Hard Hat Basic Safety

Hard Hats protect workers heads against falling objects, fixed or protruding objects, inadvertent contact with electricity, exposure to UV, weather, and extremes of temperature. Always work according to the manufacturers guidelines.

Do I need a hard hat?

Hard hats that comply with the standard AS/NZS 1801:1997 (or equivalent) must be worn at all times while on site where there is a risk of objects falling from above. In fact hard hats are becoming mandatory on most sites in New Zealand.

Hard hats should be worn in any area that has the potential for workers:

  • to be hit or struck by falling, fixed, moving or protruding objects.
  • to come in contact with electricity.
  • be exposed to UV, weather, and extremes of temperature.

Choosing the Right Hard Hat for the Job

Hard hats come in a range of styles to suit all types of work:

  • Industrial – suitable for use in construction, factories and quarries
  • High temperature – suitable for use in processes such as steel and glass manufacturing
  • Bushfire fighting – suitable for use by emergency personnel for combating bush fires
  • Peakless – allowing clear upward vision
  • Peaked – providing shade for the eyes and some facial protection
  • Full brim – providing fuller protection from falling objects and UV as well as water shedding

Some hard hats allow for the attachment of accessories to add further protection such as face shields, respirators, hearing protection and work lamps. When selecting your hard hat you should also consider whether ventilation or hi-viz colouring is of benefit.

How Hard Hats Work

Hard hats are made of a hard outer shell designed to take the initial impact, and an inner harness designed to absorb and spread this impact which minimises the effects of the force to the skull.

Wearing Your Hard Hat Correctly

  • Adjust the harness cradle to ensure comfort and total contact with your head at all times.
  • It is recommended you do not wear clothing items on your head as this will result in the harness cradle becoming ineffective. This includes hoods, baseball caps, thickly woven or heavily seamed beanies or balaclavas. Some hairstyles such as dreadlocks are also not recommended. 
  • To secure your hard hat, you can use the elastic chin straps, or a four point retaining strap integrated with a harness when working at height.
  • Ensure any attachments are compatible with the make and model of the hard hat.
  • If you have any specific questions about wearing your hard hat it is a good idea to check with the manufacturer.

Looking After Your Hard Hat

  • Store in a cool, dry environment, away from direct sunlight, heavy or sharp objects.
  • Keep your hard hat away from chemicals including paints, paint thinners, solvent based adhesives (some stickers) and cleaning agents.
  • Clean by scrubbing and immersing in warm soapy water, and rinsing in clean warm water.
  • Sweat bands must be regularly replaced as required.
  • If the hat loses its glossy finish and appears chalky, the shell must be replaced

The Safety Check

All hard hat components should be inspected at least weekly for signs of dents, cracks, penetration and damage due to impact, rough treatment or wear. A simple test is to squeeze the sides of the hard hat together and listen and feel for signs of stress or cracking which would indicate brittleness and deterioration. Field tests have shown helmet shells last for three years from issue date. Components of harnesses may deteriorate more rapidly and may need to be replaced.

Do hard hats have a use-by date?

No, however it’s a good idea to record the date of issue by writing on the inside of the hat with a marker and replacing the hat every two or three years. Please note: that means the date that you are issued the hat, not the date of manufacture.


Employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are trained in the safe use, care and maintenance of hard hats. This training should include:

  • The hazards controlled by hard hat use
  • How the hard hat works
  • Limitations of hard hats
  • When hard hats must be worn
  • How to wear a hard hat correctly
  • How to adjust the hard hat for comfort and fit
  • How to correctly store a hard hat
  • How to identify signs of wear or damage
  • How to clean and maintain their hard hat.

Rules and Regulations

For more information refer to: