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Hard Hats – Why They Expire

By Taylor James


Updated on

Workers at industrial and construction sites wear hard hats to protect their heads from falling objects, debris, and electrical shocks. Although it may sound odd, these hats don’t last very long. In fact, they have a shelf life of only a few years, but why is that? 

Hard hats expire after 3–5 years because their plastic material degrades and loses its ability to withstand hard blows. You might need to discard one sooner because of damage or burns. However, poor storage conditions, such as excessive heat or sun exposure, can also weaken the hat.

In this article, we’ll talk about when and why hard hats expire and teach you how to find the expiration dates on them. We’ll also cover other situations where it’s best to replace an old hard hat entirely.

Why Hard Hats Expire and When To Replace Them

You expect hard hats to protect your head from different dangers, so they need to remain in perfect condition. Even if you take good care of your hard hat, the plastic shell loses its integrity and starts to degrade. 

Your hard hat may also sustain damage on the job, forcing you to get a new one. Here are a few reasons to consider replacing your current hard hat: 

  • Overexposure to sunlight, cold, or heat
  • Dents, scratches, or cracks
  • Solvents or paint damage
  • Fire damage and partial burns 
well worn hard hats

How Long Does a Hard Hat Last?

The standard lifespan depends on the brand, model, material, and usage. It’s generally three to five years, but you can’t expect your hat to last that long. It might last anywhere from one day to the expiration date, depending on how well you take care of it and whether or not it’s involved in any accidents. 

How To Check a Hat’s Expiry Date

To find the expiry date, check the manufacture date and the hat’s maximum lifespan. You can find the manufacture date stamped into the inside of the shell, somewhere near the peak. There are two main methods to specify the manufacture date:

Month and Year

The first method shows the year and month using a clock-like representation. The year is in the middle of a circle, and an arrow points to the production month. So, for example, a circle with 2021 and an arrow pointing to 3 describe a hat manufactured in March 2021.

Quarter and Year   

The second type of date stamp consists of a circle divided into four quarters, representing the four seasons, and the manufacture year is in the middle of the circle. Dots in the four segments denote the season. 

For example, if you find dots in the second quarter, the hat is manufactured somewhere between April to June.  


All hard hats have an expiration date because the protective shell loses its integrity over time and becomes more prone to damage. So, even if your hat looks okay, don’t wear it past the expiry date. 

Sometimes, you have to replace your hat before the expiry date because it has sustained fire or sun damage. Other reasons to get a new hard hat include too much exposure to heat or cold, solvent damage, dents, and cracks. If you need a new hard hat that meets safety requirements and looks good check out this option on Amazon.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.