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If you work at a construction site, there is a good chance regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require you wear a hard hat. This makes sense, as a blow to your head may result in a traumatic brain injury or another life-altering injury.

Still, if you put on the wrong hard hat, you may not have an optimal level of protection for your head. Understanding the different classifications of hard hats is the first step in choosing the right personal protective gear for your construction job.

Hard hat types

In the construction industry, you are likely to encounter two types of hard hats: Type I and Type II.

Type I hard hats only protect your head from top-of-the-head blows. Consequently, this type of hard hat is usually appropriate on construction sites where falling objects are the primary injury risk.

Type II hard hats, by contrast, protect your head from both top-of-the-head blows and lateral ones. A Type II hat is probably best where flying objects are the major hazard.

Hard hat classes

In addition to choosing a Type I or Type II hard hat, you must also pick a hat from an appropriate class. Three classes are common: general, electrical and conductive.

A general hard hat protects your head from low-voltage electricity of up to 2,200 volts. For high-voltage electrical protection, an electrical-class helmet is better. This class of hat is typically appropriate for those who work with up to 20,000 volts.

While it is often comfortable to wear, a conductive hard hat gives your head no electrical protection. Therefore, if you work with electricity, a C-Class hard hat is likely not right for you.