Heads are vulnerable to a range of risks in the workplace. They must be protected against risks relating to falling and fixed objects and exposure to open flames, molten metal splash, electric shock and low and high temperatures.

The use of head protection in the workplace is governed by the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

Workplace head protection, commonly known as hard hats, is used in a wide range of industries, including:

  • Aviation
  • Construction
  • Demolition
  • First aid and some emergency services
  • Highway maintenance
  • High-pressure jetting
  • Mining
  • Offshore marine
  • Oil and gas
  • Refinery and petrochemical
  • Tunnelling
  • Utilities
  • Warehousing

The failure to provide head protection or the appropriate type of head protection can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities, and can have severe legal and reputational consequences for employers. Therefore, it is essential that your employees are provided with the correct head protection.

There is a range of head protection available for a variety of applications. The use of hard hats and other head protection is controlled by a number of industry safety standards. This guide provides an explanation of these standards and the performance you can expect from head protection tested to these standards.

Overall, this guide is designed to allow you to make an informed decision about the head protection you need to provide for your employees for the tasks that they undertake.


When you are purchasing head protection for your workforce, it is recommended that you refer to a recent risk assessment of the workplace environments in which your employees are working. If a risk assessment does not exist, one should be carried out.

Taking this step provides a clear understanding of the hazards that you need the head protection that you choose to protect against. This will allow you to select the appropriate head protection and will ensure that you comply with all the relevant health and safety rules and other industry regulations.

Hazards relating to head protection are:

  • Impact from falling objects
  • Impact from fixed objects
  • Impact from lateral forces
  • Exposure to an open flame
  • Exposure to molten metal splash
  • Exposure to electric shock
  • Exposure to high temperatures
  • Exposure to low temperatures


Workplace head protection is specifically designed to protect wearers against blows to the head and other risks, such as exposure to open flames, molten metal splash, electric shock and low and high temperatures.

With regard to providing protection against blows to the head, hard hats do so by limiting the pressure to which the skull is exposed, dispersing and dissipating the energy of an impact and ensuring that this energy is not fully transmitted to the head and neck.

It is important to note that protection against specific risks (i.e. liquid splash) requires the provision and use of specific head protection (hard hats).

A range of head protection is available, including:

In addition, a variety of head protection accessories are available, including safety lights, flame-retardant liners, helmet clips for torches, helmet chin straps and chin cups, helmet safety tags, helmet sweatbands and harnesses, and helmet visors and muffs.

Safety helmet colour coding

The industry standards that control head protection do not contain specifications with regard to the colour of safety helmets and caps. However, the colouring coding of safety helmets is a common practice that is used to help identify wearers’ roles and responsibilities.

For example, first aid personnel often wear green safety helmets, while site supervisors regularly use black safety helmets. In addition, white safety helmets are frequently worn by site managers and vehicle marshals, blue safety helmets by anyone who shouldn’t be left unsupervised on a site and orange helmets by crane operators and tradespeople such as electricians, bricklayers and carpenters.


The main industry standard relating to the use of head protection in the workplace is EN 397:2012+A1:2012. All workplace head protection must be certified to this standard to be categorised as such.

Supplementary to EN 397:2012+A1:2012 are a number of standards that apply to specialist head protection. These are EN 812:2012 (industrial bump caps), EN 12492:2012 (mountaineering helmets), EN 14052:2012+A1:2012 (high-performance industrial helmets) and EN 50365:2002 (electrically insulating helmets for use in low-voltage installations).

Head protection standards

Wearing workplace head protection

Before use, safety helmets must always be fitted to the wearer’s head. This may involve adjustment of the headband (using a slip-band or a wheel), the height of the helmet and the length of the chinstrap, if one is included.

Safety helmets should come with manufacturer’s instructions for adjusting the helmet to ensure a proper fit, as well as instructions for replacing the suspension and headband, if appropriate.

Safety helmets should never be modified by employers or employees, with the exception of approved company branding carried out according to the rules that apply to such applications (see the section on branded head protection below).

Maintaining workplace head protection

There are no regulations relating to how long a safety helmet should be used before it is replaced. However, it is expected that a safety helmet should be used within five years of the date of manufacture and that it should be worn for a maximum of five years from the date of first use. A date stamp can be found inside the safety helmet: this refers to the date of manufacture and is not an expiry date.

After the five-year life cycle, the safety helmet should be discarded and destroyed. It should also be noted that excessive wear and tear and use in extreme environments can significantly shorten the life cycle of a safety helmet. As such, care should be taken to monitor the condition of hard hats.

Inspecting workplace head protection

The monitoring of safety helmets should include inspection for scuffs, abrasions and other damage, and a visual inspection should be carried out by wearers before every use. The harness, headband and sweatband, if applicable, should be checked in addition to the main shell. In the event of damage to any of these areas, the safety helmet should be discarded.

If an impact occurs, the safety helmet should be replaced immediately, even if there are no visible signs of damage (serious damage that is not visible can occur to a helmet, meaning that it no longer provides the necessary protection).

Employees should be able to carry out a hard hat inspection. If necessary, training should be provided to ensure that employees can identify damage to a safety helmet and know what to do should they find any damage.

Cleaning workplace head protection

It is important to properly clean safety helmets, in particular if head protection is shared. This cleaning should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, safety helmets should be cleaned using soap and water or anti-bacterial wipes, and they should be dried using a soft cloth. Never clean hard hats with abrasive substances or solvents.

Storing workplace head protection

Safety helmets must be stored properly. They should always be stored in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, safety helmets should be stored far from sources of heat and any chemicals and should be kept out of direct sunlight (i.e. ultraviolet light).


Many businesses choose to customise their workplace head protection. There are two ways in which company branding can be added to safety helmets: it can be screen-printed at source by the helmet manufacturer or applied through the use of approved safety helmet stickers.

In addition, safety helmets can be colour coded to match the colour of company branding.

Screen-printed safety helmet branding

The screen printing of safety helmet branding at source by the manufacturer is the best option when ordering a large volume of branded safety helmets. There are minimum quantity requirements (ranging from 20 to 40 pieces depending on the style). This type of branded safety helmet can be held in stock by your supplier and distributed as required.

Approved safety helmet stickers

The use of approved safety helmet stickers is the preferred option when ordering a smaller volume of branded safety helmets. You or your supplier can apply the stickers to the safety helmets as required. It is critical that approved stickers are used because the adhesives used in regular stickers can react to helmet material and compromise the protection provided by the helmet.

A quick guide to branding safety helmets

Whether through screen printing at the source of manufacture or the use of approved safety stickers, the branding of safety helmets usually follows this simple, three-step process:

  1. Choose your helmet options. Select the style and colour of helmet and where you want your logo to appear (see chart below for logo placement and size options).
  2. Supply your logo designs. When placing your order for safety helmets, include your logo design and colour references. Check with your supplier for the appropriate colour reference format (pantone, RAL, etc.) and file types (pdf, jpeg, etc.).
  3. Sign off your proof. Your supplier will provide you with a proof of the branded safety helmet design – this is an opportunity to check the design and make changes if necessary. Once this is done, your branded safety helmets will be prepared.

Branded head protection


The information contained in this head protection guide is designed to help you choose the right type of safety helmet when placing an order for your workforce.

Different tasks require different types of head protection and it is important that your employees are provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. You should always base your choice of head protection on the most severe hazard that your employees will face.

By using this information and taking these steps, you will ensure that your company is fully compliant with all the relevant industry standards and that your employees can do their jobs safely, efficiently and to the highest standard.



The friendly and expert team at Contego Safety Solutions is always on hand to give advice and guidance on the right PPE and protective clothing for your needs. Contact us now on 0800 122 3323 or to discuss your requirements.

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