How to Inspect a Hardhat and When to Replace It

Even the most hardheaded construction worker needs the protection only an optimally functioning hardhat can provide.

Sometimes a hard hat is the only thing standing between a worker and serious injury or death. But these vital pieces of PPE aren’t indestructible. They can wear out over time or succumb to sun exposure or damage from an impact, rendering them less effective. Therefore, contractors must learn how to inspect hardhats and recognize when it's time to replace them.

Workers should start out with a hard hat that fits (there should be enough space between the suspension and shell to allow for proper ventilation and distribution of any impact) and then follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inspection. In general, daily inspections should check for:

  • Dents, cracks, tears, gouges or holes in the shell
  • Frayed or cut suspension straps
  • Cracks or tears in the suspension system (which keeps the shell from touching the wearer's head) or loss of pliability
  • Brittleness or dullness of the shell (it may look chalky) resulting from excessive exposure to sun, chemicals or temperature extremes. Try to compress the shell from the sides using both hands to check for elasticity. The shell should bounce back and be as elastic as a new one.

Many hardhat manufacturers suggest that hardhats be replaced at least every five years if not exposed to excessive wear and tear and that the suspension, which can be purchased separately, be replaced every year. Check the manufacturer’s replacement instructions.

Toss the hardhat right away if it has experienced an impact, even if there's no visible damage, or if it fails the inspection outlined above. Hardhats aren’t expensive, and new ones are certainly well worth the cost if they prevent even a single head injury.