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Bump Caps Vs Hard Hats: Which Is Best?

Posted by Xamax on 03/05/17 09:11

Head injuries are often life threatening so it’s important that, when working in hazardous industries, your employees are protected. In fact, each year around 65,000 people take time off work - meaning lost profits for your business - because of head injuries, and over 1,000 workers die from injuries sustained on the job. But what type of protection do you need for your industry? Do you need a bump cap or a hard hat? And what’s the difference between bump caps vs hard hats in the first place?

Bump Caps vs Hard Hats.jpg


What’s the Difference: Bump Caps vs Hard Hats?

Bump caps are designed to protect the wearer from minor head bumps and lacerations, but are not intended to protect from falling or flying objects. Bump caps should be used when there is a risk of impact between the head and stationary objects - like low ceilings, overhead piping, or hanging items. When there’s a risk of impact with moving objects of any type, a hard hat must be used.

Just like hard hats, bump caps have safety requirements too as defined in the safety standard, BS EN 812:2012, tested for a lower level of severity, measuring essential performance and safety requirements. Bump caps also provide some protection against sharp objects, and some provide protection against cold temperatures.

A hard hat, on the other hand, is an essential piece of PPE equipment (European Standard EN 397: 2012). Defined as a hat made of rigid material (metal or fiberglass, for example), to protect the wearer when working in places where debris and falling objects cause a potential risk. Hard hats are mandatory for building sites, and are designed to withstand major impact to protect the wearer’s head from injury. Hard hats also protect from exposure such as those who work outside all day in variable weather conditions.

Both hard hats and bump caps provide some level of head protection but what you need for your industry mostly depends on potential hazard exposure.

Portwest Hi-Vis Bump Cap


Pros and Cons of Bump Caps


  • Bump caps usually sit at around the £6-10 range per unit, but are cheaper when ordering in bulk;
  • However, some companies offer winter hard caps around the £15-25 price point, so prices vary widely.


  • Inspect, maintain, replace.
  • Replace anything that’s damaged.
  • Clean with mild soap and water.
  • Don’t use chemicals on the product.


  • Perform a shell test by pressing down with both hands.
  • If the material springs back, your bump cap is still effective.
  • Compare with the elasticity of a new shell.
  • If it doesn’t have the same elastic properties or cracks, it needs to be replaced.

Ease of Wear:

  • Adjustable straps for easy fit.
  • Caps don’t add height to your head - reducing chances of bumping into objects.
  • Can be hot and sweaty with prolonged use for models that don’t provide ventilation.
  • More lightweight than hard hats.
  • Don’t impair vision.


  • Protection only from stationary objects, and nothing high-impact.


Delta Plus Zircon Hard HatSHOP HARD HATS 

Pros and Cons of Hard Hats


  • The cost of hard hats can range anywhere from under £3 per unit to  £20-30 per unit with the average price in the £9 range.
  • However, the cost is reduced when ordering in bulk.


  • Inspect, maintain, replace.
  • Replace damaged parts.
  • Clean with mild soap and water.
  • Don’t use chemicals on your hard hat.


  • Replace suspension at least every 12 months.
  • Replace the shell every 2-5 years.
  • Work environment also factor into the lifespan of your hat: sunlight exposure, temperature extremes, chemical exposure, and frequency of use.
  • Inspect daily to to determine if you need to replace the shell, suspension, or the entire unit.
  • Replace if your hard hat sustains an impact.
  • You should replace your hard hat if the shell and suspension has cracks, dents, or cuts/gauges.
  • Check the suspension for cut or frayed straps, cracks, or tears in the plastic, and replace if they do.
  • For heat, sunlight, or chemical exposure, the shell can become chalky, dull, and less flexible (flex the brim to test).
  • If it’s less flexible, replace it.  

Ease of Wear:

  • Hard hats need to be fitted properly to be the most comfortable.
  • They are adjustable.
  • Items such as bandanas, skull-caps, hoods, or welder’s caps not containing metal can be worn if they are smooth on the top of the head.
  • Avoid pressure points.
  • Fit your hard hat so it’s snug and comfortable.


  • Protection from high-impact debris.
  • Hard hats absorb the shock of impact, and offer the best head protection when worn correctly.
  • Hard hats are resistant to penetration, falling objects, and extreme heat.

The End Result

Which type of head protection you need as an appropriate solution for your business depends on industry and use. Remember that it’s important not to skimp on head protection - since injury can cost you more in the long run than the head protection itself.

Hard hats tend to be cheaper bought in bulk as they need replacing most oftenand offer the highest level of protection; however, you wouldn’t use a towel for a pin prick! If your company’s day to day work doesn’t see employees working outside all day with the risk of falling debris (i.e. you’re mostly inside a factory with employees grabbing items from a stock room occasionally), then it’s worth just investing in a few bump caps that can be taken on and off as needed (the number you need will depend on frequency of use and how many people need them). When managing any type of large construction project, your employees will be required to wear hard hats that meet the highest protection standards, and - depending on exposure level - those hard hats will need frequent replacement.



Xamax and Head Protection: What We Offer

At Xamax we offer a prime selection of high-quality, trusted bump caps for your needs: the Portwest Hi-Vis Bump Cap, the Beechfield Enhanced-Viz EN812 Bump Cap, and the Beechfield EN812 Bump Cap.       

Portwest Hi-Vis Bump Cap

Beechfield Enhanced-Vis EN812 Bump CapBeechfield EN812 Bump Cap


If you need hard hats for your industry, we offer a variety of PPE hard hats that meet the new industry colour code standards as well as the most stringent European standards for head protection: the Delta Plus Hi-Vis Baseball Safety Helmet, the Delta Plus Quartz Rotor® Safety Helmet, the Delta Plus Zircon Hard Hat, the Portwest Endurance Plus Safety Helmet and many more.

Delta Plus Hi-Vis Baseball Safety HelmetPortwest Endurance Plus Safety HelmetDelta Plus Zircon Hard Hat


If you need help deciding if your product meets regulations, download our PPE checklist:

PPE Checklist CTA


Topics: Buying Workwear