As of January 2017, Build UK, who represents some of the UK's biggest contractors and trade associations, has mandated new hard hat colour codes.
Excepting Network Rail workers, whose sites only permit white and blue safety helmets, all other construction sites - new and existing - will be expected to change their helmet colours according to their site role. So what exactly do you need to know to keep your employees safe and meeting code?
Do you need a Hard Hat or a Bump Cap? Bump caps are not covered by these changes.
The colour coding system was released April 2016, and is designed to identify workers by their safety qualifications.
The system is intended to reduce on-site dangers since it will be easy to note the experience of each person on a construction site. Those trained in first aid, and fire marshals will wear stickers on their helmets for easy identification.
The new hard hat colour codes are as follows:
- Black: Supervisors
- Orange: Slinger/Signaller
- White: Site Manager / Competent Operative / Vehicle Marshall (also wears a different coloured hi-vis vest)
- Blue: Inexperienced Person / Visitor / Apprentice / Architect / Anyone else who doesn’t fall into the above categories.
- Green First Aid + Sticker: First Aider
- Red Fire Marshal + Sticker: Fire Marshal
All helmets must meet British Standard BS EN 397.
To reiterate, these standards will be industry recognised, so - wherever you are in England - you’ll know who does what and who is qualified in various safety measures, and that means no more green and yellow hard hats on the highway!
However, the new regulations may cost some companies in the short term if they don’t comply immediately and may halt projects if site workers aren’t wearing the correct coloured hard hats.
This happened in 2008 in Aberdeen when a £285 million construction project was stopped for incorrect hat colours, breaking Health and Safety regulations.
In the long run, the new regulations will mean lower costs to employers, which is good news for companies. With fewer hard hat colours, companies will have to buy fewer variants, but initial replacement may be costly.
Although hard hats only have a certain shelf life anyway, as the plastic weakens and deteriorates over time, depending on the weather conditions of your particular site. There should either be an embossed or printed ‘best before’ date on your helmet, or some brands have stickers that fade over time, letting you know when it’s time to replace it.
For those who are curious, the old regulations necessitated a staggering seven colours of hard hat: white, green, yellow, brown, blue, orange, and grey.
- White was for managers, foreman, engineers, or supervisors
- Green was for safety inspectors, new workers, or probationary staff;
- Yellow was for general labour and earth moving operators; brown was for welders and other high-heat workers
- Blue was for carpenters and technical operators, including electricians
- Orange was worn by road crews
- Grey was worn by site visitors, or those who forgot or misplaced their hard hat (unless a bright pink hat was worn as a semi-punishment).
Forget those seven colours. Now, there are only a simplified four colours to remember, which should make it easier for everyone.
What will companies do with all of the old hard hats? And - most pressingly - will Bob the Builder have to replace his yellow hat with a white one?
If your company needs new hard hats, check out our selection here; our hats are available in the four regulation colours, meeting all PPE standards.