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If you’ve ever driven by a construction site and saw all the construction workers wearing hard hats—there is a reason for it. Hard hats are made explicitly for construction or industrial work for many reasons.
Here are nine reasons why construction workers wear hard hats:
- Prevent workers from bumping their heads.
- Provide protection from falling objects.
- Protect against electrical shock.
- Keep rain out of a worker’s face.
- Protect the head and face from debris.
- Keep the head safe from the sun.
- Keep sweat off the face.
- Protect the head in case of a fall.
- They are mandatory per OSHA regulations.
The rest of this article will discuss the reasons why construction workers wear hard hats, the history of hard hats, and when they became mandatory.
1. Prevent Workers From Bumping Their Heads
Prevention from bumping one’s head while on a job site is not the first thing that comes to mind when using a hard hat, yet this is one of the primary reasons why hard hats are worn during construction.
Whether it’s due to distractions or simply as a result of misjudging the distance to an object above, it’s very common for workers to bump their heads against pipes in a refinery setting or against beams or joists in spaces with low ceilings.
Hard hats play an important role in protecting the head in such cases. While less dangerous than falling objects, preventing involuntary head impact is important for worker safety.
2. Provide Protection From Falling Objects
Hard hats are built with a suspension system designed to absorb the impact while keeping space between the head and the top of the hat, therefore protecting the head from heavy objects that may fall while working on a construction site.
A hard hat will protect against falling objects such as steel poles, wooden beams, or other heavy items used with construction.
3. Protect Against Electrical Shock
Along with possible heavy falling objects, hard hats can protect against electrical shock. There are several different classes of hard hats when it comes to electrical resistance: Class E, Class G, and Class C.
Class C has no electrical resistance, while Class G hard hats are made to reduce the danger against exposure to low voltage electrical conductors. Specifically, class G hard hats can provide impact resistance from up to 2,200 volts.
However, class E hard hats can withstand up to 20,000 volts of electricity. So, depending on the job, there are options for more or less electrical resistance.
OSHA requires workers to wear a helmet designed to reduce electric shock when working in areas with a potential for electric shock.
4. Keep Rain Out of a Worker’s Face
Hard hats also help when working outdoors. As many hard hats are made with a small visor in the front, they can help keep the rain out of a construction worker’s face while they’re trying to do their job. While this isn’t a safety feature like many other reasons, it makes doing construction work a little bit easier.
5. Protect the Head and Face From Debris
While falling objects will typically come from above, hard hats are made for every kind of danger that could injure a construction worker’s head, which means any debris that may come from the side or result from a construction worker working. Therefore, the head is protected from flying nails, wood pellets, or any other objects that may be present at a construction site.
6. Keep the Head Safe From the Sun
A sunburnt scalp is not fun. Therefore, if a construction worker is outside on a sunny day, a hard hat can help prevent horrible sunburns and protect the head from harmful UV rays. While the sun does provide Vitamin D, too much sun (especially every day) can cause long-lasting damage to the skin and raise a person’s chances of developing skin cancer.
7. Keep Sweat off the Face
Like keeping the rain off the face, hard hats can also help with sweat falling into a construction worker’s eyes. Working outside in the heat is tough, so many hard hats or hard hat accessories are designed for that very reason.
For example, this Hard Hat Cap Insert Liner from Amazon is an excellent option for construction workers that spend all day out in the heat. Not only does it provide a sweatband, but it also provides an air mesh microfiber cloth that works to absorb sweat while offering ventilation for the head. Therefore, it works to keep workers cool on a hot day.
8. Protect the Head in Case of a Fall
Working on construction sites sometimes means being up on roofs or tall buildings, which can be dangerous. If a construction worker were to fall, it could be fatal. While hard hats are mainly designed to protect a person’s head from objects falling on them, having a hard helmet-type hat on the head could be the difference between life and death when falling from a high place.
Therefore, hard hats will offer some means of protection in case of an accident and a construction worker were to fall.
9. They Are Mandatory per OSHA Regulations
As we’ve discussed, construction workers wear hard hats for numerous reasons, such as protection from various dangers, including falling objects and debris or electric shocks. Hard hats are also helpful when working in the heat to protect against the sun and keep sweat away from the eyes. All of these are intended to offer protection and comfort to the wearer.
Indeed, it is wise to wear hard hats on a construction site for a person’s safety, as they protect against many situations when it comes to construction work and the outside elements. While they keep construction workers safe, it’s also mandatory for all construction and industrial workers to wear them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that any employees who are working in areas that have a possible danger of head injury must wear protective helmets on site.
Before hard hats were invented in 1919 by Edward W. Bullard, many workers would cover their hats in tar and leave them in the sun to cure in hopes of protecting their heads in case of an accident. While hard hats were not always mandatory to wear on the job, it was always a known fact of the risks involved with construction work.
By the 1970s, many companies finally made wearing hard hats mandatory for construction workers due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
- Environmental Health and Safety: PPE- Hard Hat Information
- OSHA: Head Protection
- OSHA: Commonly Used Statistics
- OSHA: Standard Interpretations
- WebMD: How Little Doses of Sunlight Help the Body
- Wikipedia: Hard hat
- Wikipedia: Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Northern Safety: Different Types of Hard Hats