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When it comes to electrical work, every piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of workers. In this first part of our series on selecting appropriate PPE, we'll focus on the importance of choosing the right hard hat (also known as a helmet) for electrical work environments.

OSHA and NFPA 70E Requirements for Hard Hats

OSHA 1910.135 outlines the requirements for head protection, stating that employers must ensure workers wear protective helmets when there is a risk of head injury from falling objects or contact with electrical conductors. NFPA 70E Article 130.7 further specifies that hard hats must be non-conductive and manufactured per ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009 and Canadian CSA Z94.1-2005 standards.

At Rozel, we help our clients navigate these requirements and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

Understanding Hard Hat Electrical Performance Categories

Hard hat electrical performance is divided into three categories:

  1. Class E (Electrical): Rated to 20,000V
  2. Class G (General): Tested to withstand 2,200V
  3. Class C (Conductive): Strictly prohibited for electrical work

To identify your hard hat's category, look for the sticker or stamp on the inside of the shell.

Rozel's team can assist you in selecting the appropriate hard hat category for your specific work environment and electrical hazards.

Avoiding Class C Hard Hats for Electrical Work

Class C hard hats, which include metal hard hats and those with holes (e.g., "breather holes"), are conductive and must be avoided for electrical work. These holes may improve air flow and comfort but create a dangerous conductive path if the head comes near an energized conductor.

Rozel's experts can help you identify and avoid Class C hard hats, ensuring that your workers are adequately protected from electrical hazards.

When to Use Class G Hard Hats

Class G hard hats, typically made of composites, can be acceptable if the head will never be exposed to voltages higher than 2,200V. However, for most electrical work, Class E hard hats are recommended.

Rozel can guide you in determining whether Class G hard hats are suitable for your specific work environment and electrical hazards.

Hard Hat Replacement Guidelines

According to MSA, a leading hard hat manufacturer, hard hat shells should be replaced no longer than 5 years from the date of first use, while suspensions should be replaced after 12 months. The date of manufacture is stamped or molded onto the shell, usually on the underside of the brim. Use markers or labels to identify the date the hard hat was first placed in service to avoid premature replacement.

Rozel can help you establish a hard hat replacement schedule and provide guidance on proper labeling and tracking of service dates.

Additional Considerations for Hard Hats in Electrical Work

  • Class G and Class E hard hats can be used for contact release in case of electrical shock. Use the hard hat as a non-conductive ram to knock a victim's hand from a conductor if turning off the power is not feasible.
  • When attaching arc flash visors or hoods to hard hats, ensure compatibility with the hard hat's slots or consider using a rubber band attachment for a secure fit.
  • Avoid clipping conductive items like pens or tools to your hard hat when working inside the restricted approach boundary (12" for 480V).
  • If using a hard hat flashlight in areas requiring intrinsically safe electronics, choose a compatible model like those from Nightstick.

Rozel's team can provide guidance on these additional considerations, helping you optimize the safety and functionality of your hard hats for electrical work.

Remember, any modifications or changes to your hard hat should be carefully considered to maintain its protective properties. For more information on arc flash risk assessments and electrical safety training, contact the experts at Rozel.