By Peter Achieng

With so many types of head protection, working out where to start can be overwhelming. A huge variety of choice currently exists when it comes to deciding which form of head protection employees and visitors should use in areas requiring a safety helmet.

Many people immediately think of helmets/hard hats when they think about head protection. There are, however, many more options. When choosing, you should ask yourself a series of questions.

  1. What hazards is the individual exposed to?
  2. What other mitigations have been put in place?
  3. Who is the head protection for (someone working on site or a visitor, for example)?
  4. What weather conditions will the individual be working in?

A helmet is a form of protective gear worn to protect the head. More specifically, a helmet complements the skull in protecting the human brain.

A safety helmet is composed of three elements:

  • The cover (outer part) protects the head from impact.
  • The harness (inner part) provides shock absorption.
  • The chinstrap, an adjustable strap under the chin, keeps the helmet on the head. It is useful if you perform repeated movements.

Once you have answered the earlier questions, you can go on to looking at the different options and decide which is right in your workplace. There are different subdivisions of helmets based on:

  1. Types
  2. Classes
  3. Categories

A. Types

Type I Hard Hats: [1] These are the most widely used, and they’re designed to protect the user from vertical impact caused by falling objects. It’s not so effective when the force of impact is lateral or in any way off-center. Type 1 Hard Hats have a full brim around the entire hat.

Inside view of type I

Type II Hard Hats: These types of hard hats have extra reinforcement inside to ensure they can withhold a wider range of impact which may come from any angle. They are a little more expensive, but are also safer, offering superior protection. Type 2 Hard Hats have a short brim only in the front. Type 2 hard hats are the dominant style in the field today.

inside view if type II

B. Classes of Hard Hats

Class G (General): These are the least expensive and most common electrical hard hats, offering a minimal grade of electric insulation. They will protect the wearer from electrical charges of up to 2,200 volts from phase to ground, provided the charge is applied to the hat.

Class E (Electrical): These hats have a higher grade of electric protection, being able to block electrical charges of up to 20,000 volts. These hats are normally worn by workers who are routinely exposed to high voltage environments.

Class C (Conductive): These types of hats actually offer no protection from electrical shock, providing instead increased conductivity to help dismiss static charges as well as offering increased breathability.

C. Categories

Bump caps

These are suitable when the risk posed is as the name suggests, bumping or walking into objects, for example, in warehouses or garages, which may have an individual working underneath a car. Their main purpose is to prevent bumps and grazes. They are not intended to provide protection against falling or moving objects.

Bump caps are not tested for lateral deformation and will not protect from severe impact or crushing injuries. If you were wearing a bump cap when you sustained a severe blow to the head, it wouldn’t prevent a skull fracture.

Bump caps
Vented and Unvented Helmets

These are suitable for a wide range of working environments because of the range of hazards they protect against. You can consider options such as vented safety helmets to make them more comfortable in hot environments and liners can make them warmer in cold weather. Unvented helmets are better for use in areas where you require protection from chemicals and liquids with many unvented helmets protecting against molten metal and electric shocks of 440V ac.

Vented helmet
unvented helmet
Helmet with ratchet wheel

These have a suspension system and shell structure that has been designed to be used for industrial, mountaineering, rescue and leisure activities. Tested to mountaineering standards in addition to industrial standards, they provide protection to those undertaking rope access work or other activities where a greater range of hazards may be present and still allow the connection of accessories that may be required in an industrial setting as above.

Keeping it on your head

The fact that a hard hat sometimes comes off, particularly on receiving an impact, can defeat the purpose of wearing one.

One way of combating this is the use of chin straps. All hard hats should have fixings to attach a chin strap if needed. It is well documented that the use of chin straps is an effective tool in reducing head injuries.

The challenge with them is that they can be uncomfortable and may make users likely to just undo them, thus removing the protection that the chinstrap would provide – or worse still, remove the helmet all together.

Industrial climbing helmets will always have a four-point chin strap due to the hazards present in these working environments. Climbers tend to be more aware of the risks associated with their activities, so are more likely to comply with wearing a chin strap.

In contrast, there is a long-standing issue with people not wearing the chin strap on industrial safety helmets. In recent years, manufacturers have moved away from the combination of an adjustable ratchet band and chin strap combination and replaced this with a more user-friendly ratchet wheel. The ratchet wheel enables the hat band to be tightened after the helmet has been placed on the user’s head and locks the hard hat in place, removing the need for a chin strap in all scenarios apart from those with a high probability of a significant impact occurring.

The ratchet wheel also removes the additional hazards of chin straps causing strangulation if the hard hat becomes caught or releasing early when a given force is applied, leaving the user vulnerable to further impacts where these are received in quick succession.

Wear and Care

Users of helmets have a role to play, too, by taking care of it, enabling it to provide the protection it was designed for. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, as follows.

It may sound like an obvious thing to say, but you must always wear helmets the right way around. A hard hat, for example, won’t give you full protection if you wear it backwards. If the peak on the hat is the issue, they can be bought without peaks. Equally, you should ensure that the brim is level when the head is upright otherwise the protection it provides will be reduced.

Your head protection is designed for your head; carrying objects inside it could damage its integrity and reduce the protection it provides. Placing gloves in it can also transfer contaminants or chemicals from dirty gloves to your head.

You should replace head protection if it has been damaged or its shelf-life has expired. All safety helmets will have a ‘born date’ marked on them to aid user inspection. The frequency you should replace your hard hats varies between two and five years, depending on the level of use and the guidelines from manufacturers. The majority of manufacturers do suggest the protection can last five years, but this should always be checked closely.

You should clean safety helmets using warm, soapy water, rather than solvents or abrasives. Hygiene is actually a very important part of this. When you wear head protection, you can often sweat. It is possible to get removable sweat bands to help with this, but you should always ensure you clean the headwear.

It is advisable to not store head protection where it may be exposed to direct sunlight. How many people store head protection on the parcel shelf of a car, for instance? Ultraviolet rays can damage the plastic outer shell.

Don’t forget that the protection can do more than just protect an individual. Helmets on sites are often used to identify roles and responsibilities; for example, visitors, banksmen, supervisors and first aiders. It is worth checking with your client if they have a specific way they manage this.

“if your team see everyone from the CEO down on site with head protection on they are far more likely to wear it themselves”

Safety Helmets color code guide

Safety helmets come in pre-defined color codes for the uses based on the type of work and the site you are present at. Let’s look into the color codes mandates for the safety helmets and their uses [2]

1. Yellow color safety helmets –

This color code is for the earth moving operators or heavy-duty workers and labourers who are working on construction sites.

2.Blue color safety helmets –

This color is preferred by the electricians or technical workers like carpenters and interim workers.

3.Brown color safety helmets –

This is used by welders or people with high heat working areas.

4.Green color safety helmets –

This shade is worn by the safety inspectors on-site and some new trainees and officers also prefer green color helmets.

5. White color safety helmets-

This is the basic color that catches an eye amongst all the other colors. Hence, these color helmets are used by supervisors, architects, engineers, and managers.

6.Red color safety helmets –

This color is used by the firefighters and emergency trainees.

7.Grey color safety helmets-

These are issued to site visitors on the worksite.

8.Pink safety helmets –

These are preferred by female workers. In some companies, these are kept as an additional helmet.


[1]“Direct Industry,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed !@ May 2021].
[2]“Civilology,” [Online]. Available: