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A quality hard hat could save your life in situations where an inferior hat could leave you for dead. Why work with one foot in the grave, when a few extra bucks could save your life and your brain? If you’re looking for hard hats for employees, remember that their safety is in your hands. A quality hard hat is nothing to go thrifty on.
A lot of employers shop for hard hats for their employees, and sometimes employees have problems with their provided hat, like fitting issues or comfort. These are important issues, because you might be wearing your hat for every work shift. Poor fitting can hinder work performance, for example if it keeps moving out of place every time you look down. Comfort includes good ventilation and heat resistance. Too much heat also affects work performance. But safety is the top priority.
Most of the hats reviewed here, except one, were made by MSA. MSA have been making millions of hard hats, that have been used around the world since 1914. They are well known for their quality and expertise with helmet designs.
MSA 475407 Natural Tan Skullgard Hard Hat with Fas-Trac Suspension
Unlike the other hard hats reviewed here, the shell isn’t simply made of polyethylene, but rather a special phenolic material. This gives it unique perks that justify a price-tag, which is multiple times the cost of the other hats in this review. It has “dielectric protection” to a maximum of 2200 volts. Resistance to temperatures reaching a maximum tested temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This is useful for steel mills, nuclear plants and boilermakers. But it absorbs heat from the sun because it’s dark. However, compared with common dark colored plastic hats, this one won’t fry your brain as much.
It comfortably spreads weight equally over your head, rather than diverting it to a few weight-bearing points. This prevents pain and discomfort, unlike some cheap hats. It’s really lightweight, even more so than generic plastic hats, yet very strong. But not strong enough to avoid cracking, after roadkill. It seemed most complaints were about size. The inner lining suspension ratchet is easy to adjust, thanks to the dial knob, but can only be used for a maximum of size 8. This helmet should not be penalized for that, because all the other top hats reviewed here are the same.
Pyramex Full Brim Style 4 Point Ratchet Suspension Hard Hat
If you don’t want to stick out from the crowd and just want to blend in, then this hard hat has been designed to help you keep a low profile. It takes the trouble out of fitting, allowing you to simultaneously wear the hat, while adjusting the ratchet on your head. Unlike many others, the ratchet suspension in this one doesn’t come down behind your head. So in some occupations like construction, which often requires you to see below, such movements could cause the hat to easily knock off your head.
The shell of this helmet can help protect you with its’ HDPE tough outer surface. It even has standard mounting points for accessories like ear muffs, or a strap below your jaw to stop the hat falling off when you need it most. There’s padding for the front of your head to try and keep you more comfortable, while soaking up some sweat, it’s easily removable for cleaning or replacing. This hat won’t pour rainwater down your collar, thanks to the slide flaps.
MSA 495855 V-Gard Polyethylene Protective Cap with Fas-Trac Suspension
Another fine entry from MSA, this one is an old design made with common polyethylene, and features MSA’s distinctive, famous “V-Gard” design. These hats have sold over 100 million around the world, for decades. With such a reputation that has stood the test of time, you can have more peace of mind with proven expectations. Small sizes are now available, with standard sized mounts for additional parts like ear muffs. It comes with an MSA “Fas-Trac III” suspension, without an adjustment ratchet dial for the sizing. So you need to squeeze and move the straps to adjust the fitting.
If you need to bend over or tilt your head downward, this hat can hold its’ position, without tumbling off. It can stay comfortably well on your head, without having to uncomfortably tighten the suspension. The helmet provides a small amount of sun protection from the brim around the edge of the hat. It helps keep your head from overheating due to the ventilation and design materials. This hat can be a bit difficult for some people to mount the suspension to the shell. But once you overcome assembling your new hat, hopefully you won’t need to do that again.
MSA 818066 Hard Hat
Another great MSA hard hat with their trademark “V-Gard” design on the top. These hats accommodate head sizes ranging from 6.5 to 8. They are lightweight at only 1.1 pounds, and are made from a special type of polyethylene, which is more durable than common polyethylenes. Putting together your new hat is reasonably fine, if you know how to do it properly. Else it can be quite frustrating, and it’s not something you can easily figure out. Instructions are included, but they’re not easy to follow. They are printed on the plastic packaging, which the hard hat comes shipped in.
The suspension in some of these 818066 model hats, can be adjusted by a quick and easy dial of the knob at the back. But many don’t have the ratchet, and rather require you to apply pressure to an adjustable strap to tighten or loosen it. This is a shame because the knob is more user friendly. Another disadvantage with the simple ratchet-free strap design, is that it can slip during use in some cases, causing the suspension to loosen. Some people with certain head shapes, have a problem where the hat appears to sit unusually high on their head.
MSA 10006318 Full Brim Hard Hat
The brim is shorter at the front, which compromises on facial sun protection, but makes it easier for you to look-up, without tilting your head. The brim does however, go around the full edge of the hat, providing some limited sun protection for the back of your neck, and sides of your face. The brim is slightly longer at the back for a bit of extra sun protection. It is made in the USA from polyethylene. The helmet features a ratchet for easy fitting from sizes 6.5 and 8. As with most contemporary helmets these days, there’s no chin strap.
Like a lot of modern hard hats, there’s no insulation, just a plastic shell with the suspension. It can accommodate accessories like a shield for the face and earmuffs. However some people have had difficulty mounting earmuffs on this hat. It can be a bit challenging to mount the ratchet suspension to the shell for the first time. The instructions for this are printed on the plastic packaging, but they’re not easy to understand. Once you put it together, the hat is comfortable and good for hot, humid environments. The front inner padding can help prevent pain above your eyebrows.
What to Look For
There should normally be around 1.5 inches of allowance between your suspension and the shell. If you force the suspension beyond the rated maximum head size, the suspension will either break or cross into the buffer zone. The purpose of the suspension, like the suspension of a car, is a shock absorber. It needs bouncing space in that buffer zone. If a hard and heavy object, hits your shell with your head too near to the surface, you could feel that dangerous impact. If the shell breaks, it could cause brain damage or death.
There is more to fitting and comfort than merely considering the hat size. It should be fitted so it won’t move around, when you need it most. Some helmets have suspension that wraps around the back of your head for stability, rather than something that merely sits on the top waiting to be knocked off. There are hats that don’t fit people with certain head shapes. Such a hat appears unusually high on their head like a top hat.
Good comfort is not a luxury, but an essential. Without a comfortable hard hat, especially for long hauls, you might feel tempted to give your head some relief, by removing the helmet just moments before an oncoming accident. Comfort also includes heat resistance and ventilation, which is another reason why suspension space is important.
All the top hats reviewed were from MSA, except the Pyramex placed in the second ranking position.
The top hats reviewed, were mostly adjustable at sizes 6.5 to 8. A lot of people with head sizes larger than size 8, were not happy. But those with sizes smaller than the standard range, were more likely to find smaller sizes. Getting sizes above size 8, is the most hassling of the size problems, and this dominated the complaints.