There are different types of hats that people use in other places and on various occasions. And unlike your beanies or fedoras, a hard hat isn’t the typical hat you can wear outside on an average day.
A hard hat is a kind of helmet or protective head hat usually used in workplaces like construction and industrial sites. They often use hard hats in areas like these to protect the head from rain, electric shocks, or falling objects and debris that could cause injury to the person.
Inside a hard hat, you will see suspension bands that could help spread over the top of a person’s head, the weight of the hard hat, and the force of the impact that could hit the head. It also allows about 1.2 inches of space between the head of the person and the hard hat’s shell, so if an object falls over the head, the skull will likely avoid feeling the impact and severe injury. Aside from the suspension bands, other hard hats also contain mid-line reinforcement ridges, which help strengthen the impact resistance of the helmet.
Before learning more about hard hats, you must first know the history of these protective helmets.
History of Hard Hats
In early times, workers, especially in the shipbuilding industry, used pitch or tar to create a protective layer for their hats. Then they put them under the sun to cure or dry. After that, they’ll be ready to use as protective head gears. Dock workers in shipbuilding industries usually practice this technique as they are prone to get hit by debris and objects on the head.
The first-ever civilian hard hat was developed in 1912 by a former employee of the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia. However, this development and this claim remained undocumented.
In the US, the mining equipment company in California named the E.D. Bullard Company was one of those companies which first produced hard hats. The E.D. Bullard Company was among the pioneers of the industrial safety business in the US. This company was owned by Edward Dickinson Bullard and was established in 1898.
The E.D. Bullard Company first produced leather-crafted protective hats. The production of leather protective head gears was inspired by the steel helmet owned by his youngest son, E.W. Bullard, while he was fighting during World War I. Seeing the steel helmet his son owned urged him to create an improved headgear that could ensure industrial safety.
He then made a patent for the “hard-boiled hat” in 1919. The company created this hat from black paint, glue, and steamed canvas. Later that year, the US Navy appointed Bullard and his firm, the E.D. Bullard Company, to design and produce a shipyard protective hat, which started the global use of hard hats.
After some time, Bullard improved the design of his hard hat by adding an internal suspension to enhance the hard hat’s strength and durability and to ensure more protection for the head. The first designs of E.D. Bullard Company look similar to the steel M1917 military helmet, which inspired their creation.
In 1930, Mine Safety Appliances, a manufacturer of safety equipment for workers, developed a new and improved safety hard hat design, a non-conductive thermoplastic helmet they strengthened using bakelite. They called this the “Skullgard” helmet.
They made this hard hat to withstand radiant heat and extreme temperatures, especially for workers in the metal industry. The “Skullgard” hard hat could hold out against temperatures up to 177 °C or 350 °F without burning the head of the wearer. This helmet was also made to be safe when exposed to high-voltage electricity.
One of the primary materials used for this helmet was bakelite. They used bakelite to ensure solid protection against strong and sudden impacts, especially in an environment with extreme temperature, while still being lightweight for practicality and comfortability. Until now, the improved version of the “Skullgard” Helmet, including battery and headlamp, is still being manufactured and produced.
During the 1931 Hoover Dam project, Six Companies, Inc. required workers to use a hard hat during the Golden Gate Bridge’s construction in SF, California. The project’s chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, ordered the construction workers to wear protective headgear to ensure the workers’ safety and to create a safe working environment.
Joseph Strauss also commissioned E.D. Bullard Company to design a particular hard hat that could protect construction workers performing sandblasting. The hard hat designed by the company protects the faces of the workers while still providing clear visibility and enough fresh air, made possible by the air compressor connected to the hat by a small hose.
This hat has an incredible quality. However, it could be a bit expensive. There are other hard hats made from cheaper materials, which you could acquire for an affordable price.
The designs of hard hats are pretty similar to each other. Since they made hard hats to protect the head from severe impacts, they usually use durable materials, preferably metal, fiberglass, Bakelite composite, and molded thermoplastic.
Some hard hats that follow a contemporary cap design have a rolled edge that helps hold rainwater to prevent them from falling down the wearer’s face. There are also hard hats with a wide-brimmed cowboy design. However, not all workplaces allow the use of this kind of hard hat.
Workplaces, construction sites, and companies using hard hats usually have hats with a design on the front, including the company’s name, logo, and a short description or message, which is usually optional.
Purpose of Hard Hats
Hard hats’ primary purpose is to protect the wearer’s head. They require hard hats in workplaces prone to falling debris to avoid potential injury to the head. Aside from that, hard hats help reduce the chance or the impact of electrical shocks for workers who work with exposed wires and electrical conductors, which could hurt the workers’ heads.
Other types of hard hats have particular purposes. These include hard hats for miners with light attachments, hard hats with reflective stripes that are perfect when working at night, hard hats with face shields for welding, and hard hats with attachments for earmuffs and visors.
When Should You Use Hard Hats
It would be wise to use hard hats when doing activities that expose you to falling debris and objects. Some of these activities include:
- Grabbing objects from platforms or shelves, that when falls, could cause serious head injury;
- When exposed to electrical conductors overhead;
- When you are in an area where demolition or construction is ongoing;
- When you are using equipment, materials, or tools, wherein accidentally dropping them could lead to a severe head injury.