Choosing PPE: Safety is More Than Skin Deep

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is a standard requirement in a number of industries – so much so, that it could become easy to overlook just how important this equipment can be in staying safe in dangerous working environments. From boots to helmets, and everything in between, each piece of PPE is designed to meet specific hazards and needs to be selected accordingly. And, as the case of hard hats proves, understanding safety labels is critical to ensuring you’ve chosen the right product. Klein Tools

Chuck Ross

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is a standard requirement in a number of industries – so much so, that it could become easy to overlook just how important this equipment can be in staying safe in dangerous working environments. From boots to helmets, and everything in between, each piece of PPE is designed to meet specific hazards and needs to be selected accordingly. And, as the case of hard hats proves, understanding safety labels is critical to ensuring you’ve chosen the right product.

Hard hats are a common sight at construction sites and major electrical installations and, at first glance, they all look pretty similar. Beneath the surface, however, it turns out hard hats are manufactured with different protections in mind. While all are intended to protect the head from impact, some primarily address risks from a blow to the top of the head (such as a hammer, falling from above), while others are designed to also reduce the force of an off-center or lateral blow (such as from the corner of a joist or beam). Additionally, various levels of electrical safety also can be part of a hard hat’s design.

These protective characteristics aren’t easy to see just by looking, so it pays to learn how to read the certification labels placed inside every helmet meeting American National Standards Institute requirements. Following are the codes to look for:

Hard hat types (designates level of impact protection)
Type 1 – Reduces the force of an impact to the top of the head.
Type 2 – Reduces the force of an impact to the top, off-center or side of the head.

Hard hat classes (designates level of electrical protection)
Class E (Electrical) – Reduces danger of exposure to high-voltage electrical conductors; proof tested at 20,000 volts.
Class G (General) – Reduces danger of exposure to low-voltage electrical conductors; proof tested at 2,200 volts.
Class C (Conductive) – Not intended to provide protection from electrical conductors.


Photo courtesy of Klein Tools