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Thought goes into each piece of clothing, tool and PPE we wear or use while performing electrical work.

As an electrical worker it's important to understand that your hard hat, screwdriver or pants were carefully selected and altering any of these could put your life at risk.

In Part 1 we will discuss hard hats (aka helmets).

OSHA 1910.135 outlines the requirements from OSHA for head protection:

1910.135(a)(1) The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.

1910.135(a)(2) The employer shall ensure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by each such affected employee when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head.

NFPA 70E Article 130.7 discusses the requirements for personal and other protective
equipment. Head protection requirements include non-conductive hard hats when working in situations where the head could become injured due to contact with electrical conductors or from flying objects resulting from electrical explosions. Hard hats must be manufactured per ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009 and Canadian CSA Z94.1-2005 standards.

Hard hat electrical performance is divided into three categories:

  • Class E, Electrical;
  • Class G, General, and;
  • Class C, Conductive.

We outfit our workers in Class E hard hats, Class C hard hats are strictly prohibited for electrical work. Class E are rated to 20,000V.

How do you find out what your hard hat category is? It's simple, look on the inside and find the sticker or stamp:

What is a Class C hard hat and how do you avoid grabbing one for electrical work?

Class C means conductive, this would include metal hard hats and any hard hats that have holes in them. A great example is those that have "breather holes" in the top of them. These holes might allow better air flow and keep your head cool, but they create a dangerous conductive path should your head ever come near an energized conductor.

What is Class G and can I use it?

Class G is typically found in hard hats made of composites, think of the fancy welding hard hats that cost over $100. These are tested to withstand 2200V and can be acceptable if your head will never be exposed to higher than this voltage.

How often should a hard hat be replaced?

MSA (the manufacturer of popular hard hats) states the following:

MSA hard hat shells should be used no longer than 5 years, while suspensions should be replaced after 12 months. Both are the maximum time frame for replacement, calculated from date of first use.

The date of manufacture is stamped or molded onto the hard hat shell, usually on the underside of the brim.

Similarly, the suspension will be marked with the month and year of manufacture, along with the headband size. Remember the recommended replacement date is from the day of first use. Markers or labels can be used to identify the date the hard hat was first placed in service. This helps avoid replacing a sound hard hat too soon.

Other things to think about

  • Class G and Class E hard hats can be used as a device for performing contact release! If you see someone getting shocked, don't grab them, turn the power off. Push/pull them to safety using a non-conductive item. If turning the power off is not a feasible or not a timely option, then you can use a non-conductive item such as your Class E hard hat to release them from electrical contact. For example, you can take the hard hat off your head, grab the inner webbing with your fist and treat the hard hat as a ram to knock the victim's hand from the conductor.
  • Other items can be mounted to hard hats such as an arc flash visor or hood. Visors and hoods can attach in different ways. Some visors only connect with snaps that fit into slots on the hard hats, not all hard hats have these slots. Certain types of visors/hoods utilize a rubber band that wraps around the hard hat, this can be a great alternative to the snaps but ensure the visor/hood stays on appropriately during normal work if choosing this method.
  • Some hard hats also allow you to clip pens or tools to your head, while super convenient its important to remember that while performing electrical work that no conductive items are taken inside the restricted approach boundary (12" for 480V), this includes anything that might be connected to your hard hat.
  • Hard hat flash lights can also be very convenient but not all flash lights are created equal. If you are in an area that requires electronics to be intrinsically safe then you should make sure your hard hat flash light also meets this requirement. We outfit our team with Nightstick.

The hard hat you choose or that has been provided to you, should be very carefully selected. Any modifications or changes to your hard hat or changing to a different hard hat should have all factors considered.

Remember, use your head!