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Checking of safety helmets

Our attention has been drawn to an injury on a drilling rig, when a heavy bolt fell 14 metres and hit a roughneck on the head. He was wearing a safety helmet, but the incident nevertheless resulted in a lost time injury.

The operator has stated that this injury could have had a much more serious outcome if the helmet had been more than four years old, as plastic ‘hard hats’ degrade through time.

The following simple checks have been suggested to ensure that head protection is adequate:

  1. The shell should be inspected for dents, cracks, nicks, gouges and any damage due to impact, penetration, abrasions, rough treatment or wear that might reduce the degree of protection originally provided. Hats showing signs of damage or wear should be replaced immediately.
  2. Hard hat shells are susceptible to UV light damage, temperature extremes and chemical degradation. Signs of degradation include: stiff or brittle shells, a faded, dull or chalky appearing shell. Shells exhibiting these characteristics should be immediately replaced.
    A recommended test for degradation is to compress the shell inward from both sides about one inch and then release the pressure without dropping the shell. It should return to its original shape quickly. A comparison can be made by testing a new shell. If the elasticity is not similar to a new shell, it should be replaced.
  3. The suspension should be inspected for cracks, greyed or cut crown straps, torn headband or size adjustment slots, loss of pliability or other signs of wear. Suspensions exhibiting these characteristics should be removed from service and replaced immediately.
  4. Important points to remember:
    1. Hard hats struck by a blow should be replaced;
    2. Hard hats are designed to protect impacts from above, not from the side or rear;
    3. Never modify the shell or suspension of a hard hat;
    4. Avoid contact of the hard hat with electrical devices;
    5. Do not store hard hats in direct sunlight;
    6. Do not sit on hard hats;
    7. Do not wear anything inside the hat that would affect the clearance between the shell and head;
    8. Do not paint hard hats.
  5. Users should establish a regular inspection schedule for their hats to evaluate the status of the shell and the suspension.


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