Hard Hat Expiration and Replacement

By Bob White
ROII Safety Services Director
Hard hats are designed with high-quality, wear-resistant materials but do not last forever. The hard hat's protective properties will degrade by exposure to many everyday work environments, such as extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, sunlight, and normal daily wear. 

It is important that you read and carefully follow all of the instructions and warnings accompanying your hard hat. Failure to follow the instructions listed on your hard hat may result in serious injury or death. For questions concerning the care and use of your hard hat, always consult the manufacturer. 

How long is the expiration period? 
This will depend on the make and model of the hard hat. The standard lifespan used to be 3 years after manufacture. But this is not always the case. Many manufacturers, like JSP and 3M, give a 5-year lifespan from the date of manufacture. Don't expect your hard hat to last that long unless you barely used it and stored it in perfect condition. But be aware you will often need to change your hard hat before it expires. Even hard hats with a 5-year expiration date are recommended to be replaced as soon as 2 years under heavy use. 

How to ensure that a hard hat shell or suspension has not reached the end of its life 
  • Visually inspect the shell for breakage, cracks, crazing, discoloration, chalky appearance, or any other unusual condition.
  • Inspect the shell for brittleness by flexing the brim (do not compress the shell sides).
These conditions can indicate a loss of impact, penetration, and/or electrical resistance, and the hard hat must be replaced immediately.

  • The suspension should be checked for loss of flexibility. Check for cracks, breaks, frayed straps, or damaged stitching. If any of these conditions exist, the suspension must be replaced immediately.
  • ALWAYS replace the hard hat after it has withstood impact or penetration.
These are recommended useful service life guidelines. Wear or damage noticed during a regular inspection may determine that an earlier replacement of the entire hard hat is necessary. 
Your hard hat has a date stamp: 

The number in the middle (13) is the year of manufacture, and the arrow points to the month (5). So, this hard hat was manufactured in May 2013. 

If you are an ROII participant and would like to receive my regular safety updates, including ideas for safety topics, please contact me at (360) 352-7800 ext. 109 or bobw@biaw.com.

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