Hard Hat Colour Codes in Construction: What Do They Mean?

October 21, 2020
Clock Icon 3 min read

Wearing hard hats on construction sites is vital for safety, as the risk of head injury can be extremely high – even with all the necessary control measures in place. It’s therefore crucial that everyone understands the requirements surrounding them, including colour coding.

Hard hats orange and white

PPE requirements are covered by the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992. These regulations now also cover hard hats on construction sites. However, the most recent colour coding system was introduced in 2016 by Build UK.

This article will explain the hard hat colour codes for construction and why they were introduced.

Is it Essential to Wear a Hard Hat on Construction Sites?

Although it is not explicitly stated in the regulations that all construction sites must have hard hats, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states:

“Does the law require head protection on construction sites? For the vast majority of cases yes – on almost all construction sites the risk of head injury are such that the law requires head protection.”

Health and Safety Executive: Construction PPE FAQ

Under the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992, employers must provide hard hats to those who may be at risk of head injuries. This risk is usually high on construction sites even with control measures, so hard hats are almost always required.

Construction workers wearing orange hard hats

People who are most obviously at risk include workers on construction sites, but visitors and any others who may be vulnerable must also be considered. Once the employer has identified who may be harmed and how during a risk assessment, they must provide these groups of people with hard hats that are compliant with PPE safety standards.

Hard hats will also usually be colour coded, so everyone on site can identify those around them.

Hard Hat Colour Codes and Their Meanings 

In 2016, Build UK introduced a new colour coding system for hard hats. As they are the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry, their member sites and the construction industry as a whole follow their colour scheme. This ensures consistency and a unified understanding across construction sites, as the colours each represent a certain role or status.

The colour codes for hard hats are as follows:

  • White: site managers, competent operatives, and vehicle marshals.
  • Orange: slingers and signallers.
  • Black: site supervisors.
  • Blue: all others on site who do not fall into the above categories, including visitors.
Hard hats colour codes white orange black blue

First aiders will also have a green first aider sticker on their hard hats, while fire marshals will have a red fire marshal sticker. Additionally, certain roles can be distinguished by different coloured high visibility vests.

Note: Network Rail’s PPE standards only permits white and blue hard hats on their sites, so the above colour codes do not apply to them.

You can download a free poster that shows all the colour codes below, which you may wish to display on your site to remind everyone of which colours represent which roles.

Why Are Hard Hat Colours Important?

Build UK implemented the new colour coding system to establish consistency across the industry. It addresses inconsistency issues that often led to confusion and even safety risks. Wearing colour coded hard hats ensures that everyone is easily identifiable, based on their role or status.

Construction workers wearing white and blue hard hats

For example, a site manager can be easily identified by their white hat in an emergency. Similarly, blue hats will indicate visitors, who may be at particular risk of site hazards.

Being able to identify people’s level of responsibility and role on construction sites will therefore reduce confusion, clearly define the hierarchy of workers on site, and help to minimise any potential dangers.

Note: while these colour codes are considered best practice and standard across the construction industry, many construction sites still follow their own colour code system, so you may see the widely-used yellow hard hat still in use for example. While having a colour scheme helps establish consistency, what’s most important is that the hard hats are compliant with safety regulations.

Wearing hard hats is vital if you work in construction. All those who may be at risk must receive this essential PPE from their employer and wear it as instructed, with adherence to the colour code system in place at their site. This ensures that consistency and safety is maintained across the construction industry.