One of the most vulnerable spots on any worker’s body is their head. That’s why so many job types require those on a worksite to wear hard hats. That also means there are many manufacturers that make this type of protective head equipment. Because of that there is a large variation in the quality of the hard hats found in the marketplace too. So how do you tell if the hard hat you are thinking about buying is a good one? That’s what we are about to go over with you in this article.
So how do you choose the best hard hat for your individual situation? You can start by taking a look at a few hard hat reviews. That way you will know what goes into making a quality hard hat. We have also included a handy hard hat buying guide in this article and some other useful information. Once you are done reading it you should be able to choose a very good hard hat to wear to work.
Best Hard Hats
These are hard hats that we feel you can’t go wrong with if you purchase one of them:
1. LIFT Safety Dax Carbon Fiber Hard Hat
All of the hard hats on our review list are good ones but this one is definitely a cut above the rest. It’s made from super strong yet lightweight Carbon Fiber material. That’s the same type of material that many components of military body armor are made of. It will give you confidence that your head is well-protected when you wear it.
Fit is not a problem with this hard hat either. It has an advanced 4-point ratcheting system to help keep it securely in place. There is also an included synthetic leather comfort dome and additional EVA foam protection.
This lift safety hard hat comes in a variety of different color choices. It also can be purchased as either a full or partial brim style. It easily meets all of the requirements for it to be considered an ANSI Z89.1-2014 Type 1, Class C head protection device. There is also an included brim grip that makes it easy to take off even when wearing gloves.
2. True Crest Fiberglass Hard Hat
This is a great hard hat for those that are only occasional hard hat users or don’t feel the need to spend a lot of money on a hard hat. Its fiberglass construction helps to keep it sturdy and lightweight. It offers Type 1, Class C head protection and is also ANSI and ISEA Z89.1-2014 compliant.
If style is important to you while protecting your head, you will like this model hard hat too. It comes in an alternating black and silver pattern that looks great. This is also a full brim style hardhat. That way it will give you some good sun protection and help protect other areas of your face and head too.
Fit is not a problem with this hard hat either. It features a suspension that includes a fast-track, ratchet-style adjustment mechanism that helps keep it securely in place. This hard hat is also built in a way that promotes excellent airflow around your head when it’s on.
3. Noa Store HDPE White Full Brim Hard Hat
Here is another hard hat that offers excellent head protection at a fair price. It’s made of tough high-density polyethylene material. That means it will help your head survive a pretty good hit while wearing it.
For the low price you will pay for it, this hard hat also comes with an excellent adjustment system. It has the same fast-track, ratchet-style suspension systems that you find in much costlier hard hat models. The suspension system can even be washed to help keep it bacteria free and smelling good. There is also a lower nape neck strap to help keep it securely in place too.
This hard hat comes in a variety of bright colors. It’s also a full brim model that will help keep rain and the sun’s powerful UV rays off of your head. Your head will keep cool while wearing it too thanks to its design that offers superior airflow. It meets tough ANSI and ISEA Z89.1-2014 guidelines and is an approved Type I, Class C hard hat
4. Pyramex Ridgeline Full Brim Hard Hat
Here is a very cost-friendly and nicely designed hard hat from Pyramex. It’s made using super-strong and lightweight ABS material. That makes it both shock-resistant and comfortable to wear for long periods of time. It feels so light that users will hardly notice it’s on after wearing it a few times.
As with most quality made hard hat products, it features an easily adjustable four-point suspension system. That means any user will be able to adjust it quickly and securely. There is even an optional kit that can be purchased to make its suspension a 6-point style. That’s great for those who like zero movement from their hard hat when wearing it.
This is a good-looking hard hat model too. It comes in a variety of colors that have either a subdued matte or brighter enhanced safety finish. This hard hat also meets ANSI Z89.1-2009 guidelines and is considered Type 1, Class C, G, and E head protection.
5. Pyramex Ridgeline Cap Style Hard Hat
Here is a hard hat that is a close cousin of the Pyramex hard hat we just reviewed. The biggest difference is this hard hat is great for those that prefer a cap style brim. It still offers great head protection thanks to its tough and durable ABS outer shell. This hard hat is lightweight and comfortable enough to wear for all-day use too.
Adjusting this hard hat is very easy and it stays in place once it’s done. This is due to its fast adjusting 4-point suspension system. It’s also made in a way that permits air to flow through it very easily. This makes it an ideal hard hat for warm weather use.
Adding to its comfort is the fact that its replaceable sweatband also has stitched in padded fabric. It also contains a thin layer of polyurethane foam for a better fit and extra protection. This ANSI approved and affordable hard hat also has excellent electrical resistance due to its mostly ABS composition.
6. MSA 475369 V-Gard Slotted Full-Brim Hard Hat
To put it frankly, this is an amazing hard hat for the price. When you read about all of its features you will definitely be surprised how affordable it is. It features a high impact resistant and durable Polyethylene shell.
Fit and comfort are paramount with this budget-friendly hard hat choice. It has a quick adjusting 4-point suspension system. The suspension system is also a built-in sweat/comfort band sewn into it. It also features a nape strap that offers three points of contact to hold it securely in place.
This hard hat is not only available in a front or full brim style, but it also comes in a large variety of color choices. It’s a hard hat that also meets strict ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014; CSA Z94.1-2015 requirements. This hard hat is so versatile it even has the ability to have useful accessories added to it. This V-Gard style hard hat is also approved for use in warmer weather.
Hard Hat Buying Guide
There are a few important questions that you need to ask yourself before starting any hard hat search. They are as follows.
What to Consider When Buying A Hard Hat
What level of impact protection do I need for my current job?
The weight of the objects that might fall on you and the sharpness of those objects is what answers this question.
Do I need some protection against electric shock hazards built into my new hard hat?
This is a resounding yes if you work around high voltage carrying lines and equipment. It’s something to be strongly considered too if you work around lower voltage lines and equipment.
How long will I be wearing my hard hat each day?
This will help you determine the comfort level that your hard hat affords you as you wear it. Also, consider your daily working conditions in order to determine an appropriate comfort level when wearing your new hard hat.
Will I be sharing the hard hat or just wearing it myself?
This question will help you determine the amount of adjustability you need in the hard hat model that you purchase. The more users of a hard hat the more adjustable it needs to be. If it’s just you are using it, then you can even buy a custom fit hard hat.
Will you be working indoors or outdoors?
This question will help you determine what style brim your hard hat needs to have. Those that work outdoors in poor weather conditions or in full sun will want the extra protection that full brimmed hard hats have to offer.
Important Hard Hat Features and Specifications
Here are some of the most important characteristics of hard hats to consider when shopping for a new one:
The main purpose of any hard hat is head protection. That means it has to be able to take and absorb a hit. The material a hard hat is made of is the key component of this. You need a hard hat that will not collapse or crack apart easily when it takes a hard impact. If it does not do this then you could be seriously injured in a mishap. That’s what makes the material choice so important when hard hat shopping. Review the types of material we covered above and select the material for your hard hat accordingly.
Here is a very important tip that we cannot emphasize enough when you are hard hat shopping. This is one characteristic where if you are just shopping price you may leave yourself vulnerable to serious head injury. So, consider hard hat material very carefully in all aspects when shopping for a new one.
Meets Rigid Testing Requirements
In the USA, items that are deemed too important not to adhere to certain standards must pass some very specific test criteria. Hard hats fall into this category because of their use as a safety-enhancing and protective device. They are very heavily tested to make sure they hold up to certain standards.
The governing bodies that deal with the standards for hard hats in the USA are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). OSHA sets the standards for hard hats and ANSI rates each hard hat to make sure those standards are being met.
So, an acceptable hard hat rating in the USA is one that meets ANSI Z89.1-2014 and is considered to be a Type 1, Class C head protection device.
Fit is almost as important as material as far as hard hat safety is concerned. That’s because an ill-fitting hard hat may not protect you properly in the event of a job site mishap. The more adjustability your hard hat has in it the better.
The main component related to hard hat fit as we previously mentioned is its suspension system. You really want your suspension system to have at least a 4-point adjustment system. A 6-point adjustment system or one that adjusts quickly makes it even better.
Most hard hat models are adjustable so fit should not be a problem. If you have what you think is a bigger or smaller size head, then check the manufacturers sizing chart before making a purchase.
Added Foam Protection
Have you ever held a piece of hard plastic when it gets hit? It will protect your hand, but it will also leave it stinging and hurt from the impact. This is where some nice impact resistant foam comes into play. Strategically placed foam rubber will help cushion and distribute an impact to the hard hat better. You also will get the side benefit that it will help your hard hat fit better too. So, consider purchasing a new hard hat that has some type of interior foam protection in it.
Type II hard hats are much more likely to have added foam linings than Type I hard hats.
We talked extensively about how hard hats are rated as far as their level of protection against electrical shock goes. Once again, we remind you that this is one of the most important factors in proper hard hat selection. If there is any chance at all you will be exposed to electrical currents in your daily work routine, then make sure you get a hard hat that offers an adequate level of insulation from electric voltage.
You may want to strongly consider purchasing a hard hat that has a sweatband built into it. This is especially true if you work indoors or outdoors in warmer climates a majority of the time. Even better yet if that sweatband can be disposed of and easily replaced on occasion. If you sweat in a hard hat that has no sweatband it can become pretty uncomfortable in a hurry and may slip around on your head from the resultant moisture too. Not to mention it will build up bacteria and start to smell too.
If you don’t have a sweatband on your hard hat or you just want to keep your sweatband from getting trashed, then make sure your hard hat has good ventilation. This will also help to keep you cooler and more productive throughout the workday. Look for a hard hat that has vented areas built into it or is designed in such a way to allow air to easily pass through and around it. Most manufacturers’ will point out the aspects of their hard hat that allow air to flow through it. Also, read online reviews to see how users feel a particular hard hat is at allowing for good airflow. Pay close attention to this when you are hard hat shopping.
Here is another major point to consider when buying any hard hat model. You really want to take a good look at its weight. It stands to reason that a hard hat that weighs more will fatigue your neck muscles faster than one that weighs less. Weight is also a factor in how fast you can turn your head when you are working. How much a hard hat weighs is also a consideration in its comfort level when worn. So, it’s best to find a hard hat that weighs as little as possible without sacrificing the level of protection that you need from it.
We talked a little about brim styles already. Only you can decide which of the two styles, full or baseball cap, is the right brim style for you. You can really never go wrong choosing a full brim style hard hat as they offer the most protection against the elements and have a better chance of deflecting small objects away from your head and face.
A large majority of people who are wearing head protection are also wearing hand protection at the same time. That means that you may be taking your hard hat off from time to time with gloves on. You may even do this subconsciously such as when you wipe your brow. If you have built-in brim grips it makes your hard hat less likely to slip out of your hands when taking it on and off.
There is nothing in any OSHA regulations that says you can’t have a hard hat that looks good. So why not add some style to your hard hat as long as it offers the protection level that you require. We even mentioned in a few of our hard hat reviews that some of them had a stylish look to them. So, don’t be afraid to purchase a hard hat that looks good and is the color you like. There are even hard hats that resemble the helmets worn by your favorite sports teams.
Most of the time if your hard hat meets the proper OSHA and ANSI requirements you can have confidence that it will hold up well and last you for a while. It still never hurts to get a nice warranty with any hard hat purchase that you make. Try to get a hard hat that covers against material defects for the longest period of time possible.
Hard Hat Types, Classes, Material & Suspensions, Styles
Here are some hard hat terms that you must be familiar with in order to properly shop for them.
Understanding Hard Head Terminology
There are basically only two types of hard hats. Hard hat type refers to the area of the head that any hard hat protects.
- Type 1 – This type of hard offers protection to the top of the head and is the most commonly used type of hard hat in the United States
- Type II – This hard hat type offers protection to the top and sides of the head and is the main type of hard hat used throughout Europe
One of the most important standards that any hard hat must meet is its resistance to allowing electrical current to flow through it. There are certain jobs where this is an absolute must. An example of that is if you are a lineman for an electrical company. That’s because you will be constantly working around high voltage electrical lines.
If you feel you need the highest level of hard hat electrical protection you will want a hard hat that is considered to be a ‘Class E’ rated hard hat.
When electrical shock hazards are only considered to be in a lower voltage category, then a hard hat that’s rated a ‘Class G’ will be adequate. Class C rated hard hats offer very little if any protection against shock hazards.
These are the most common materials that hard hats are made of in order of popularity:
- ABS – these are either made using polyethylene (HDPE) or polycarbonate-based materials
- Kevlar/ Carbon Fiber
- Resin-impregnated textiles
Among the most durable and strong hard hat materials are Kevlar, Carbon Fiber, Fiberglass, and high-impact ABS thermoplastics. They all work well when called on to help resist an impact. Space-age materials such as Kevlar or Carbon Fiber provide the most protection but also significantly drive up the cost of any hard hat.
The suspension of a hard hat is the part on the inside of the hard hat that your head fits into as its worn. These are usually adjustable to various degrees. They are the most important hard hat component as far as fit is concerned. Fit not only plays a role in comfort, but it also is important to help keep your hard hat in a position where it protects you the most.
Hard hat suspensions often consist of multiple strips of woven nylon webbing that is wrapped around molded HDPE, nylon, or vinyl bands.
You want a hard hat that is considered to have a 4-point style suspension. These do a nice job of adjusting your hard hat so it stays in place. Even better if your hard comes with a 6-point suspension adjustment. Fast adjusting ratchet-style suspensions are also highly preferable.
Hard hats generally come in one of two styles. They can be full brimmed which as the name implies the brim goes all the way around the exterior bottom of the hard hat. Hard hats can also have ball cap style brims which only cover the front of your face.
When Does OSHA Require The Use of Hard Hats?
OSHA, America’s workforce safety governing body, looks at three main questions when determining what type of job sites should require hard hat use. They are as follows:
- Is there a high likelihood that objects heavy enough to cause injury can fall from above at a particular job site or workplace?
- Is there a good chance that a worker may strike their head on hardened fixed objects or protruding dangerous objects at a particular job site or workplace?
- Can a worker’s head area comes into contact with electrical lines, exposed electric power in machinery or any other electrical hazards at a particular job site or workplace?
OSHA reserves the right to recommend or require hard hat use for job sites that do not fall under these 3 hard hat use criteria.
How Do Hard Hats Meets OSHA’s Standards?
Just like with the best welding helmet, there is a specific standard set by the American National Safety Institute as to whether or not a hard hat model is approved to be worn on a job site that requires the use of them. This is known as ANSI safety and testing standard ANSI Z89.1. Any hard hat that can pass the tests set under this standard is considered to be an OSHA approved hard hat. ANSI Z89.1 defines these hard hat standards:
- The way a hard hat must perform in regards to electrical current contact, penetration, and heavy object impact.
- The types and classes hard hats fall into based performance in reference to specific hazardous situations.
- The specific nature of the tests that will be used to determine if any hard hat should be considered OSHA compliant.
Some of these definitions you have already seen mentioned several times in this article.
When Do I Need to Replace My Hard Hat?
You make think this is a no brainer type question but that’s not true. There are some subtle signs with hard hats that mean it’s time to replace them that some people are not aware of. This covers such things as suspensions that are no longer doing their job and areas of the hard hat that are thin and you can start to see light through. Of course, there are also more obvious signs such as cracks or punctures that tell you it’s time to replace your hard hat. Never try to patch a hard hat to get extra life out of it. You can never trust the level of protection that a patched hard hat gives you.
Hard Hat FAQ’s
- Question: What hard hat material is thought to be the best if you are working around potential electrical hazards.
Answer: The answer to this would most likely be those hard hats made out of ABS material. That’s because ABS is thought to offer adequate insulation against high electrical current flow.
To be on the safe side, you should always read the labeling or check with the manufacturer’s website as to how much protection their hard hat offers against potential electrical hazards. Class E rated hard hats offer the best insulation against electric shock
- Question: I see my friend wearing a ball cap under his hard hat all of the time. Is this ok to do?
Answer: The answer here is no. This is because it may impact how a hard hat fits. We mentioned several times in this article that fit is a very important aspect of the protection level that you get when wearing your hard hat. So, avoid wearing anything else on your head when wearing your hard hat.
- Question: Should I replace my hard hat when it gets to be a certain age?
Answer: This is a hard question to answer. That’s because generally hard hats are made out of materials that last just about forever. Of course, if your hard hat has visible signs of wear or punctures it should be replaced ASAP. As a general rule of thumb, most manufacturers recommend replacing hard hat suspensions yearly and the hard hat itself every 5 years (As long as it’s in good condition).
- Question: What hard hat material is thought to be the best if you are working around potential electrical hazards.
Don’t forget to check out our dust collector buying guide.
A Few Final Thoughts on Hard Hats
Not only is it a good idea to wear a hard hat in work areas where falling objects and high hazards are present, but it’s also required on many construction and other types of job sites. The thing is, you don’t have to just settle for wearing any old hard hat. You have many hard hats to choose from in the work safety marketplace. So, take your time when shopping for a new hard hat.
If you follow this buying guide you should be able to find the best hard hat for your needs. It will also help you find a hard hat that looks good, protects you well, and is comfortable to wear. You may not want to do a lot of research when looking for a new hard hat. If that’s the case, you can never go wrong with the models we did hard hat reviews on. A hard hat is an important piece of job safety equipment so make sure you get your purchase right.