Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Types of PPE: helmets and headgear


Workers in a wide range of situations and activities may need personal protective equipment (PPE) for the head

Activities that need protective headgear

The following types of work might need protective headgear to ensure safety:

  • construction and building work
  • work near hoists, etc
  • tree-felling
  • work where there is potential for objects falling from height
  • blasting work, eg in quarries, open cast mining, etc
  • low-level fixed objects, eg pipework, machines or scaffolding where there is a risk of collision

Types of protective headgear

Employers must provide any necessary PPE it to employees free of charge. If you are self-employed, you must get any PPE you need for yourself. 

There is a range of headgear you can consider, including:

  • crash or climbing helmets intended to protect in case of a fall
  • safety helmets to protect against falling objects
  • bump caps to protect against striking fixed obstacles, scalping or entanglement
  • caps or hairnets to protect against scalping or entanglement
  • ear defenders

Workers who need protective headgear may also need protection for other areas of the body.

Ear protection

Some workers may need ear defenders but you should only use them as a temporary measure while you are developing proper control measures. You should not use them as an alternative to controlling noise by technical or organisational means. You must provide hearing protection to all workers exposed to noise levels where:

  • The lower exposure action value is a daily or weekly average noise exposure level of 80 decibels. At this level you should provide information and training and make hearing protection available
  • The upper exposure action value is set at a daily or weekly average noise exposure of 85 decibels. Above this you must take steps to reduce noise exposure, such as engineering controls or other technical measures. You must ensure workers use hearing protection must if you cannot control the noise by these measures, or while you are planning or carrying out these measures.

No worker should be exposed to noise over 87 decibels (taking hearing protection into account).

High-level peak sound pressures present a risk to hearing from immediate and permanent hearing loss. You must take action if an employee is likely to be exposed to peak sound pressure levels of 137 decibels or above, and place an absolute limit of 140 decibels (which can take account of hearing protection).

Workers who need protective headgear may also require protection for other areas of the body.

What should I look for?

Aim to buy a range of sizes and enough spares to cover any damaged or lost equipment.

It's also worth buying headgear with adjustable chin straps. This gives some flexibility if you haven't given each worker their own equipment.

Ensure that any headgear you buy works with any other PPE that your workers need, such as respirators, goggles or ear defenders.

Some types of headgear, such as helmets worn by motorbike riders, are not suitable.

Ongoing considerations

It's important to carry out regular inspections to check that equipment is still up to the job.

For example, this may involve:

  • checking for surface cracks
  • making sure adjustable straps aren't frayed or broken
  • cleaning sweatbands.

See maintain personal protective equipment.

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