December 14, 2023

OSHA Employees Will Swap Hard Hats for Safety Helmets

OSHA announced this week that it is replacing traditional hard hats used by its employees with more modern safety helmets that will offer better protection on inspection sites. Hard hats provide only a basic level of protection and lack features like chin straps, making them more likely to fall off a worker’s head during a slip or trip, the agency says. And traditional hard hats lack vents, which means that heat can be trapped inside. Hard hats also have minimal side impact protection whereas safety helmets incorporate features that can help protect the worker’s entire head, OSHA explains. Certain safety helmet models offer additional features to help protect against other occupational hazards like projectiles, dust, and chemical splashes. For example, some helmets incorporate face shields, goggles, and built-in hearing protection. Others come with communication systems intended to allow wearers to clearly communicate in noisy environments.

In addition to its own personnel, OSHA recommends that workers in the construction and oil and gas industries use safety helmets. The agency also recommends that helmets be worn by workers performing tasks involving electrical work or working from heights. Safety helmets can also provide comprehensive protection for workers in low-risk environments with no overhead hazards, OSHA says. The agency reminds employers that some regulations and industry standards mandate the use of safety helmets.

A safety and health bulletin (PDF) published last month by OSHA further explains the differences between hard hats and safety helmets and provides information for workers and employers about how to properly store and evaluate head protection prior to each use.

To learn more about OSHA’s shift to safety helmets, see the agency’s press release.