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Head protection: Understand the options

Photo: CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training

Do you know the difference between a hard hat and a helmet?

“Depending on where you look or who you talk to, the terminology used around hard hats and helmets can be confusing and sometimes contradictory,” says CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

The center notes that OSHA’s standard uses the words “protective helmet” and “head protection,” and the ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 standard uses “protective helmets” or “head protection devices” – and neither use the term “hard hat.”

“Despite this, many in the industry have historically referred to protective headgear as ‘hard hats,’ and are now using the term ‘helmets’ to refer to the newer styles of headgear,” CPWR says.

Pointing out that neither ANSI nor OSHA outline the difference between a hard hat and a helmet, and that the determination is made by the manufacturer, CPWR uses these definitions:
Hard hats: Typically refers to the traditional style of head protection, which often includes a bulkier shell and a brim. Hard hats may have a chin strap. “Part of the reason some hard hats may feel bulkier,” the center says, “is they’re often built with a webbed ribbon-style suspension system with a gap built in to absorb impacts or penetration.”
Helmets: Typically refers to a climbing style of headgear that’s more rounded and consistently has a chin strap. “Instead of a webbed suspension, they may have a foam liner or a combination of a webbed suspension and a foam liner.”

What OSHA’s head protection standard (1926.100) does require, though, is that all protective headgear be “tested and designated as either Type I or Type II, according to the guidelines in the ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 standard.”

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