I have had several calls from Safety Officers alerting me that the following information references an OSHA Standard. I was aware of that when I posted it. It is there to give you guidance on what ANSI Standard (referenced in PIB PO7-16) says relative to changes since 1986 in the ANSI Standard. It is one of those situations where if the inspector says "stickers on Hard Hats are citable", he is wrong and you have a reference to cite. It is suggested that if you have not read the PIB, you should do it now.

Program Information Bulletin P07-16


One common misconception is that hard hats have a predetermined service life--this is not the case. Both the 1986 and 1997 ANSI standards address service life under maintenance and care of the hard hat. Those standards state that all hard hat components should be inspected daily for signs of dents, cracks, penetration and any damage due to impact, rough treatment, or wear. any hard hat that fails the visual inspection should be removed from service until the problem is corrected.

In addition to everyday wear and tear, ultra violet (UV) radiation can pose a problem for hats constructed of plastic materials. Damage caused by UV radiation is easy to spot: the hat will lose its glossy finish and eventually take on a chalky appearance. Further degradation could cause the shell to actually start flaking away. Once the effects of UV radiation are detected, the hard hat shell should be immediately replaced.

In 2003, ANSI published a revision to the Z89.1-1997 standard. The most significant changes from the 1997 version were made to harmonize with other national standards for head protection that test and evaluate equipment performance. In addition, many physical requirements for helmet components that do not provide added user value or that limited design or performance have been removed.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q. Can I put decals on my hard hat?

A. In most instances, yes. There is very little potential for a chemical reaction between the pressure-sensitive sticker/decal adhesive and the hard hat shell.

The use of stickers and decals won't negatively affect the performance of the hard hat under normal conditions.

Two general rules of thumb should be followed, however:

1. The decals should be placed at least three-fourths of an inch away from the edge of the hard hat. This prevents the possibility of the decal acting as a conductor between the outside and inside of the shell.

2. The areas of the hard hat covered by stickers/decals should be kept to a practical minimum to permit regular inspection for damage.

Q. Can hard hats be painted?

A. ANSI Z89.1-2003 Appendix A4 states that caution should be exercised when painting hard hat shells since some paints and thinners may attack and damage the shell and reduce protection levels. The hard hat manufacturer should be consulted before painting.

Q. Can I wear my hard hat backward?

A. Not usually. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a standard interpretation and compliance letter dated July 22, 1992 that states:

"Because ANSI only tests and certifies hard hats to be worn with the bill foreword, hard hats worn with the bill to the rear would not be considered reliable protection and would not meet the requirement of 29 CFR 1926.100 (a) and (b) unless the hard hat manufacturer certifies that this practice meets the ANSI requirements."

If your hard hat is to be worn backward, get written verification and instructions from the hard hat manufacturer on whether your hard hat model has been tested and found to be compliant when worn backward.