History of Hard Hats

Hard hat is variant of helmet whose role is to protect the head of those who wears it from injuries that could happen at the place of work. Those injuries are commonly from the falling objects, debris, electricity, bad weather and hitting the head into other objects. Hard hat has an outer shell that receives the impact and an inner suspension that spread the force of the impact and with that lessens the pressure to the head which prevents the injury. Special version of hard hat is a “bump cap”, a cap reinforced to protect the head from minor injuries, scraping or bumping the head but it can’t protect from a more serious hit.

Green Hard Hat

Before there was serious hard hats, standards and regulations, workers used to smear their hats with tar and let them to dry in the sun. That was a custom of dock workers whose job was always bringing them in to possibility to be hit in the head from objects that would fall from the decks of the ships or from the objects that the seagulls would drop because they have characteristic to pick about anything that look edible and then to drop it from the air when they find out that it is not. Writer Franz Kafka is credited by management professor Peter Drucker for creating the first hard hat for civilians but there is no documentation which could back up this claim. E.D. Bullard Company from California was founded by created by Edward Dickinson Bullard in 1898. It manufactured mining equipment and among it hard hats but those hard hats were made of leather. When his son, E. W. Bullard, returned from the World War I, he brought with himself a steel helmet. That helmet became inspiration for improving safety of the workers. He patented "Hard-Boiled Hat" in 1919, a hard hat made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint. Bullard was commissioned by U.S. Navy that same year to make a hard hat for shipyard workers so he improved a hard hat with inner suspension which provided better efficiency of the hard hat. With that use of hard hats began to spread.

First project in history where it was required from construction workers to wear hard hats was building of the Hoover Dam in 1931. Second one was building of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933 by order of the Joseph Strauss, the project chief engineer. Strauss also commissioned from Bullard a hard hat for workers that did sandblasting which Bullard designed. That hard hat covered workers face, had a window so a worker can see what he is doing and air supply from the compressor for breathing. In time, materials form which hard hats were made changed and improved. Hard hats were first made from steel, then from aluminum, fiberglass, thermoplastics and high-density polyethylene. They are also made so they can be used for different purposes with adding face shields, light visors, earmuffs, mirrors (for widening the field of view), electric lamps, radios, pagers and cameras.