So where do we stand with applying stickers to safety helmets?
Contrary to some of the opinions offered on the internet and the practical side of why you might want to add stickers to your helmet (yes we are aware of that stickers are recommended by various organisations as a way to identify suitably trained personnel, such as first aiders, forklift drivers etc *1), and there are some who have publicly stated ‘the effect of stickers on hard hats does not negatively affect the safety performance provided by the hard hat *2′), as far as we are concerned there is only one correct answer to the question of whether stickers can be stuck to a safety helmet: You should always follow the recommendations of the manufacturer of the specific helmet you are buying. Here at Abaris International we strongly recommend that you do not add any stickers to a helmet.
The reasons for this recommendation are:
- Stickers can hide cracks and other potential damage
- Stickers may eliminate electrical resistance (source: Guidance from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- Manufacturers cannot be certain that the glue used on the sticker won’t affect the integrity of the material the helmet is made from. This is also true for the use of permanent markers / sharpies.
If you really do need to add a sticker then you should only use ones approved by the manufacturer (Petzl for instance offer ‘stickers specially designed to not damage the shell of the Vertex and Alveo helmets … … No other sticker has been approved by Petzl. Any other sticker carries a risk of damaging the shell with non-compatible solvents‘. These transparent or reflective stickers can be used as a base for non-approved stickers to be applied so long as the non-approved sticker does not overlap the approved sticker, or can be used as a place to write identification marks / names). Also try to limit the number and size of the stickers and place them away from the brim (this is where cracks are often seen during inspection).
Remember there are various other options for marking Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), consider using tags such as those shown below (Just be careful where you put them, make sure they won’t inhibit the functioning of the safety product, such as the tearing of the shock absorbing section of a lanyard, and also won’t be mistaken as a clip-in point). If these aren’t an option then you may be able to mark an item on a ‘non safety critical part’ such as sewn in label, comfort padding or in the case of a helmet, the torch clips (provided any degradation of these wouldn’t cause any failure to the safety parts of the helmet, such as chinstrap or cradle).
Further official guidance:
Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states you ‘should not customise head protection, e.g. make your own ventilation holes, paint, mark or put stickers on it‘ *3 .
The British Mountaineering Council have a guide to helmets which states ‘Stickers and marker pens can also cause damage – avoid unless they have been specifically recommended by the manufacturer. Marking the shell with a pen will generally invalidate any warranty, as well as potentially weakening the helmet. Some modern designs of helmet have specific areas set aside for identification markings. Otherwise adopt a common sense approach; for example, marking non-load bearing parts such as the headlamp clips is better than writing on top of the shell‘.
References / Sections of relevance:
‘During the induction process we identify which inductees will be using plant and those that will be allowed to use mobile phones in site safety zones.
As sites normally have in excess of 150-200 people it is difficult to monitor or even remember who has been granted permission for these activities so we use helmet stickers as a visual indicator.
A brief look at an operative using a MEWP will indicate if he is IPAF trained by the wearing of a MEWP authorisation sticker or a supervisor using a phone will have a mobile approved sticker.
We have several stickers for various items, and this helps reduce the unauthorised use of phones and plant on site and has proved very effective’.
- *2 From Safety + Health Official Magazine – Answer to question ‘Can I apply stickers to my hard hat?’ by Jeanette Gaunce, head and face protection product manager of US based manufacturer of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Bullard:
‘In most cases, the effect of stickers on hard hats does not negatively affect the safety performance provided by the hard hat. There is very little potential for chemical interaction between the type of adhesive used in typical pressure-sensitive stickers and the helmet shell. Their use would not be expected to negatively affect the performance of the helmet under normal conditions’.
- *3 Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992:
‘PART 2 Selection, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment
Head Protection – Key points
88 The key points to note for head protection are:
(a) use an adjustable chinstrap, if fitted, to make sure the helmet does not fall off;
(b) clean the inside of the helmet and clean or replace sweatbands regularly;
(c) check regularly that any damage to the outside is no more than shallow scratches or grazes and that the internal harness is not damaged or deformed;
(d) throw head protection away after significant impact by a fixed or falling object. Head protection is unfit for use if the outside is deeply scratched, worn or deformed, the harness is damaged or deformed or it is beyond its usable protective life. As a general guide, industrial safety helmets should be replaced
three years after manufacture, but always check with the manufacturer;
(e) wear the helmet so that the brim is level when the head is upright. Do not wear it sloping up or down as this will significantly reduce the protection it can provide;
(f) do not wear head protection back to front – it will not protect you if you do.
(g) do not customise head protection, e.g. make your own ventilation holes, paint, mark or put stickers on it;
(h) do not wear a baseball style bump cap where there is a risk of falling objects – wear an industrial safety helmet instead’.