expire?
Not all hard hats give explicit details regarding when the hat should be tossed away. Usually, you can find a date stamp on the hard hat with a large number in the middle, an arrow, and 1 to 12 on the perimeter of the stamp. The large number refers to the year of manufacturer, and the arrow points to the month of manufacturer. Check with the manufacturer to see how long the hard hat will work.
Hard hats are an essential piece of PPE to have in any construction site. Depending on where you work, you may be required by law to have a hat on your head at all times when in or even near the site. Even if you plan on doing DIY renovations at home or your driveway, you should consider getting a hard hat.
When shopping for a hard hat, you first need to know what you’re doing and where you’ll be working. Knowing this, you’ll be able to decide which hat will work best for you. Moreover, a hard hat’s functionality isn’t just about protecting your head from the unthinkable but also so in a way that’s comfortable to the wearer.