The History of the Hard Hat on its 100th Birthday

Construction work tends to go hand-in-hand with the image of construction workers with bright yellow hard hats, but the recognisable headgear wasn’t always a staple on the job site.
This changed when in 1919, the ‘Hard Boiled’ hat was introduced. It was invented by E.W. Bullard, who based the design on doughboy helmet he worse in World War 1. He then re-joined his father’s company, Bullard, when he returned from war.
This new invention was in line with Bullard’s focus to supply gold and copper miners in California, Nevada and Arizona with lamps and mining equipment. The hat consisted of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim and black paint.
Wells Bullard, E.W. Bullard’s great-granddaughter, now runs the family-owned company which has made numerous advancements in head protection over the past century.
‘My great-grandfather built a suspension device into what became the world’s first commercially available, industrial head-protection device,’ she says. ‘We may take it for granted today, but we are proud to be celebrating 100 years of an innovation that truly helped our country grow and keep the hardworking women and men who built more safe.’
Though the first hard hat was invented 100 years ago, it would take several more decades before it began to be utilised in the construction industry.
Since the early 1980s, the hard hat has continued to evolve. It is often made from lightweight, durable polyethylene plastic. It doesn’t conduct electricity and the plastic is treated with an ultraviolet inhibitor to weather the elements.
Various elements of the hard hat have evolved and more advanced features to the hat are continuously being added such as built-in-fans and easy-lock snaps.
But despite these advancements, the hard hat remains the first line of safety – and the most instantly recognisable feature – of today’s construction worker.
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