2008 Changes in the Z89.1 Standard
The new edition includes a test for hard hats made to be worn backward. High visibility, low temperature extremes, and some markings are other revisions that end users will face.
- By Marc Barrera
- Nov 01, 2008
Whether or not it’s true that some forward-looking caveman started it all by strapping a turtle shell to his head, it’s certain head protection has been a matter of survival throughout human history. The creation of the hard hat has come a long way from the simple bowler hats that were stuffed with cotton and used by early miners in the late 19th Century to cushion against blows (often dubbed “Iron Hats”) to the “hard-boiled hat” created by Edward Bullard and inspired by the design of his World War I “doughboy”Army helmet.
Since that time, the hard hat has seen many improvements and become more effective at protecting its wearer. To further that end, the International Safety Equipment Association is seeking to revise its American National Standard for Head Protection, ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2003, by the end of this year with voluntary revisions that deal with items that are quickly becoming a necessity in today’s business: reverse donning, high visibility, and low temperature extremes.
Jim Byrnes, an MSA product line manager and chairman of ISEA’s Head Protection Group, said there are many reasons why reverse donning—the practice of wearing a hard hat backward—has become so prominent.
“Welders love to wear their helmet backwards. They really don’t like to have the brim in the front because of the way that their helmet sits,” he said. “Another reason is that people just want a little bit better visibility with no brim. But the majority of people wear them backward because that’s just the way they want to wear them.”
This trend has become an issue during the past 15 to 20 years, Byrnes said. OSHA first addressed the issue on July 22, 1992, when it issued a letter of guidance stating that “ANSI only tests and certifies hard hats to be worn with the bill forward[;] hard hats worn with the bill to the rear would not be considered reliable protection and would not meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.100(a) and (b) unless the hard hat manufacturer certifies that this practice meets the ANSI Z89.1-1969 requirements.”
In response, manufacturers have come up with products with design features that met their clients’ reverse donning needs, such as symmetrical suspensions that are the same on both sides or swing ratchet mechanisms that allow for a quick reversal.What manufacturers were lacking was a standard that established uniform testing criteria for their products in the United States.
“A lot of people were looking for it,” Byrnes said. “It was put in the Canadian standard in their last revision, and we’ve been looking at it for a while. So we added it this time. If you want to let your customer know that it can be reversed and still give the same level of protection, there is a test for it.”
When approved, the voluntary standard will contain testing criteria related to conducting a proper test, such as the proper way to mount the helmet to a head form in reverse, how many samples are necessary, and so forth, said Cristine Fargo, ISEA’s manager of standards programs. The standard also will contain the proper marking protocol for a hard hat that passes all test criteria. “The certification organizations have been doing variances in testing,” she said. “These test labs will go ahead and run a set of tests in the peak backward position to ensure that all the other applicable performance criteria are met when you reverse it and you reverse the suspension per the manufacturer’s instructions.”
In 2004, ISEA revised the American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear, ANSI/ISEA 107, in response to concerns that American workers who are exposed to low-visibility hazards were not wearing appropriate visibility-enhancing apparel. High-vis is gaining more prominence as the federal government is increasingly mandating high-visibility clothing on its work projects, especially in the transportation sector, said Byrnes.
“Any road or highway that has any money coming to it from the government will have to comply with 107, and that’s high-visibility clothing,” he said. “It just goes along that if you have high-visibility clothing, you should have a helmet that meets the same requirements.”
ISEA looked to its 107 standard for guidance.“The group just felt that there was an opportunity to assist manufacturers and users in identifying products that have high-visibility capacities,” Fargo said. “So what we ended up doing was looking at some of the test criteria in the existing standard that evaluates high-visibility performance and how that could apply to nonwoven, non-knit goods. Because the test methodology, as it’s run for the high-visibility apparel, is strictly on apparel.”
Byrnes said the group took a chromaticity and luminescence chart for apparel from the 107 standard and applied it to testing of the surface of the hard hat. “It can be the helmet itself; it could be paint on the shell, as long as it’s the entire shell,” he said. “So you could mold a shell for high visibility, or you could paint a shell for high visibility. There’s a couple of ways you can do things as long as you meet the standard, but it isn’t meant for putting on a cover, like taking a cloth cover and putting it over a helmet. In other words, nothing that could be placed on the shell and then taken off.”
Armed with the 107 testing criteria,Fargo said the Head Protection Group conducted anonymous round robin tests on various manufacturers’ samples through use of outside labs and manufacturers’ labs to ensure uniformity of lab data results and to find out whether or not current products in the market could meet the high-visibility properties demonstrated in 107. “It wasn’t really a reinventing of the wheel so much,” she said. “It was making sure that whatever methodology that was incorporated was reproducible, didn’t box anybody out of the market, and didn’t write itself around any particular product as it was strictly performance oriented.”
Fargo said the testing sample was limited to manufacturers of ISEA products, and the test results were encouraging. “The data did demonstrate that, based on the test results, there are shelled materials out there— polyurethane materials or other types of hard materials—that could retain the highvisibility characteristics required by 107,and that the current test protocol could apply to industrial head protection,” she said. Many of the products that did not meet the test criteria were on the brink and needed only a color tweak to pass, Fargo added. “There are products out there that can meet the standard, so it’s not like we’re trying to build it and they will come—they already exist.”
Another issue that has raised many questions is hard hat temperature extremes. Fargo said the group visited this issue in response to similar international standards and numerous customer inquiries seeking information about whether their hard hats would continue to offer the same amount of protection in extreme temperatures.
With regard to low temperatures, a voluntary revision was a natural progression for ISEA, Byrnes said. “Low temperature is easy because it’s already part of the ISEA standard, which is minus 20 degrees Celsius. Most everybody that makes a helmet in the U.S. sells helmets to that, so that was pretty simple,”he said.“There has been a lot of call for looking at a helmet that will go minus 20 to minus 30, in those ranges.”
The standard would provide guidance for testing products at these lower temperatures and create a requisite marking for quality assurance. “You can choose to have your product evaluated at a lower temperature than what the current standard calls out,” Fargo said. “Since most of our manufacturers offer multinational lines, they were familiar with international standards and the criteria that some of those standards imposed and were comfortable with lowering temperatures for preconditioning, if manufacturers choose to do so. The baseline is what it is, and then there would be requisite marking if you wanted to evaluate your product at the lower temperature conditioning.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the group determined there is a need for extreme high-temperature guidance for many industries, especially those where radiant heat exposure is a common hazard, such as in molten metal, steel mill, and foundry applications, said Fargo. However, the group determined more time was needed to investigate the appropriate testing criteria for high-temperature extremes—such as testing how heat affects the brim or the softness of the hard hat material—and decided to revisit the issue in the next revision.
“There’s nothing really out there right now except for wildland firefighting, which the group reviewed and had some concerns about whether or not the applications that the wildland firefighting tests lent itself to were applicable for industrial applications,” she said. “The manufacturers determined that they would like to spend more time evaluating other standards that may exist and try to come up with a representative test and adequate pass/fail criteria for those types of applications.”
At press time, Fargo said the group was at its last approval level internally and expected the draft revision to be available for public review by the beginning of October 2008. It will be circulated by the consensus panel and announced on ISEA’s Web site (www.safetyequipment.org), in trade journals, and through ANSI’s “Standards Action” newsletter.
“We’re expecting that the review period will be taken care of by the middle of December,” she said, “and it’s very possible that by late December, a final published 2008 version of ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 would be available.”