Head Protection for Agricultural Workers

Use the following format to cite this article:

Head protection for agricultural workers. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69134/head-protection-for-agricultur….


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important for agricultural producers to reduce their risk of injury or death. Most injuries to the head can be prevented by wearing the appropriate PPE. Proper head protection can mean the difference between a traumatic brain injury and a mild concussion. The two basic types of head protection are hard hats and bump caps. Each is designed for specific tasks because of their level of protection in the event of the following types of incidents:

  • Potential for objects to fall from above and strike a worker on the head,
  • Workers can bump their head against an object, or
  • Potential for head contact with an electrical hazard.

Hard Hats

Hard Hat

(Photo Source: NIOSH, Division of Safety Research)

The purpose of a hard hat is to reduce the force of impact from falling objects (e.g., tools, wood, limbs, etc.). A hard outer shell is made of aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic. Newer hard hat shells are made of lightweight thermoplastic resin, which is highly impact resistant and has good dielectric (nonconductor of electric current) properties. The suspension system is made of plastic, nylon, or combination and is the energy-absorbing mechanism. It has crown straps that fit over the person’s head with an adjustable headband and protective padding to provide a barrier between the hat and the head. Protective headgear must fit appropriately on the body and head size of each individual.

Hard hats should be worn when completing activities such as building, demolishing or repairing structures, around or under conveyor belts, operating or repairing equipment, felling or trimming trees, etc. If your farm or ranch is subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations because you employ more than 10 people, the employer must have each employee wear a protective helmet when working in an area where there is a potential for a head injury.

Bump Caps

The purpose of a bump cap is to protect workers from common bumps and scrapes sustained when working in close quarters or under low ceilings. This type of head protection is lightweight with a thinner shell compared to a hard hat and has no suspension system. A bump cap only protects a person from bumps and minor head injuries. It provides absolutely no impact protection and should never be worn in areas with falling objects.

Head Protection Standards

Standards for hard hats are outlined by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Choose a hard hat that meets the recommended standards which should be labeled ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 – 2009 or ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 – 2014. In regards to hard hats, they are categorized into either Type I or Type II helmets. Type I helmets provide impact and penetration resistance for only the top of the hard hat. In addition to the protection of a Type I helmet, the Type II also provides some protection to the front, rear, and sides of the head. Additional hard hat classifications exist for the potential of electrical contact. These classifications include Class C (conductive), Class G (general), and Class E (electrical). No electric contact protection is provided by a Class C hard hat and the Class G is tested only at 2200 volts providing limited resistance to electricity. If there is any potential for electrical contact, choose a Class E hard hat because it is tested to withstand up to 20,000 volts of electricity. Standards are not applicable to bump caps.

The 2014 ANSI revision included changes in optional testing and marking features for head protection when used in high temperature environments.

Caring for Your Hard Hat

Just like a pre-operational check for equipment, it is also important to check your hard hat for any signs of damage (e.g., dents, cracks, etc.). If the hard hat is damaged, either replace the damaged parts or purchase a new one. Never attempt to fix a hard hat with adhesives because it could significantly weaken the impact quality or affect the dielectric protection. When checking your hard hat for damage, inspect the suspension part to ensure that the nylon is not broken and that the headband fits comfortably. Hard hats should be replaced at least every five years and the suspension should be replaced every 1 to 2 years.

When it comes to storing your hard hat, never store it where it is exposed to sunlight because the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage and weaken the nonmetallic materials (e.g., plastic). UV damage can be seen on the shell by areas of dullness called chalking. These areas can begin to flake and degrade the surface. Replace your hard hat if chalking exists.

Symptom and Treatment for Head Injuries

The brain is a very fragile organ and floats inside the skull attached by a network of delicate fibers. An impact to the head can cause blood vessels to tear inside the brain resulting in swelling. If a person sustains a head injury that results in unconsciousness, they probably have a brain injury and emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Never apply pressure to a bleeding head wound because the pressure may push bone fragments into the person’s brain.

If the person is unconscious for only a few minute, they may have a mild concussion but should return to normal function within about 45 minutes. However, evidence of a head injury may not appear for several hours. Therefore, it is important to monitor the victim for 48 hours and contact a physician if you observe any of the ten following signs:

  • Fluid or blooding coming from the nose or ears,
  • Bruising around the eyes or ears,
  • Persistent vomiting,
  • Large or unresponsive pupils,
  • Loss of coordination,
  • Difficulty speaking,
  • Severe and worsening headache,
  • Double vision,
  • Excessive drowsiness, and
  • Convulsions


For more information, click on a related personal protective topic below:

Eye Protection for Agricultural Producers

Hearing Loss and Protection for Agricultural Producers

Respiratory Protection for the Farm and Ranch


Use the following format to cite this article:

Head protection for agricultural workers. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69134/head-protection-for-agricultur….


American National Standard Institute and International Safety Equipment Association, 2014, ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 – American National Standard for Indus­trial Head Protection, New York, NY. Retrieved from https://safetyequipment.org/standard/ansiisea-z89-1-2014/.

Jepsen, S.D. & Suchy, J. (2015) Head protection. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/aex-7905.

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2012) Head, eye, and foot protection for farm workers. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/head-eye-and-foot-protection-for-farm-workers.

Personal protective equipment. (2003) Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf.

Wearing a hard hat is only half the job. (2007) Occupational Health & Safety. Retrieved from http://ohsonline.com/articles/2007/03/wearing-a-hard-hat-is-only-half-th….


Reviewed and Summarized by:
Prosper Doamekpor – Tuskegee University – doamekpor@mytu.tuskegee.edu
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Brandon Takacs, West Virginia University – Brandon.Takacs@mail.wvu.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu