Ever since their invention in 1919 as the ‘Hard Boiled Hat’, hard hats have proven themselves invaluable in protecting their wearers’ heads. Their effectiveness is so significant that governments and safety regulation authorities around the world -such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have made it necessary by law for personnel to wear hard hats on any work site with potential head injury hazards.
In 2023, OSHA updated their hard hat regulations and policies –in association with ANSI (American National Standards Institute) that will be expounded in the key points below.

Importance of Wearing a Hard Hat

Hard hats are necessary to prevent harm to the wearer’s head. Personnel are exposed to a variety of hazards that could cause head injury that could lead to death; such as falling objects, electrocution, high temperatures, harmful substances and falls from heights. Hard hats prevent this by being shock-absorbent, non-reactive to most chemicals, heat-resistant and insulated or made of non-conducting materials.

New Hard Hat Classes

OSHA still maintains categorization on the types of hard hats, updating categorization exclusively on the classes.
  • Type 1 Hard Hats – These are hard hats that offer protection to the top of the head.
  • Type 2 Hard Hats – These hard hats protect both the top and sides of the wearer’s head.
  1. Class G (Formerly Class A) – These are the most common (general) hard hats. They offer head insulation protection for up to 2,200 volts.
  2. Class E (Formerly Class B) – These hard hats offer more dielectric protection, up to 20,000 volts, and are intended for use in work sites with greater risks of high voltage exposure.
  3. Class C  – These hard hats offer no protection from exposure to electric currents. They often include vents to keep the wearer cool, making them common in hot factories and construction yards.
Manufacturers include the classification and type of the hard hat on the inside, along with other information such as its ANSI standard, size, and date of manufacture.

What Does The Hard Hat Color Codes Mean?

Hard hat colors are used to convey certain information about the wearer to other personnel on site. This includes:
  • Identify the wearer’s role.
  • Avoid accidents: Certain colors increase visibility and alert others on the wearer’s position
  • Enhance efficiency: Color helps identify personnel of a specific type (e.g., electricians), reducing time used to ask and look around.
  • Improve safety: Color helps identify a work-type, and relays information on the type of potential hazards they may be working with, encouraging others to keep their distance.
  • Enables management to distinguish and designate work for personnel on-site.
Yellow General Worker Equipment operation, trench digging, loading/unloading
White Executives Personnel safety, delegation of duties, site management.
Safety Personnel
Blue Technical Personnel –Electricians, carpenters, etc. Wiring and electrical, plumbing, carpentry.
Brown High-heat environments/utility, e.g., welders Welding. Include features protecting from sparks, glare and welding debris.
Green Safety Inspectors Site and equipment inspection
New site personnel Safety equipment during familiarization, then assigned with appropriate color
Orange Any personnel requiring high visibility. Signal persons, traffic marshals, riggers, banksmen, etc.
Red Fire marshals Fire hazard safety, fire control and management.
Grey Visitors Site personnel are encouraged to give direction and hazard awareness to grey hard hat wearers.
Pink Forgetful personnel Pink hard hats are assigned to any personnel who forget their hard hats.

Risks of Not Wearing a Hard Hat

There are several negative implications of not wearing hard hats on any work sites posing potential head-injury hazards, not only for the wearer, but their employer and those around them. They are mainly focused on head injury, but can extend into:
  • Receiving a penalty from OSHA for a violation. Serious violation fines are $15,625, and willful or repeated violations can incur a $156,259 penalty.
  • Permanent head damage –and even death- from falls, collisions with stationary or moving objects, and impact from falling objects.
  • Bodily harm as a result of head injury such as whiplash, damaging the neck and resulting in paralysis.
  • Expensive lawsuits and hospital bills from the ailed/bereaved family.
  • Loss of reputation and risk of business closure from payment of remittances in fines and bills.
  • Risk of heat stroke from exposure to hot environmental conditions
It is important to carry out a hard hat inspection before equipping it for the task ahead. Check for cracks, holes, excess dirt, and deterioration, alerting the necessary personnel of any faults found.

Safety and Personal Protective Equipment Training

Hard hats make up for a small part of protective equipment in the work site. Most other safety equipment requires training for its proper use. Let Total Equipment Training come in and provide you and your team with experienced guidance on safety equipment utility, and thorough, qualitative inspection services. Their skilled team of industry experts, and up-to-date curriculums in their training programs will improve safety standards by bounds, while maintaining OSHA compliance. Reach out to TET today for a consultation and pick the program they will tailor to your needs.

Barb Fullman- CEO of Total Equipment Training
About the Author

As the owner of Total Equipment Training, Barb Fullman has been an active contributor to the heavy equipment training industry for over 23 years. Barb, a Penn State University graduate, is recognized as the highest ranking women-owned heavy equipment training business in the US. As a leading authority and provider of heavy equipment training, training manuals and tests based on OSHA Standards and Regulations, Total Equipment Trainings’ client list is composed of most of the Fortune 1000 companies focusing on energy, construction, heavy highway, and manufacturing.

Barb’s motto is “Stay safe, stay up to date”. She is committed to up-to-date & technically correct training, whether it is via in-person or through our library of online heavy equipment resources. With over 50 OSHA qualifying training topics to choose from with TET, the most popular heavy equipment training subjects are mobile cranes, NCCCO, all “dirt equipment”, rigging, crane inspections, and train-the-trainer.