If there is a workplace risk of head injury from falling, flying, or thrown objects, or from other harmful contacts, employers must take measures to eliminate this risk. If it’s not reasonable to eliminate the risk, employers must minimize the risk to the lowest level practicable. If the risk can’t be sufficiently minimized, employers may need to require workers to wear safety headgear such as hard hats, bump caps, or helmets.
Before requiring workers to wear safety headgear, employers — in consultation with workers and supervisors — need to identify the hazards and assess the risk of head injury, and then must apply controls by following the hierarchy of controls. This means first attempting to eliminate the risk. If the risk can’t be eliminated, engineering controls must be considered, followed by administrative controls. Safety headgear must only be a requirement if the risk can’t be reduced to the lowest level practicable by using one or more controls.
A guide and template are available to help employers conduct and document a workplace assessment with the active participation of workers and supervisors: See Safety headgear: Assessing and controlling risk of head injury. Occupational Health and Safety Guideline G8.11(1) provides additional information.
Worker rights and responsibilities
If the assessment determines that the risk of head injury can’t be eliminated or reduced to the lowest level practicable, workers might need to wear safety headgear on the job.
Workers who have concerns about the requirement to wear safety headgear should talk to their employer, supervisor, and/or joint health and safety committee (or worker representative). Safety headgear: Rights and responsibilities provides further information on workers’ rights related to safety headgear. It also includes a process map outlining the steps workers can take if they have questions or concerns about the use of headgear at their workplace.
Human rights requirements
In some situations, employers may need to balance health and safety obligations with human rights obligations related to religious freedom. These freedoms are contained in legislation such as the Human Rights Code of B.C.
WorkSafeBC does not administer the Human Rights Code. Workers or employers with questions about religious freedoms related to safety headgear should contact the BC Human Rights Tribunal or seek legal advice.
Choosing the right type of safety headgear
If the risk assessment determines safety headgear is required, employers need to consider which type of headgear — such as hard hats, bump caps, or helmets — is appropriate for the workplace tasks and conditions. This includes considering:
- Whether workers may be exposed to electrical hazards
- Whether chin straps are needed
- Whether workers will be on vehicles, mobile equipment, bicycles, or skates
- Applicable standards
See sections 8.11 to 8.13 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation for specific requirements.