Choosing a Hard Hat

Choosing a Hard Hat

What you should know about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 protective hard hats.

In the United States, according to OSHA standard number 1926.100(a), employees must be protected by protective helmets when “working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects.”

In addition, “the employer must provide each employee with head protection that meets the specifications contained in any of the following consensus standards,” noting American National Standards Institute (ANSI) “American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection.” 

ANSI Z89.1-2014 “describes Types and Classes, testing and performance requirements for protective helmets. These include recommended safety requirements for authorities considering the establishment of regulations or codes concerning the use of protective helmets.”

All industrial protective hard hats are either Type 1 or Type 2, based on ANSI and CSA standards for impact resistance and direction. A hard hat can only have one designation for impact properties. There is no in-between according to these standards. 

But understanding what the differences are between Type 1 and Type 2 can often be a challenge for workers, especially when taking concerns about specific applications and uses into account. Let’s start by first reviewing what the ANSI and CSA standards are.

What is the ANSI standard?

The performance and testing requirements and types and classes of protective helmets established in ANSI Z89.1-2014 provide employers with hard hat options that provide appropriate protection for hazards present in a given workplace.

ANSI Z89.1-2014 was prepared by members of the International Safety Equipment Association’s (ISEA) Head Protection Group as a revision to the 2009 edition and approved by a consensus review panel comprised of technical experts, unions, construction industry and other user groups, test labs, and certification and government agencies.

What are CSA Group Standards?

In Canada, Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) has established CSA Z94.1-15 (the “Standard”). The Standard defines the areas of the head that are to be protected and includes basic performance requirements for dielectric strength, impact attenuation, penetration resistance, passive retention (stability), shell flammability and liner ignition resistance.

The Standard includes requirements for and provides guidance on the selection, care, and use of protective headwear. Additionally, tests specified in the Standard set minimum performance requirements for protective headwear.

What Is a Type 1 Hard Hat?

Type 1 hard hats based on ANSI and CSA standards are designed to protect against an impact to ONLY the top of the head.

There are four specific performance requirements for ANSI Type 1 hard hats:

1. Flammability. No flame can be visible for five seconds after removing the test flame from the hard hat surface.

2. Force transmission. A single hard hat must not transmit force to the test head form exceeding 1,000 pounds of force. Conditioned hard hats (hot, cold and ambient) shall be averaged, and the average cannot exceed 850 pounds of force to the test head form.  

3. Apex penetration. The penetrator cannot make contact with the top of the head form.

4. Electrical classification (Class G, Class E or Class C). Class G and Class E hard hats must meet appropriate performance requirements. Class G must withstand 2,200 volts for one minute, and maximum leakage shall not exceed three milliamperes. Class E must withstand 20,000 volts for three minutes after impact, and maximum leakage shall not exceed nine milliamperes. Class C hard hats are not tested for electrical insulation.

What Is a Type 2 Hard Hat?

Type 2 hard hats based on ANSI and CSA standards are designed to protect against an impact to the front, back, sides AND top of the head. 

In addition to the four performance requirements of an ANSI Type 1 hard hat, Type 2 performance contains three additional requirements:

1. Impact energy attenuation. The hard hat is dropped onto a spherical object at various angles around the hard hat, above a designated test line.

2. Off-center penetration. A penetrator is dropped vertically, and the hard hat is rotated at different angles above a designated test line. The penetrator cannot contact the head form.

3. Chinstrap retention (optional). If a Type 2 hard hat is provided with a chin strap, the chin strap must be tested for retention, must remain attached to the hard hat and must not stretch beyond one inch in length.

EN397:2021 vs EN12492:2012 Approvals 

When choosing an industrial hard hat, it’s important to understand how European standards for impact and penetration testing compare to those for U.S. and Canada.

EN397 testing requirements for industrial hard hats are similar to those for ANSI and CSA Type 1. It is focused on top impact ONLY for industrial use. 

EN12492 testing requirements provide a slightly larger top impact zone for mountaineering and climbing helmets; while EN12492 helmets provide larger top impact protection when compared to ANSI Type 1 hard hats, the standard is NOT equivalent to ANSI Type 2 as it does not provide the same lateral protection that a Type 2 helmet provides. Prior to selecting a hard hat, be sure that it meets the appropriate protection requirements for your application. If lateral protection is required, the helmet MUST be certified as Type 2. 

What to Look for Before Using a Hard Hat

Before choosing a hard hat, remember to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Assess the hazards and understand the application. What conditions exist? Is work being done at height? With electrical sources? In extreme weather? Does the work require entering a confined space? 
  • Determine if the helmet meets the requirements of the right safety standard. Understand the differences between ANSI, CSA and EN standards to help ensure safety and compliance.
  • Decide if accessories are needed. What additional face, eye and hearing protection is needed based on concerns such as impact, glare, UV, radiant heat, arc flash, splash and noise levels?

Consider Comfort and Seasonal Concerns

One key factor is comfort, which can be improved with features like adjustable headbands, ventilation systems, sweatbands and thermal barrier technology to help keep the inside of the hard hat cool in sunny conditions. Newer hard hats on the market featuring this technology can stay up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler during sunny conditions, which can help to reduce worker heat stress, especially during the spring and summer months.

Style options—such as cap, hat and brimless options—as well as logos and other customizations can also help with worker compliance.

Whether your job requires a Type 1 or Type 2 hard hat, it’s important to inspect your PPE prior to each use and throughout the day. Damage can occur without notice and compromise the protection capabilities. Any hard hat that’s been struck severely should be immediately removed from service and replaced. Even if it looks to be in good condition, hairline cracks that you can’t see will affect its integrity. Also, keep in mind that hard hat suspensions should be replaced on an annual basis.  

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2023 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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