Do hard hats expire?

Hard hats are one of the most important forms of PPE in many jobs. They’re your primary form of protection and can protect your head against major injury.

While they don’t technically have a “use-by” date in the same way as food, hard hats do have an expiry date for recommended replacement time that is a good practice to follow. So in that way, hard hats expire–but how do you know when it’s time for a replacement?

When do hard hats expire?

Site Safe has a comprehensive guide to hard hat use in New Zealand available online. While they say that there isn’t a “use-by date”, they do give some suggestions on when it’s a good time to replace your helmet. Some of these include:

  • If the hard hat becomes damaged. Don’t ever wear a damaged hard hat. If it gets damaged, it should be replaced right away, even if it was issued on the same day.
  • Once it loses its glossy finish. The gloss on the hard hats isn’t just for looks. If a hard hat starts to look chalky, this usually indicates lack of strength. It might mean that it’s been damaged by UV radiation or chemicals, and should be replaced.
  • In areas with high temperature or chemical concentrations, they should be replaced in 2 years. Heat and chemicals will break down the strength of the hard hat faster. In these environments, your hard hat should be replaced every other year, regardless of damage or appearance.

What if none of these apply? Your hard hat should be replaced 3 years after first use or 5 years after the manufacture date.

While it might still be perfectly functional, studies done by experts have shown that in general, a hard hat will start to wear down over this time so it’s best to replace them in this timeframe.

How to read the hard hat date dial

How do you know when it’s time to replace a hard hat? All hard hats have a stamped on manufacture date. This is permanently stamped on and is usually below the brim.

This stamp can be a wee bit confusing if you haven’t read one before. Take a look at the image below.

The dial that shows when hard hats expire
  • The number in the middle is the Year: 2016 in this picture.
  • The arrow points to the month that it was manufactured: 3 for March.
  • Put those together: the hard hat was manufactured in March 2016.

What about the issue date?

It’s up to the company to decide how to handle the issue date. Many hard hat brands have a place to add this information. Usually, you’ll find it somewhere like a sticker inside on the back of the helmet.

Once the hard hat is issued, add the date with a permanent marker before the first use.

Checking the hard hat for damage

Hard hats should be inspected once a week for damage and any issues. This should include a squeeze test to listen for cracking. You should also look for things like cracks, dents, and penetration, and also check the date. The rule of thumb is that hard had hats expire after 3 years. If it’s been 3 years since it was issued, it’s time for a new one!

Is it time for a new hard hat?

If your hard hat expired or you’re just looking to get a new one, we have several options available at Safety1st. We have several quality options to choose from as well as accessories you can purchase alone like chinstraps and sweatband replacements. Check out our hard hat range and order yours today.