October Safety Tip

Your Hardhat: Inspection & Maintenance

A conventional hardhat provides limited protection by reducing the force of falling objects striking the top of the shell. It is not designed to protect workers from impacts to the front, side, or rear. Because hardhats can be damaged, they should not be abused. They should be kept free of abrasions, scrapes, and nicks. They should not be dropped or used as supports. Do not sit on your hardhat. Never drill holes in a hardhat. Hardhats should not be carried on the rear window shelf of an automobile or stored in direct sunlight.

The general service life of a hardhat can range from 2 to 5 years. All hardhats are susceptible to damage from ultraviolet light, extreme temperatures, and chemicals. Employees who are frequently exposed to sunlight, heat, cold, or chemicals should replace their hardhats more often.


Both the hardhat’s shell and suspension system must be inspected frequently for signs of wear and degradation. Field personnel who wear hardhats should check them at least monthly, if not more frequently.

The shell should be inspected routinely for dents, cracks, nicks, gouges, and any damage that might reduce protection. Any hardhat that shows signs of worn or damaged parts should be removed from service immediately. The shell material may be degrading if the shell becomes stiff, brittle, faded, or appears dull or chalky. With further degradation, the shell’s surface may flake or delaminate. A hardhat should be replaced at the first sign of any of these conditions.

Here is a simple hardhat inspection for field employees,
supervisors, and cache personnel:

* Compress the shell from both sides about 1 inch with your hands and release the pressure without dropping the shell. The shell should return to its original shape quickly, exhibiting elasticity. Compare the elasticity with that of a new shell. If the shell being tested does not have as much elasticity as the new shell, or if the shell cracks, it should be replaced immediately.

* Inspect the suspension system closely for cracks, cut or frayed shell straps, torn headband or size adjustment slots, loss of pliability, or other signs of wear. Remove and replace any suspension that is damaged.


Exposure to temperature extremes, sunlight, or chemicals (such as fire retardant, or tree-marking paint) shorten the useful life of a hardhat.

Follow these practices to protect your hardhat and extend its service life:

* Never store a hardhat in direct sunlight. * Remove dirt and stains from the shell and suspension system by scrubbing them with a mild detergent.

* Rinse the shell thoroughly with warm (not hot) water.

* Wipe the shell dry and carefully inspect the shell and the suspension systems for signs of wear and damage.