Take a look at any construction site and you’ll see more or less everyone wearing hard hats. In some developing nations the rules aren’t so tight, but in the likes of the USA, it’s mandatory to wear a hard hat regardless of your role on a construction site.
Hard hats are designed to reduce the risk of injury from objects falling, collisions, rain, random materials and electric shocks. Take the full force of all of these can be obviously hurt a lot, and be fatal.
Bump Cap vs. Hard Hat
Bump caps are lightweight hard hats with not quite as much protection. WThey uses a chin strap and are used where scraping or bumping one’s head is possible. They aren’t as good for absorbing large impacts however so a traditional hard hat is preferred.
The first ever hard hats were made from tar that was set in the sun to harden. This originated from the ship building industry where objects are always falling from ship decks.
In 1898, a Californian based mining equipment company, E.D. Bullard Company developed and sold leather protective hats.
During WWI steel helmets were used and this inspired E. W. Bullard to improve the safety and he developed (and patented) a hard-boiled hat in 1919 made of steamed canvas, black pain, and glue.
Hoover Dam claimed a number of lives but hard hats were mandatory for all workers on site in 1931. The same regulations were required for those building the Golden Gate Bridge which started in 1933.
Less than a decade later, aluminum hard hats became the standard material used (except in electrical situations) and in the 1940’s fiberglass hard hats became prominent.
In the 1950’s, thermoplastics became popular as they were easy to mold and shape affordably. This more or less holds true today with most hard hats made of high-density polyethylene. When the 1962 V-Gard® Helmet was released the industry standard helmet was reached and that model can be found on construction sites all over the USA.
While the design has more or less stayed the same for the last 50 years, there have been adjustments with 1997 being a big year as ventilated hard hats were introduced. A welcome reprieve from the head.
And of course, now there are all sorts of accessories to go along with hard hats with visors, extra wide brims to provide shade, ear protectors attached for noisy situations and some even come with rear view mirrors. A chinstrap is the industry standard, and those who work in dark spaces will have a headlamp mount on their helmet to keep their hands free.
For the tough ones who deal with very cold conditions (think Ice Road Truckers), thick insulated pads do their best to keep the users head warm.
You’ve probably never thought so much about hard hats, right? Next week, we will cover over different applications, situations where hard hats have been pivotal in safety applications and what color is what.