Go to any tower, construction site, rooftop, or other worksites, and you’ll find one thing without fail: lots of hard hats with stickers. The crews that work at height love to show off their favorite companies with stickers on their safety helmets. The total number of stickers will vary from a few to covering the entire helmet, but it’s rare to find a helmet without any stickers.
No big deal, right? Well, believe it or not, most manufacturers specify that you shouldn’t add stickers to your helmet. By OSHA regulations, you are supposed to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper use of equipment. So what’s the deal with stickers on your safety helmet? We asked the experts at Safety One to find out.
It comes down to two issues. “The problem is when you can’t tell if there is a crack in your helmet because there is a half-inch of stickers holding it together like paper mache,” says Brian Bourquin, Tower Safety Trainer. A crucial aspect of inspecting your helmet is looking for cracks. If you can’t see part of the helmet because of a sticker, you can’t tell if it’s cracked or not.
The other issue is that different stickers use different adhesives. “The argument I’ve heard is the glue breaks down the plastic,” explains Brent Seeley, Tower Safety Trainer. It is possible that the adhesive in your sticker could break down the material in your helmet, leaving you vulnerable if something were to fall on your head. We asked our Petzl Rep, Charly, what Petzl has to say about stickers. “Because there is no way to determine whether the adhesive on a given sticker will have an adverse effect on the integrity (and safety) of a helmet, Petzl recommends not putting stickers on your helmet.” He also points out that Petzl offers some clear stickers that have been certified as safe. You can put your favorite sticker on top of that.
On the other side of the argument, the Safety One trainers point out some of the benefits of using stickers. “Some companies issue stickers as the employee completes different certifications…. the foreman can tell how qualified a man is by the different stickers on display,” says Brian. “Also, at some sites you work at, you are given a sticker to put on your helmet that shows you attended their annual safety briefing. That sticker remains on your helmet for a year,” Brent adds.
Some companies also have their employees put their names on their helmets. This is handy, so everyone knows who they are talking to.
So, what’s the final verdict here? We haven’t been able to find any examples of a sticker compromising the integrity of a helmet, or causing an accident. It seems pretty unlikely that this would ever happen. However, it is, in theory, possible. We know that workers love putting stickers on their helmets, and aren’t likely to stop anytime soon. Technically, you shouldn’t put a sticker on your helmet, but if you do, be careful. Don’t get so excessive that you can’t inspect for cracks. If you are extra cautious, get the clear stickers from Petzl.
As always, stay safe!