Hard hats – is it time to replace yours?

Individual and joint responsibilities for hard hats worn on site

As part of an effective health and safety policy, you’ll need to consider whether any of your workforce need to wear protective clothing. This includes hard hats.

Now, hard hats must be looked after, as you can read about in our article “Hard hats – the hard facts”. If they are mistreated or exposed to harsh weather conditions, their useful life is reduced. They also have a limited lifetime even if they appear to be in good condition, after which they must be replaced. So, just what are the rules surrounding the replacement of hard hats?

What the law says…

The law is pretty specific when it comes to hard hats. You’d expect it to be, too – head injuries are more likely to be fatal than most. And if not fatal, a head injury can cause the type of damage that stops the injured person from working, changes personalities, and leads to erosion of relationships and deterioration of quality of life.

Ultimately, it is the individual’s responsibility to know when their hard hat must be replaced, but this doesn’t mean an employer might not be held responsible. You should ensure that your employees are aware that hard hats must be replaced when:

  • They are damaged
  • If hit by a heavy or sharp object
  • If exposed to chemicals
  • They are no older than five years after the date of manufacture (which should be stamped inside the hard hat), as usually recommended by the manufacturer

Conscientious employers always do more

If hard hats must be worn at your workplace, then you should supply them (unless the worker is self-employed or employed by a contracted company, in which case the onus for the provision of protective equipment falls on them).

It’s good practice to ensure that all people working at your site are aware of the rules surrounding hard hats. When considering if they must be replaced, you should also consider that their durability is affected by other factors which may not result in visible damage. If working in harsh conditions – for example, extreme heat or sunlight – the hat’s effectiveness is likely to be adversely affected. It will need to be replaced sooner. The same goes for hard hats worn and exposed to chemicals.

Ensure your have a hard hat replacement policy

Although it is up to the worker to check their hard hats and request a replacement when necessary, you should ensure that your health and safety policies and procedures spell out what is needed. For example, you should ensure that all employees know that hard hats must:

  • Be worn (and where)
  • Be worn correctly
  • Be checked regularly (outer, inner, and straps)
  • Be replaced if damaged
  • Be replaced no later than the manufacturer’s recommendation after manufacture
  • Not be compromised by the addition of adhesive labels

What else can you do to ensure hard hats are fit for purpose?

One final word about hard hats. A lot of the responsibilities are passed to your employees, but there is one thing they cannot be held responsible for – and that is their purchase. Always buy from a reputable supplier and make sure they conform to the safety standards BS EN 397:1995. Never cut costs where safety is concerned – if it’s found that injury was not prevented because you supplied a worker with a fake hard hat, you will be held liable.

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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