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Hard Hat Requirements

PPE Guide
PPE Requirements Chart

Written by Steve Hudgik

Clarification Of 29 CFR 1910.135(a)

29 CFR 1910.135(a) Personal Protective Equipment - Head Protection

OSHA 1910.135(a) states: "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. 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 "

The OSHA 1910.135(a) standard also references ANSI Z89 stating that head protection must comply with ANSI Z89.1 issued in 2003, 1997 or 1986.

Questions and Answers from OSHA about 29 CFR 1910.135(a) requirements for wearing a hard hat.

OSHA 1910.135(a) - When Must Hard Hats Be Worn? - Must a hard hat be worn when the worker is not in the immediate vicinity of the work? Do OSHA's safety standards contain criteria for wearing a hard hat, based upon distance from operating equipment?

Answer: 1926(E) (Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment) and 1926.95 (Criteria for personal protective equipment) require that hard hats be used wherever necessary to protect from a hazard capable of causing injury or whenever there is a possibility of a head injury. Neither of these standards include a requirement that head protection be used based on specific distances from operating equipment. However, if a worker has access to an area in which there is a potential for injury, then a hard hat must be worn.

Court decisions covering the requirements for wearing hard hats have focused on the specific words of the standard. For example, in Donovan v. Adams Steel Erection, Inc., the Court emphasized that: its express language, the standard applies whenever employees are exposed to "a possible danger of head injury." [Emphasis added.]

The Court continued:

The legislative history makes clear that "death and disability prevention is the primary intent" of the Act. The Act is remedial in nature and "does not wait for an employee to die or become injured. It authorizes the promulgation of health and safety the hope that these will act to prevent deaths or injuries from ever occurring. Imminent risk of injury or death to employees should not be required before the Secretary can compel protective action.

citation for failure to use a protective helmet. This means that employers must evaluate the activities of each employee and determine whether they are likely to have access to a "zone of danger." If so, that employee must wear a hard hat.

OSHA 1910.135(a) - Must Hard Hats Be Worn In Vehicles? - Do OSHA's safety standards require hard hats and/or eye protection be worn when a worker is seated in a vehicle near the work?

Answer: OSHA standard 1926.28(a) states that "the employer is responsible for requiring the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions or where this part indicates the need for using such equipment to reduce the hazards to the employees."

OSHA's standards on hard hats and eye protection focus on the potential for injury. As described above, the employer must conduct an evaluation of the potential for a worker to enter a safety hazard zone.

Typically, the cab of a vehicle will provide more protection from overhead hazards than a hard hat. As a result a hard hat would generally not be needed while sitting in the cab of a vehicle. Whether eye protection is required depends on whether the windows were open and, if so, if there was a foreseeable risk of eye or face injury.

OSHA 1910.135(a) - Does OSHA Prohibit Caps or Scarfs? Do OSHA standards prevent an employee from wearing a cap or scarf, for purposes of cold weather protection, while wearing a hard hat?

OSHA 1926.100 requires that a hard hard be worn where there is possible danger of head injury and that hard hats comply with ANSI Z89.1. Neither of these specifically prohibit the use of cold weather head garments under hard hats. However, ANSI Z89.1 does include requirements regarding "winter liners."

Section 5.4.2 of ANSI Z89.1-1971 states: "Winter liners should be made of fabric, plastic, or other suitable material. Colored materials shall be fast-dyed. The outer surface may be water resistant. There shall be no metal parts in winter liners for use with Class B helmets. "

The use of the term “winter liners” indicates that the ANSI standards permit the use of cold weather liners that are specifically designed for use with hard hats. The use of a cap or scarf, not designed as a hard hat liner could decrease the hard hat’s protective properties.

OSHA 1910.135(a) - Are There Religious Exemptions From Wearing A Hard Hat? Is there an exemption from wearing a hard hat for religious reasons?

In 1975 OSHA granted an exemption from wearing hard hats to "the Old Order Amish and the Sikh Dharma Brotherhood." These exemptions from the 1910.135(a) hard hat requirements were granted based on the provisions in the U. S. Constitution relating to the free exercise of religion. OSHA has issued Directive STD 1-6.5 - Exemption for Religious Reason From Wearing Hard Hats. This allows an exception from citations to employers of workers "who, for reasons of personal religious convictions, object to wearing hard hats in the workplace."

Free Chart to PPE Requirements

A summary of the 12 most common PPE categories

Hard Hat Requirements - ANSI Z89.1

The ANSI Z89.1 standard gives hard hat manufacturers performance and testing requirements they must comply with when selling hard hats. Z89.1 also defines two types of hard hats and establishes three classes of hard hats based on the level of electrical hazard protection provided. In addition, this ANSI standard includes criteria for hard hats that can be worn in the reverse position.

ANSI Z89.1 Hard Hat Types

ANSI Type I Hard Hats provide protection from impacts to the top of the head, but do not provide side protection. This type of hard hat may have a brim at the front, or as is common in some industries such as forestry, have a brim around the entire hard hat. Type I hard hats are commonly used in the U.S.

ANSI Type II hard hats provide protection from impacts on the side, front and back as well as top impacts. Type II hard hats must also meet criteria for chin strap retention and usually have a foam liner. This type of hard hat is commonly used in Europe and is usually referred to as a helmet.

ANSI Z89.1 Hard Hat Classes

ANSI divides hard hats into three classes based on their electrical rating.

Class G (General) Helmets are designed to provide protection from falling objects and are tested at 2,200 volts.

Class E (Electrical) Helmets are designed to provide protection from falling objects and are tested at 20,000 volts.

Class C (Conductive) Helmets are designed to provide protection from falling objects, but include no electrical insulation or protection.

ANSI Z89.1 Hard Hat Labeling Requirements

hard hat

ANSI Z89.1 requires that all hard hats be labeled to include the following information inside each hard hat:

  • Manufacturer's name
  • Designation of the ANSI code the hard hat conforms with, such as "ANSI Z89.1-2009"
  • ANSI class designation (G, E or C)
  • Date of manufacture

Sizing and care instructions must accompany the hard hat, but do not have be included on the hard hat.

Can Labels Be Placed On Hard Hats?

ANSI Z89.1 does not restrict the application of hard hat labels. Labels may be applied to hard hats to the extent that they do not interfere with the ability to inspect the hard hat for cracks or other damage. Hard hat labels and stickers are commonly used to identify the employer, and may at times are used to identify the trade, union membership or project, as well as to provide the name of the employee using the hard hat.

Other Uses For Hard Hats

Hard hats are for head protection, but they also serve a number of visual communication purposes. For example, they can be used to identify the wearer's company, the wearer's trade, the project, and the wearer's name. This is most commonly done using stickers and labels. And these frequently come from a DuraLabel custom label printer. DuraLabel printers are not only excellent for making hard hat stickers, they can handle all of the labeling jobs on your job site. From pipe marking to OSHA safety signs, DuraLabel printers and supplies make durable, long-lasting labels and signs. Call 1-888-326-9244 today for more information.


The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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