Can You Wear a Hard Hat Backwards?

Construction workers often ask if you can wear a hard hat backwards and there are some strict rules about this.

According to OSHA hard hats should be worn the way they were designed, UNLESS the manufacturer specifies that the hat can be worn backwards. However, there are several types of hard hats, and it all depends on the make and class of the hard hat that you are wearing, as well as what is specified about the hat.

Can You Wear a Hard Hat Backwards

Pros and Cons of Wearing Hard Hat Backwards  

Hard hats can be hot to wear. They can be uncomfortable. A bit like wearing a peak cap, some wearers prefer to wear them backwards But, unlike a peak cap, a hard hat is not a fashion statement.

A hard hat is there to do a job and that is to protect a worker from falling debris, accidents with tools or machinery, injury from impact, or electrical shock accidents.

Mostly there are cons, when it comes to wearing a hard hat backward.

The cons are:-

      • The hard hat will not protect you fully, when worn backwards.
      • It is unlikely you can do up the chinstrap, when you wear the hat backwards.
      • The sweatband will not work to its full extent, if at all, when worn backwards.
      • You are going to be more likely to have an accident if you wear the hat the wrong way.

As we said, there are not really any pros to wearing a hard hat backwards. The hard hat has been designed with a suspension or ratchet to protect the head.

When you wear a hard hat backwards, the suspension is not going to be nearly as protective as it should be.

The pros of wearing a hard hat backwards:-

      • It may be easier to get through a small space (but getting through a small space can bring its own dangers too)
      • Welders wear masks, and the mask and the hat brim may be a tricky combination. Wearing a hard hat backwards can help in this situation.

Does wearing a hard hat backwards violate OSHA Guidelines ?

OSHA guidelines are that workers, be it construction or electrical workers, or anyone on site, must wear a hard hat.

This is to protect from possible head injuries that can result from falling objects, electrical shock, on site accidents and more.

OSHA also say that rules must be strictly adhered to; hard hats must be worn and they must be worn according to instructions, i.e., properly, as per the design.

OSHA only allows for hard hats to be worn backwards, known as reverse donning, if the manufacturer’s guidelines are clear that this is legal and fully protective.

Who can wear hard hat backwards?

If a hard hat is designed to be worn backwards, then the wearer can wear it backwards. Otherwise, rules must be followed. We would say, but it all depends on the workplace, that you can wear your hard hat backwards when:-

The whole idea of a hard hat is to protect. Unless the manufacturer’s say: ‘This hat can be donned backwards,’ it is just not worth even trying. 

Here are two examples of when a hard hat should not be worn backwards, unless the instructions say it can be worn backwards:-

1.) If a construction worker is manoeuvring his way through a small space, and turning the hat backwards to help him get through such a space, he must know that the hard backwards may not be as protective.

2.) If a welder is struggling to see through his mask, and it is easier to don the hat backwards, the welder should probably get a special welding hat, rather than wear his current hat the wrong way.

What hard hats can be worn backwards?

There are some hard hats that have been designed in such a way that their hats have been certified safe to be worn in a few ways but that the worker needed to turn the suspension around before turning the hat around. This makes sense, as mentioned above, the suspension needs to be in the right position to protect the head.

Bullard Hard Hats say that their hard hats can be worn backwards when needed. MSA has said the same thing. This does not apply to all their hard hats, so you do need to read the fine print. Both companies are well regulated and third party certified but they still say the suspension must be turned around before the hat is worn backwards.

Remember there are a variety of hard hats, so do your research before making a purchase. And only wear the hard hat in reverse if there is no other choice. Remember too, the suspension must be turned around, to ensure safety and protection of the head and therefore, of the brain.

If you are looking for hard hats that allow the wearer to easily swing the suspension system around, safely too, and one that can be changed depending on the job, look at Fibre Metal Products, with their head office in Pennsylvania.

Can MSA hard hats be worn backwards? 

There is a wide variety of MSA Hard Hats. Provided the wearer rotates, and then fixes in place, the suspension, many of the MSA hard hats can be worn backwards.

The most important factor is to constantly be aware of the dangers. Workers sometimes get a little slack, not wearing a hard hat properly, not doing up the chin strap, or wearing the hat like a backwards baseball cap.

Keep remind your workers, or yourself, the importance of the hard hat.

Why do ironworkers wear their hard hats backwards?

Not all ironworkers wear their hard hats backwards, but most iron workers use masks to protect their eyes (masks or goggles) and a hat with a brim can make the work difficult. In this instance, find a hard hat for an ironworker that comes with an iron-worker friendly brim.

It is always safer to have the right hard hat from the start rather than take chances, mess around with the suspension, or wear the hat backwards. While many ironworkers do wear their hats backwards, this is neither safe nor advisable. (Best Boots for IronWorkers)

Check out the best hard hats for construction workers

Top 10 Best Hard Hat for Construction Workers

In conclusion:-

It has become a bit of a trend amongst construction workers to wear their hard hats backwards. It needs to constantly be stressed to these workers, to all workers, the importance of safety.

Wearing a hard hat properly is for the worker’s advantage and benefit. It protects him, nobody else.

Getting the right hard hat is key. You may spend a little more on a very good hard hat, one that does not need to be replaced for years.

You may spend a little more money on a good hard hat where the suspension can be moved, so the hat can be worn backwards. You need to decide which hard hat is best for you. And then, be safe!

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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