Replacing Your Hard Hat
Hard hats have a reasonable service life when used in normal work environments and properly maintained. Users of industrial head protection devices must realize; however, that these products do not have an indefinite useful life and there are some recommended guidelines for hard hat replacement. Many employers replace all employees’ caps every five years, regardless of outward appearance. If the user environment is known to include higher exposure to temperature extremes, sunlight or chemicals, hard hats should be replaced routinely after two years of use. Most hard hats have manufacture date codes molded on the underside brim of the cap that you can easily determine the age of the cap.
Regardless of length of use, if a hard hat has been struck by a forcible blow of any magnitude, the shell and suspension should be replaced immediately, even if no damage is visible. Dropping a hard hat more than eight to 10 feet warrants a replacement. Don’t take a chance that it “might” be okay because it’s not worth the risk. Hard hats are designed to provide optimum protection under normal conditions. Any impact can substantially reduce the protection offered.
On average, the hard hat’s suspension should be replaced every 12 months.
The following is a simple field test that can be performed by an employee or supervisor to determine possible degradation of polyethylene shells: Compress the shell inward from the sides about 1” (2.5 cm) with both hands and then release the pressure without dropping the shell. The shell should quickly return to its original shape, exhibiting elasticity. Compare the elasticity of the sample with that of a new shell. If the sample does not exhibit elasticity similar to that of a new shell, or if it cracks due to brittleness, it should be replaced immediately.