Hard hats have an “expiration date” too!
It may be easy to know when to replace your work boots, or even easier to know when your workwear needs to be thrown out. The same is true for your eye protection. Simply take a good look at these items—if you can spot holes, if the seams are falling apart, if the soles are worn, or if the glass is scratched, it’s time to get rid of them. It’s even easier when an expiration date is printed on your work gear!
Similarly, hard hats and suspensions show signs of needing to be replaced. Since they protect one of the most important parts of your body—the brain—this vital element of your personal protection equipment (PPE) must be inspected thoroughly and replaced if it shows any signs of wear or damage.
The lifespan of a hard hat can be shortened if the item is not cared for properly. Here are simple rules to follow to guide your decision to replace your hard hat.
Recommended lifespan of helmets and suspensions
Technically speaking, there are no expiration dates on helmets and suspensions, but most manufacturers have recommendations on helmet and suspension lifespans.
According to MSA, hard hat shells should be used for a maximum of 5 years and suspensions should be replaced after 12 months. Both are the maximum time frames for replacement, calculated from the date of first use.
Since it’s the date of manufacture that is stamped or moulded onto the hard hat shell and suspension, users can use markers or labels to identify the date the PPE was first placed in service. This helps avoid replacing a sound hard hat too soon. Remember the recommended replacement date is calculated based on the day of first use.
Visible signs of damage to the hard hat
Sometimes, the shell will need to be replaced sooner than the recommended 5 years—depending on different factors.
As soon as a hard hat is impacted or perforated it should be removed from service. Cracks, dents, and holes are some very visible and clear signs of hard hat damage and, because the structural integrity of the hat has been damaged, it is obvious that it should be removed from service. Such impacts create weak spots in the material, compromising the protection level of the PPE.
Scores or scuffs seem to impact the level of protection of the PPE to a lesser extent, but they cause the shell to thin out, and once again undermine the level of protection. Scores and scuffs are also signs that the hard hat should be replaced.
The weakening of the plastic shell, caused by sunlight and UV rays, shows up as fading—the hard hat could look chalky, have a brittle surface or show discolouration. Since the shell is weakening, it’s another sign to replace the hard hat.
Visible signs of damage to the suspension
To ensure maximum protection, two elements of the suspension need to be inspected: the straps and the plastic attachment clips. If the straps are frayed or ripped or have damaged stitching, change them immediately. If the plastic attachments are weakened or broken, they also need to be changed.
When replacing the suspension, you should use only those made by the original manufacturer. Hard hats are tested and certified with the manufacturer’s suspension installed and approved as a whole. Incorrect parts and accessories or those sourced from another manufacturer render the certification null and void. Additionally, an incorrect headband could reduce or eliminate the amount of impact protection.
Extending the life of your hard hat
Your hard hat is possibly one of the most robust pieces of PPE you have and proper care can help ensure that you get the full recommended life of it.
You should inspect the hard hat on a regular basis—before every use and a few times during the workday!
You should also clean your hard hat and the headband and webbing regularly, either with a cleaning solution or soap and warm water. Do not use chemicals, abrasives, solvents, scrapers, knives or abrasive tools to remove debris—they would deteriorate the shell.
What about helmet decorations?
By placing stickers or paint on the shell material of your hard hat, you risk damaging it, and, therefore, reducing its degree of protection.
MSA provides imprinting at the time of purchase. The ink they use won’t damage the integrity of the shell and will be resistant to cracking or fading.
Contact our OHS expert for more information!