Do hard hats have an expiry date?

Do hard hats have an expiry date?

All PPE that you wear or use at work has an ideal life span. This includes your hard hat and its expiry date will vary slightly according to how it is stored, used, the environment it is used in, chemicals or gases it is exposed to, and the UV exposure it receives.

Additionally, dirt, sweat and grime just from day to day use will eventually take its toll on your helmet.

This article covers how to inspect your hard hat, what the dates printed on your hard hat mean, service life, expiry dates and recommended replacement intervals.

The critical step – maintaining your hard hat

Hard hats are a vital part of your PPE. They provide excellent protection against head injuries and impacts from dropped objects on site by absorbing or deflecting the impact in the event of an accident.

Made from polycarbonate, hard hats or safety helmets provide essential protection to the most critical part of your body – the brain. Because of this, choosing a Standards approved hard hat is essential, however it’s important not to overlook maintaining and inspecting your hard hat regularly. This is a critical step in ensuring that you are protected on site at all times.

So, you’ve bought an approved safety helmet from a reputable manufacturer - but how do you look after it and how do you know when it’s time for a new one?

Inspection is vital

As with all PPE, a regular inspection before you start work is important to ensure you’re always protected.

With hard hats, inspecting the helmet for any discolouration, hairline cracks, abrasions or other damage is something you should get into the habit of doing daily before you start work. There is an Australian Standard covering maintenance in more detail.

If you’re in any doubt as to the integrity of your hard hat – don’t use it! For the sake of a few dollars you could be putting yourself in serious danger. Any hard hats that don’t seem right should be retired immediately.

What is the date printed on my hard hat?

On your hard hat will be a small date stamp indicating the month and year – this is the date of manufacture, not the date of expiry.

Let’s look at the manufacture date in more detail and see how to estimate an expiry date.

Hard hat manufacture dates          

Hard hats are manufactured to stringent standards and need to be very durable, so although you may see a manufacture date that is some years in the past, this does not necessarily mean the helmet is past its prime. Rather, inspection as recommended above is the best way to determine whether a safety helmet is still an effective piece of PPE.

If the hard hat has been stored well in moderate conditions and away from direct sunlight, it can last for years before being put into service.

It’s recommended that the date that the helmet is first put into service – ie: when you first use it – is written on the inside of the helmet to enable you to easily track its life span.

This is the date that you should use to monitor the life span of your helmet – not the manufacture date.

Does my hard hat expire?

Technically, no – there’s no set time frame where a helmet becomes suddenly unusable. However, most manufacturers suggest recommended life spans for hard hats. The life span usually broken into the helmet shell itself, and the suspension headgear inside, which needs more regular replacement.

The suspension head gear is made from different material and as it sits directly on your head, it is subject to more sweat and dirt which can reduce its life. In tough environments, the head gear might need to be replaced every 12 months, although the Standards requirement is every 2 years.

The Australian Standard AS/NZS 1801 contains a section on the working life of a helmet, which gives recommendations on ensuring you’re properly protected at work. It states that excessive discolouration of the shell colour, weathering of the surface, splitting or cracking material may indicate a loss of strength, and helmets showing these signs should be discarded.

Likewise, any helmet that has been subject to an impact – even a minor one – should be replaced, as this can invisibly damage the structural integrity of the hard hat. You’ll note that your approved hard hat has a safety warning regarding damage due to impact and deterioration.

In general, helmets that are well looked after and maintained have a life span of three years. However, because the headgear needs to be replaced every 2 years, workers often simply replace the whole helmet.

Time for a new hard hat?

If you’ve inspected your hard hat and think that it’s past its prime, you can buy a new one at Jaybro. Shop for hard hats and replacement parts like hard had sweat bands in our online store, or for more information on hard hat expiry dates get in touch with our friendly safety team.

Remember to always seek advice from your workplace health and safety representative, local safe work authority, and refer to the Australian Standards for detailed guidelines.

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