Until you try to wear your boots without them, it's easy to take your socks for granted. Hard hat liners are the same. The liner often goes unappreciated until the day it goes missing.
Whether you use one for warmth, safety, hygiene, comfort, or all of these, a hard hat liner can make the difference between a successful and safe day and one that is less so.
Hard Hat Liners for Comfort
Any piece of clothing or equipment that doesn't sit against your skin the right way will result in discomfort or chafing quite quickly. Just think of work boots that haven't been broken in or safety glasses that don't quite fit on the bridge of your nose. They're uncomfortable and distracting, and you will have the urge to take them off.
When it comes to safety equipment, workers shouldn't be forced into that position. Removing a hard hat when one is required violates health and safety codes and can put the employer at risk of significant liability. Many on-site injuries and fatalities have resulted from a worker setting aside a piece of equipment like a harness or a helmet just for a few moments.
A hard hat is a vital piece of personal protective equipment. It must ensure the health and the safety of the worker by providing not just external protection, but also comfort, balance, and fit, allowing the wearer to concentrate on the work at hand, free from distractions or the desire to remove it.
Keeping Cold at Bay
For workers who have to work outside, exposed to the elements, being at the job site can mean cold or extreme cold conditions. Hard hats don't provide great warmth on their own, but they can when combined with hard hat liners.
(See Cold Stress: Your Winter Safety Guide for related reading.)
The simplest of these is the brim liner, an elasticized tube made of polyester, wool, acrylic, or Nomex thread that sits on the outside of the hardhat. It provides warmth by helping keep body heat in, by partially preventing its escape.
If an external liner is insufficient, a winter liner works like a large headband, fitting around the head inside the hardhat. Some of these can roll down to become full balaclava-style face masks. A skull liner is similar except it covers the whole scalp closely, like a watchman’s cap.
When temperatures and wind chills drop to dangerous levels, it is time to deploy the full winter hard hat liner. In general this is a full head-covering balaclava-style garment made from fleece or other material that retains warmth and deflects cold without being too bulky.
Ideally, the liner should extend to below neck level to fit under the collar of a shirt or jacket to completely insulate the worker. Some models are fitted with a mouth or full-face covering for complete frostbite protection, and some even offer pockets that carry heat packs.
It is essential to consider purchasing liners that are flame resistant and ISO compliant, since open flame is a common sight at construction sites.
Heat and Sun Protection
The other type of external elements that should be considered when purchasing a hardhat liner is heat. Hot working conditions may cause workers to perspire. There are hard hat liners designed to work like a headband, absorbing sweat and preventing it from running into a worker’s eyes, where it may cause a dangerous situation.
Heat-resistant liners also help draw heat away from the skin through special fabrics. This applies not only to the circumference of a worker’s head, where a headband-like liner might suffice, but also the back of the neck, which is prone to heat and sunburn, and is an often-ignored area. Neck-guard liners can also feature special fabric that is soaked in water before wearing, and balances heat through evaporation.
(Find out How to Use PPE to Combat Heat Stress.)
How to Choose a Hardhat Liner
PPE is only safe when it is worn and used correctly. Some workers will remove a piece of annoying gear if it doesn't feel right or causes undue distraction or irritation. Some like to wear their hard hats backwards to increase their ability to see what they are working on. And workers who spend much of their time looking down can get frustrated when their hardhat slips forward.
Selecting hard hat liners is all about ensuring worker comfort. If they are exposed to heat or cold, make sure to provide liners that protect them against these elements.
Discuss your options with the manufacturer as well as your health and safety specialists. But be sure to consult your workers, too. They're the authority on what feels comfortable to them.