Hard hats are an important safety feature in industries where employees may be at risk for falling objects or projectile objects. The hard hat protects the head and brain of the person and absorbs the impact if something hits the hard hat. Like bicycle helmets, a hard hat should be inspected for wear and tear and replaced on a regular basis--even if damage isn't visible.
Inspecting the hard hat for visible wear and tear including cracks and deformation can help determine when a hard hat should be replaced. There are two main components of a hard hat that work together to provide protection.Both need to be inspected regularly.
The first component is the hard outer shell. The surface both inside and out should be inspected for damage caused by penetrating corrosives or impacts to the surface. Fading, flaking and softness of the shell are also signs that the hat is no longer usable.
The second component is the suspension system of the hard hat. While the outer shell protects against penetration of sharp objects and chemicals, the suspension system inside helps absorb the impact. The connections and straps should be checked for tears, looseness and fraying.
Maintaining the hard hat properly can maximise the length of time that it is good for use. During inspections, the hard hat should be cleaned to prevent additional wear on the materials. The hard outer shell can be cleaned with warm water and a nonabrasive soap.
The inside of the hat should be cleaned to remove hair, sweat and body oils and other things that over time can wear down the strength and function of the hat's materials. Drying out the hat with a soft towel can be useful to remove these things.
The life of a hard hat may be increased by taking care of the hat, storing it away from direct light and cleaning it regularly.
Makers of hard hats usually recommend that a hard hat should be replaced at least every two years. Some makers suggest that a hard hat be replaced yearly just to be on the safe side. Depending on the conditions that the hat is exposed to, a hard hat may need to be replaced more often than that.
Hard hats do not last forever and even if they show little wear and tear they could be ineffective in the event of an accident. If after 1-2 years the hard hat still looks good, it should still be replaced as a precaution to ensure the highest level of safety.
Also hard hats should be discarded and replaced following an accident. If the hat becomes exposed to corrosive materials or is hit by a falling object or projectile, the hat has served it's purpose and it's structural integrity has been compromised.
Proper record keeping can help track the lifespan of a hard hat and alert companies when a hard hat should be replaced. If a hard hat is purchased and stored according to the maker's recommendations, the effective countdown to replacement begins when the hat is put into service, not when it was made or purchased.
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