Let’s face it, there are many dangers lurking in the workplace. For this reason alone, employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe from hazards. To protect construction workers from serious impacts, falling or flying objects, or electrical shock, OSHA requires employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) that will protect them, including hard hats (see What PPE Does My Employer Need to Provide? to learn more about your duties as an employers).
Hard hats can save lives by protecting employees from impact. But if the integrity of the hard hat is compromised, workers need to be able to notice it right away so they can replace it with one that will give them adequate protection. That’s why it’s important to understand what regulations are in place and the best way to safely apply hard hat stickers.
What Are the Benefits of Using Hard Hat stickers?
Hard hat stickers give you a way of rewarding your workers for safety accomplishments, such as completing first aid, CPR, confined space, and rescue team training. It also provides construction workers with a way of knowing who has what training while out on the worksite (learn about the Green Hand, Gold Hand program in Enhancing Safety Culture through Mentorship Programs).
Hard hat stickers are also a convenient way to:
- Add visibility to emergency response teams with retroreflective stickers
- Motivate safety with slogans and bold messages
- Make emergency information accessible for first responders
What Does OSHA Say About Applying Hard Hat Stickers?
According to OSHA, placing adhesive stickers is acceptable if the manufacturer authorizes the alteration or the employer can demonstrate that the reliability of the helmet is not affected by the paint or the adhesive on the stickers. The paint or placement of stickers also should not reduce the ability to identify defects or other conditions that would indicate a reduced reliability.
Pressure sensitive adhesive, non-metallic labels, or tape with self-adhesive backing are acceptable on most of today’s hard hats. However, in addition to not covering up hard hat damage with stickers, guidelines dictate that stickers should be placed at least three-quarters of an inch away from the helmet's edge.
Where Should I Apply My Hard Hat Sticker? Front or Side?
The most common place for award stickers is on the side of the hard hat, while logos are often placed on the front.
What Are OSHA's Requirements for Safely Wearing Hard Hats?
OSHA states that hard hats can be worn with the bill forward or facing backward to properly protect employees.
Hard hats should do the following to keep workers safe:
- Resist penetration by objects
- Absorb the shock of a blow
- Be water-resistant and slow burning
- Have clear instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and headband
The hard outer shell and shock-absorbing lining that incorporates a headband and straps must suspend from the shell between 1 and 1 1/4 inches (2.54 am to 3.18 cm) away from the head.
The protective hard hat must meet ANSI Standard Z89.1-1986 (Protective Headgear for Industrial Workers) or provide an equivalent level of protection. OSHA requires that helmets purchased before July 5, 1994 must comply with the earlier ANSI Standard (Z89.1-1969) or provide equivalent protection.
Head protection needs to appropriately fit the size of the worker's head. Since most hard hats come in a variety of sizes, a proper fit should allow sufficient clearance between the shell and the suspension system for ventilation and distribution of an impact. Additionally, the hard hat should not bind, slip, fall off, or aggravate the skin in any way.
What Type of Hard Hat Do I Need?
There are many different hard hats out there today and OSHA categorizes these into two types and three electrical classes:
- Type I Hard Hats are meant to decrease the impact force delivered by a hit to the top of the head only. This might be from a tool falling from above.
- Type II Hard Hats are meant to decrease the force of an impact coming from and striking the wearer from the side or to the top of the head. Type II hard hats have a lining on the inside made from thick high density foam and include suspension.
- Class G Hard Hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts)
- Class E Hard Hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts) and also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying or falling objects
- Class C Hard Hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection from electrical hazards
Please note: Another class on the market is called a “bump hat.” Bump hats were created for use in areas with low head clearance and are required in areas were head bumps and lacerations are a concern. Bump hats, however, are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI approved.
Keep Your Head Safe
When it comes to hazardous work, keep your head in the game and make safety your first priority! Help your employees stand out on the jobsite and motivate others to stay safe with hard hat stickers.