Hard Hats

The difference between hard hats and bump caps

difference between hard hats and bump caps

Hard hats and bump caps both forms of PPE that provide head protection, however the circumstances in which they’re used vary based on the type and level of protection required.

Bump caps protect against small impacts that a worker may incur when bumping into or knocking against a stationary object, while hard hats offer additional protection against falling or moving objects.

This difference can be articulated as “worker-generated impacts vs object-generated impacts”, according to Pro Choice Safety Gear’s Product Development Manager, Brad Rodgers.

“Bump caps are designed for small lacerations or bumps where the wearer comes into contact with the hazard. It’s a very basic protection that won’t provide the same level of protection against impacts that a normal industrial hard hat would,’ explained Rodgers.

The difference in the level of protection is due to how bump caps and hard hats are made.

“A bump cap is made from an injection molded plastic shell that is generally encased in an outer cap or hat that provides sun protection and holds the shell in place, allowing it to be fastened to the head,” said Rodgers.

“Hard hats are injection molded from more durable plastics and are designed with an inner harness system made from plastic and webbing that provides significant protection by reducing the force of the impact through to the wearer.”

When to use bump camps:

Despite offering lower impact protection than hard hats, bump caps can be the best head protection in certain situations, such as confined spaces and when working horizontally.

“Bump caps don’t protrude off the head like a normal hard hat. The fit is nice and close and secure, which improves its ability to be worn in more confined spaces where hard hats aren’t suitable,” explained Rodgers.

“It’ll also stay on your head without the need for a chin strap, so the wearer can work in non-vertical conditions without needing extra restraint.”

He added that bump caps are more breathable due to being much thinner and lighter than hard hats, with some weighing in at almost half the weight of an industrial hard hat.

Applications generally include mechanics working in, around and under vehicles, baggage handlers or airline workers in the holds of airplanes, workers installing products in roofs or voids, food processing and some manufacturing and assembly jobs, and jobs involving moving around in confined spaces.

When to use hard hats:

Any worksite requiring an industrial hard hat according to the AS/NZS 1801 Standard should automatically rule out the use of a bump cap.

“If there’s an object-generated impact risk you look straight to an industrial hard hat that complies with the Australian Standard,” said Rodgers.

“Only if it’s a worker-generated impact with no risk of falling objects from above would a bump cap be used.”

When choosing a hard hat – or any other PPE – he recommended always conducting a full risk assessment to determine which product suits the application and risk needs.

Hard hats vs bump caps:

  Hard hats Bump caps
Hard hat care and maintenance
Inspect before every use.
Replace after a significant impact or as per the replacement schedule.
Consider the impact of factors such as heat and chemicals.

Inspect before every use.
Replace after a significant impact or as per the replacement schedule.
Consider the impact of factors such as heat and chemicals.
Comfort and fit Generally comfortable, easy to adjust and a nice secure fit.
Protrudes off the head a small amount so may feel slightly less stable compared to a bump cap.

Generally comfortable, easy to adjust and a nice secure fit.
More like a traditional sun protection cap but with a plastic line and foam lining for comfort.
Very lightweight and unobtrusive.

Lifespan
Harnesses must be replaced every two years according to the AS/NZ 1801 Standard.
Pro Choice recommends replacing shells every three years.
Replace as necessary due to wear and tear or significant impacts.

No specific lifespan for a bump cap.
Replace as necessary due to wear and tear or significant impacts
Cost
Depends on the style of hard hat.
Generally slightly cheaper than bump caps due to less manual labour and more molding/injection in production.

Depends on the style of bump cap.
Generally slightly more expensive than hard hats due to more manual labour in production of the outer cap.
Standards and testing
Always choose a product that complies with a Standard.
Hard hats in Australia must comply with the AS/NZS 1801 Standard.
Pro Choice Safety Gear hard hats are compliant AS/NZS 1801 and also independently certified.
Pro Choice Safet Gear hard hats are independently tested to verify performance levels.
Hard hats are only tested for impacts to the top.

Always choose a product that complies with a Standard.
All Pro Choice Safety Gear bump caps comply with European Standard EN 8112 as there is no Australian Standard.
Pro Choice bump caps are independently tested to verify performance levels.
Bump caps are tested for impacts to multiple angles, including the top, front and sides.