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According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an approved hard hat must be worn whenever work is being done in an area where a head injury from falling objects is a possibility. Additionally, a hard hat must also be worn whenever working in an area where the potential of exposure to the head exits. Also, a specifically designed non-conductive protective hard hat, or helmet, is required to guard against electrical shock in environments with electrical hazards.

Recognized Safety Standards

OSHA approved hard hats meet the minimum safety criteria established by the ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, and the ISEA, the International Safety Equipment Association. Hard hats are divided into two main categories and five different classifications and the most appropriate hard hat must be selected based on the highest risk of the work environment. Hard hat type designates the level of impact protection, whereas hard hat classification rates the degree of electrical protection and performance.

Impact Hard Hats

Impact hard hats are divided into two categories and are designed only to reduce the force of a blow received to the head. Those two categories are:

  • Type I Hard Hats are designed to decrease the force of impact from a blow received to the top of the head, such as from a hammer or bricking falling off an elevated work area. Type I hard hats are not meant to protect the wearer from a sideways blow to the head.
  • Type II Hard Hats are designed to decrease the force of a sideways, or lateral, impact that results from an off-center blow to the side of the head. This type of impact can result from one of several incidents, such as from an impact from the pointed end corner of a beam or piece of lumber. Type II hard hats are padded on the inside with suspension of high density foam.

Electrical Classifications for Hard Hats

Hard hats are also divided into three categories: General, Electrical and Conductive. These categories indicate how well the hat will protect the user from electrical shock.

  • General: Class G Hard Hats are designed specifically to reduce the amount of exposure to low voltage conductors and offer protection up to 2,200 phase to ground volts. However, the voltage protection rating is designated to just the head and does not offer protection for the user’s entire body. Formerly designated as Class A, the Class G General hard hat is the most commonly used hard hat.
  • Electrical: Class E Hard Hats offer dielectric protection up to 20,000 phase to ground volts by reducing exposure to high voltage conductors. Like the Class G hard hat, voltage protection is designated only for the head and is not designed to protect the user as a whole. Class E hard hats are also considered to have the lower Class G General rating due to the hat’s voltage protection rating surpassing the lower requirements of the Class G hard hat.
  • Conductive: Class C Hard Hats differ from Class G and Class E hard hats in that the Class C hats are not intended to supply protection from contact with live electrical conductors. Class C hard hats often include vented options that afford the user an increased amount of breathability and comfort while protecting the user from impacts to the head.

If you would like more information about construction site safety, contact T. F. Harper & Associates LP, located in Austin, TX.

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