OSHA Hard Hat Requirements

Updated November 21, 2016

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) estimates that over 90 per cent of head injuries sustained by workers could have been prevented by wearing hard hats. OSHA regulates the use of head protection and requires helmets or hard hats to be worn under certain workplace conditions. Head protection is crucial to preventing serious workplace accidents. A hard hat can reduce the force of a 570-pound impact to a 127-pound shock to the neck and spine.

Danger Zones

By law, employers must require workers to wear hard hats in all construction areas. This includes roadwork, shops, and outdoor work areas. Any employee must wear a hard hat that meets OSHA specifications while working where they could sustain head injury from falling objects, flying debris, or any impact. They must also wear head protection in an area in which they may sustain electrical shock or burns.


Both employers and workers must comply with OSHA hard-hat regulations, although the employer is ultimately liable for failure to use head protection. Signs explaining these regulations must be posted at worksites.


OSHA requires that head protection meet specifications of the American National Standards Institute's Safety Requirements for Industrial Head Protection. Bump caps -- headgear protecting the scalp from cuts and scratches that is used in meat packing or food processing plants or by exterminators and auto repair mechanics -- are not suitable. Sports helmets are also unacceptable.


A hard hat meeting OSHA requirements protects the worker against injury because of its shape and construction. The hard shell provides impact protection. The curved shape deflects flying or falling objects. The slightly rimmed edge protects the wearer from bumping into objects. The suspension bands inside the hat reduce shock from impact. The bill protects the face, and the curved bottom protects the ears and neck.

Proper Use

A hard hat must fit properly and be worn as designed. It cannot sit on the head at an angle or with the bill tilted on the crown of the head. It should cover the hair to prevent it from catching in machinery. Long hair should be secured tightly and worn under the hat.

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About the Author

Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.