The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's rules on hard hat expiration are based on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines for personal protection equipment. In turn, ANSI advises referring to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding service life guidelines for your particular hard hat. Manufacturers indicate that replacement of hard hats is recommended after four to five years of use regardless of their physical appearance.
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Determining Your Hard Hat's Expiration Date
ANSI statute Z89.1-2009 requires particular information to be permanently printed inside each hard hat, including the date of manufacture. The longest a hat should be in service is four to five years from date of manufacture, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the hat is not visibly damaged, you can calculate the expiration date by checking the date of manufacture. Additionally, workers should use a permanent marker to record the date they begin to use their head protection. This date will vary from the date of manufacture but may be needed for documentation in case of injury or accident. The manufacturer must also include the following information on the inside of the hat: manufacturer name, ANSI standard designation, and the appropriate ANSI class designation (Class A, B, or C).
Reasons for Hard Hat Expiration Dates
An expiration date is a safeguard for you as a worker. Ideally your hard hat will be required to be replaced before it’s worn out in order to provide you with maximum protection at all times. If you
work in the sun long hours or in extremely hostile environments with chemicals or high temperature, you may need to replace your hat after two years of use. Most manufacturers recommend replacement of the suspension inside the hat every 12 months. Proper maintenance of your hat ensures a longer life. Clean it with soapy water. Cleaning products may contain ingredients that could have an unfavorable reaction with your helmet, compromising its integrity before its expected expiration date. Don’t intentionally do anything that can shorten the lifespan of your hat, such as paint it. This essential piece of safety equipment must be kept in top condition.
Inspect Your Hat for Signs of Wear
Since hard hats are durable pieces of equipment, it may not be obvious that yours has become compromised unless you do a regular inspection of it. Inspect the shell for signs of damage such as dents, gouges, scrapes, holes or cracks. Look at the shell to see if it’s faded or chalky looking—these are signs of aging. If you drop the hat on a hard surface or receive a blow to your head, inspect it carefully before continuing to use it. The suspension inside the shell actually absorbs the impact protecting your head, and it needs to be routinely checked for wear. Check for signs of excessive wear, fraying, cuts or tears, and dirt. The suspension can be washed with soapy water. When replacing the suspension, use a product from the same company that manufactured your hard hat.