Personal Protective Equipment

Head protection in the workplace

Head injuries are serious and may result in headaches, concussion, brain damage and even death. Hard hats and helmets for specialized activities are designed to minimize head injuries

Risks and hazards to the head

  • Impact injuries due to contact with sharp edges, low overhead hazards, sharp puncturing objects, flying debris, or falling on tools or sharp rocks
  • Slips, trips and falls due to rough or slippery ground, working at height without fall protection
  • Electrocution due to contacting overhead electrical sources

Prevention and preparation

Hard hats

Both Canadian and US Occupational Health and Safety legislation specify that everyone should wear a good quality, appropriate, government approved hard hat when working in any location where there is a risk from falling objects, flying debris, or where one might be harmed by machinery in operation, unsecured equipment and sharp edges etc. Some examples of locations and situations where a hard hat should be worn include:

  • Mine sites - all active, abandoned, surface and underground mines
  • All drill sites
  • Open pits, trenches, quarries
  • Sampling on steep slopes or cliff faces
  • Slinging operations
  • Construction sites and where heavy equipment is present
  • Where your head might contact electrical conductors
  • Using chainsaws or rock saws

Hard hat tips

Use a hard hat that is correctly rated for the job and meets the appropriate CSA, ANSI or standards of the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). There are several types and classes of hard hats. The webbing inside hard hats should provide shock absorption from falling objects, lateral impacts and help protect your head during a fall.

Use a face shield attached to the hard hat for protection from chemicals, dust or electrical sparks etc., as required.

Inspect your hard hat every day before use. Replace it if the shell is damaged, i.e., cracked, brittle, dented, discoloured or flaking, or if the strap system is frayed or torn. Hard hats should be replaced at least every three to five years as they can become brittle. The strap system should be replaced annually if it is used frequently.

Make sure the hard hat fits properly; it should stay on when you bend over but not be so tight that it marks your forehead. There should be 2.5 cm (1 in) between the shell of the hard hat and the strap system that absorbs the shock.

Never wear your hard hat backwards; in that position it cannot protect your head as it is designed to do. Do not insert anything between the webbing and the shell or the suspension will not be able to absorb an impact properly

Seasonal issues: In winter, wear a hard hat liner for warmth during very cold temperatures but make sure the hard hat fits over it correctly. In summer, hard hats may

Use a chin strap to secure the hard hat when it is windy or when working at or near a helicopter landing area

Care for the hard hat correctly. Clean and store it correctly. Do not paint it or apply solvents as these can make the shell either soft or brittle have fabric attached to protect the worker's neck from sun, but the hat must fit correctly


The required or suggested use of helmets may depend on jurisdictional OHS legislation and company SOPs

Regional legislation may require riders and passengers to wear government approved helmets when riding ATVs, snowmobiles or a 2-wheel motor bike. Helmets worn with a face shield provide the most protection. Refer to Chapters 14. All-Terrain Vehicles and 15. Snowmobiles for additional information

When traversing in mountainous terrain where falling rocks may be a risk, it may be advisable to wear a climbing or mountaineering helmet with a secure chin strap rather than a hard hat. Mountaineering helmets are designed with no brim to prevent them from catching on rocks should you slip and fall

Where legislation does not require the use of helmets, employees should use common sense and wear a helmet when conditions are hazardous

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