Hard hats – the hard facts

Hard hats – the hard facts

The why, what, how and where of hard hat regulations in the UK

In this article, you’ll learn about the regulations covering head protection (‘hard hats’) and the types of hard hats that must be worn on construction sites.

Why must hard hats be worn?

In many places of work, a major risk to employees and visitors is that of head or neck injury. Head protection (‘hard hats’) must be worn where the risk of head or neck injury cannot be completely eliminated. By carrying out a risk assessment, you will determine whether hard hats are required in your workplace.

Hard hats are designed to protect against several risks, including:

  • Falling or flying objects
  • Head bumping
  • Hair getting tangled in machinery
  • Chemical drips or splashes
  • Climate or temperature

What hard hats protect your employees?

Different hard hats protect in different environments and work roles:

  • Industrial safety helmets protect against falling objects, as well as impact with fixed objects and some resistance to flames.
  • Bump caps protect against bumps to the head and can prevent hair getting tangled in machinery.
  • Firefighters’ helmets are like industrial safety helmets, but with extra head coverage to give greater protection against impact and heat.

Other examples of hard hats include transport helmets (e.g. motorcycle helmets) and leisure helmets (e.g. riding caps and canoeing helmets) – though these are not covered by Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

How to keep hard hat compliant

Hard hats are covered by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Here are the main rules to remain compliant with these:

  • If the hard hat has an adjustable strap, it must be used
  • The inside of the hard hat must be cleaned regularly
  • Sweatbands must be replaced regularly
  • Hard hats must be checked for damage regularly – either to the shell or straps
  • If a hard hat has suffered a significant impact, it must be discarded
  • If a hard hat is deeply scratched, misshaped, worn, or past useful life (check with the manufacturer), it must be discarded
  • Hard hats must be worn upright, and not sloping, nor back to front
  • Hard hats must not be customised with stickers, paint, or by drilling extra ventilation holes
  • Bump caps must not be worn if there is a risk of falling objects

Where must hard hats be worn?

Hard hats must be worn in any part of your workplace where your risk assessment has identified the need for head protection. One of the places where hard hats should almost always be worn is on construction sites.

Protect yourself by insisting your workers wear hard hats on construction sites

The law says that if there is no risk of head injury, then hard hats are not required. Even though you may have worked hard to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan, it is unlikely that the risk of head injury on a construction site will have been eliminated.

To protect yourself as well as your employees, you should make it a rule that employees and visitors wear hard hats at all times on your construction sites.

Special hard hat rules for highway workers

At the start of 2017, Highways England bought in a new colour scheme for hard hats to be worn by construction and maintenance workers:

  • Black – site supervisors
  • Orange – signaller
  • Blue – inexperienced/visitor
  • White – general use, manager/client/competent operative

Every good rule has an exemption

As they say, ‘the exemption proves the rule’. The hard hat rules are good rules, and so there is an exemption. This is that turban-wearing Sikhs are not required by law to wear safety helmets in any workplace, including constructions sites. However, this exemption does not extend to other personal protective equipment.

This exemption places an extra responsibility on you as an employer, for if you employ turban-wearing Sikhs in a workplace where there is a significant risk of head injury, you must ensure that you employ stringent risk control measures.

Our comprehensive suite of H&S documents includes all the documentation needed to ensure your workplace and health and safety policy is hard hat compliant, and maintains that compliance. For more information, contact Sentry today.

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