Hard Hat History and Background


Millions of workers use hard hats and when they are worn properly a hard hat can provide you with protection which will save your life. A hard hat is worn to prevent falling objects, sharp or blunt, from doing diminutive to severe damage. This protective device gives you the safety and security necessary to do the applications we are designated to accomplish. A hard hat is made up of a shell and suspension. In today’s age hard hats are made of a strong high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Then the suspension is what connects your head within the hat. This secures the hat, providing spacing between the shell and your head so that if an object were to strike your head, a safety distance cushion of approximately 1.25 inches will lessen the blow.

In 1997, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) revised its performance standards for hard hats. Conformity to these standards and regulation are not necessary but most all manufactures comply so they can label that they are under compliance with the standards needed. For example, a type one hard hat provides impact protection from vertically falling objects which will land on the top of the head. A type two hard hat protects from vertical and horizontal threats. There are also standards for electrical use in hard hats, which protect the wearer from electrical current. ANSI also has compliance for hard hats and their combustibility or flammability criteria.

Not only do manufactures meet the standards but they also designate a specific line of instructions for caring for your hard hat. There is an appointed handbook/booklet that outlines how to inspect for damage and how to properly fit the hat to your head. Also, even if a hard hat is properly inspected and cared for, it should be replaced after five years of use.


Edward Bullard, arrived home from World War I with more than just a souvenir, he brought a steel helmet which provided him with a dream. His metal headgear was the inspiration to revolutionize industrial safety. Edward Bullard’s father was a big player within the industrial safety business for 20 years. His father sold protective hats but they were only made of leather. 1919 came around and Bullard decided to take what his dad had and expand it to make better use of the idea, head protection. He patented a “hard-boiled” hat, created through steaming canvas with resin, gluing several layers together which provided that hard molded shape. Within the same year the US Navy commissioned Bullard to create a shipyard protective cap, which began a widespread desire for hard hats. Not long after, Bullard developed an internal suspension which would revolutionize the hard hat industry and provide a more effective protective hat.

A very important date in hard hat history is 1933; the year construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. This was the first construction site in history which required all employees to wear hard hats. This was because of the project chief engineer, Joseph Strauss. He wanted the workplace to be as safe as possible hence why he place safety nets and required hard hats while on the job site. Strauss also asked Bullard to create a hard hat to protect workers who do sandblasting. Bullard came up with a design covering the workers face with a vision window and a pump to bring fresh air into the mask. As time progressed around 1938 aluminum became a standard for head protection except in electrical applications. Then in the 1940’s fiberglass became the popular material of hard hats, but then a decade later thermoplastics would take over because they were easy to mold and shape with applied heat. Today hard hats are made from a material called High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and a type two hard hat is required to have a foam inner liner of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS).

As the industry advanced hard hats took on a technical turn with decorative adaptations and accessories which could simply clip on. ANSI, in 1997, allowed the development of a ventilated hard hat to keep wearers cooler. The sophistication provided the ability to add accessories like face shields, sun visors, ear muffs, and perspiration absorbing cloths which line the hats. The most recent improvement was attachments for radios, walkie-talkies, pagers, and cameras.