BY KIMBERLEY FALK | MARCH 29, 2019
Regardless of the timeless knowledge that, without our brain, we’d be nothing but mush, it took quite a long time for humans to realize we should protect it. Helmets remained a stationary only seen in warfare for hundreds of years, and only until the recent century has become an important part of safety hazards.
The hard hat, invented in 1919, now celebrating its 100-year anniversary, is standard practice in every construction site, resulting in fines, jail time, or worse if a worker or visitor is caught without one.
Miners and shipyard workers were the first to begin covering up their precious noggins.
After the First World War, E.W. Bullard, the son of a wealthy mining manufacturing company owner, Edward Dickinson Bullard of California’s E.D.Bullard Company, brought back with him a steel helmet and patented the “Hard-Boiled Hat,” made of steamed canvas, glue, and black paint. This dug the way to huge movements in protective equipment for the most hazardous of occupations but was still a far cry from the durable plastic we use today.
The construction of the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge were the first projects that required their workers to wear hard hats, both iconic monuments in the history of the United States. Joseph Strauss, the foreman of the bridge commissioned Bullard to mass produce his hat, now upgraded to include a suspension device, to create a stronger hat, made of aluminum, geared towards the harsher conditions for his workers, which began the revolution of the hard hat into what we see today. It wasn’t until the 1970s, with the introduction of the OHSA that wearing of the hard hat became mandatory.
Over the past century the hard hat has revolutionized and changed the way we protect ourselves. From its humble start made of steamed canvas, the hard hat also went through its aluminum, fiberglass, and then into the thermoplastic non-slip sizeable molds we see today in the 1980s.
Today, with 6 million hard hats sold each year, the hard hat has become the most recognizable item related to construction workers. Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) while working with hazardous material or in dangerous conditions, has become the law across North America, yet there are still many countries that don’t regulate the personal protection of workers.
Across the United States, as well, it has become a “fad” in many worksites for workers to wear their hard hats backwards – either in order to see better without the brim or because it’s easier to maneuver. Wearing the hat correctly is, of course, important for the protection of our heads, and there have been workplace accidents owing to men and women not wearing the hat its intended way.
There’s still work to be done in the advancement of PPEs, however in the past ten years there has been huge strides in creating lighter, safer protection pieces, including the induction of a new helmet specifically designed for emergency responders.
With the ever-changing technological advances of the 21st century, I am excited to see how we can even further protect our fellow humans who risk their lives doing the most dangerous jobs in order to make our lives better, even if that is simply building a fence.