How often should hard hats be inspected?

By Safeopedia Staff | Last updated: March 7, 2024
White hard hat on tabletop, with workers in safety vests in the background.
Source: visootu2 (Envato Elements)

Your hard hat is the last line of defense between impact hazards and one of the most important parts of your body. When you put it on your head, you need to be confident that it will be able to withstand enough force to protect you from injury.

That’s precisely what hard hat inspections are for. Instead of putting your faith in the hard hat being able to do its job, you carefully look it over to make sure it’s up to the task.

But how often should you inspect your hard hat, exactly?

When to Inspect Your Hard Hat

The answer to that question is actually quite simple: you should inspect your hard hat before putting it on and then once again before hanging it up for the day.

Inspecting it before it goes on your head ensures that it will be in good enough shape to protect it. While your end of shift inspection will catch any issues in case your hard hat or its suspension need to be replaced before you need to put it again.

If that seems excessive, remember that inspecting a hard hat isn’t an onerous process. It’s quick and simple. It’s also the very thing that could prevent you from getting injured or save your life, so it’s worth doing it every time.

How to Inspect Your Hard Hat

Your hard hat has two basic components: the shell that protects your head from impact and the suspension system that absorbs the force from a blow. Your inspection should include both of these components.

Check the shell for:

  • Signs of damage (cracks, dents, or holes)
  • Degradation in the shell’s material (stiffness, brittleness, or flaking)
  • Elasticity (compress the shell on both sides with your hands and verify that it bounces back to its original shape)

Check the suspension for:

  • Fraying, tearing, or cuts in the straps
  • Stiffness (the straps should be flexible)
  • Attachment (every connecting part of the suspension system should fasten securely)

When to Replace Your Hard Hat

You get used to a hard hat. It becomes as familiar

as the work boots you’ve broken in. It’s there for you day after day. Maybe you even stuck a few stickers on it, which gives it even more personal significance.

That might make you reluctant to let go of it. But it’s important to toss the hard hat when its ability to protect your head might be compromised.

Because walking around with a hard hat that isn’t up to snuff doesn’t give you anything but a false sense of security. And a false of sense of security is usually a one-way ticket to an injury.

There are three situations when you should replace your hard hat:

  • It fails the inspection. Replace the hard hat if the shell shows any signs of damage. If it’s the suspension system that’s undergone some wear and tear, you can usually get away with replacing it and keeping the shell.
  • It suffers an impact. Any hard hat that’s been struck should be thrown away. Even if there’s no apparent sign of damage, the impact could cause damage to the hard hat that doesn’t show on the surface but still compromises its ability to protect you.
  • It has passed its expiration date. That expiration date might not be printed on the side like it would be on a milk carton, but your hard hat has a specified lifespan and you should take it seriously. The manufacturer’s guidelines will tell you exactly how long you can hold onto your hard hat, but typically it’s five years for hard hats that are used infrequently and two years if you use it regularly.

Ready to learn more? Check out our free webinar on Head Protection Solutions for the Construction Industry!

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Written by Safeopedia Staff

Safeopedia Staff

At Safeopedia, we think safety professionals are unsung superheroes in many workplaces. We aim to support and celebrate these professionals and the work they do by providing easy access to occupational health and safety information, and by reinforcing safe work practices.

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