Hard Hats Turn (at Least) 100

Centennial celebration breaks record, promotes an essential, ubiquitous worksite safety item.

by Lee Freeland
The Bullard “Hard-Boiled Hat” for miners, introduced in 1919[5]
The Bullard “Hard-Boiled Hat” for miners, introduced in 1919[5]

The patent of the hard hat turns 100 this year. Though protective leather hats had been made since 1898, the “Hard-Boiled Hat” was patented in 1919 by E.W. Bullard, son of Edward Dickinson Bullard, who had founded the E.D. Bullard Co. that sold the leather hats. Made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint, E.W. Bullard’s hat (inspired by the steel helmet he’d worn in World War I) was so successful that the U.S. Navy commissioned him to make a shipyard protective cap the same year. That kicked off the widespread use of hard hats. Soon, Bullard had developed an internal suspension to provide a more effective hat.[1]0

The company, now just called “Bullard,” is 121 years old and a global provider of personal protective equipment. It kicked off a yearlong celebration to honor the 100th anniversary of the invention of the hard hat on January 12. As it is headquartered in Cynthiana, Kentucky, it chose the Rupp Arena (home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats) in nearby Lexington as the location for a record-breaking attempt. It sponsored the men’s basketball game between Kentucky and Vanderbilt, during which it was successful in breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people wearing safety helmets at an event.[2]

It’s hard to understate the importance of hard hats to construction trades. In addition to protecting the head from such hazards as flying objects, collision impact, debris and shock, they are among the most resilient types of personal protective equipment and have proven to save lives in the workplace. It has been reported that, in the U.S., at least one fatal injury is directly caused by a worker not wearing an OSHA-mandated hard hat each year. Naturally, safety authorities urge workers to wear them on the job, regardless of apparent risk of head injury.

Even when there is no obvious danger at that moment, workplaces such as elevator shaft s can prove unexpectedly hazardous. This is where the hard hat shines: defending workers from sudden dangers when they don’t have the time or space to move out of the way.[6] As Bay State Elevator implores, “Whether you are an elevator mechanic working on a high-rise elevator-installation project or an elevator mechanic performing routine elevator maintenance, it is always important to wear the appropriate safety gear!” Giving workers the protection of resisting object penetration and burning, absorbing the shock from a blow to the head by an object and water resistance, the hard hat is an essential part of this gear that helps so many come home safe every day.

References

[1] Wikipedia. “Hard Hat” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_hat).

[2] e Lane Report. “Hard Hat Inventor Bullard Breaks Guinness World Record at UK game” (www.lanereport.com).

[3] Facebook. “Bullard” (facebook.com/BullardCompany).

[4] Cooper, Rob. “Lunchtime on a Skyscraper in 2011,” Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2047853/Lunchtime-Skyscraper-2011-Builders-recreate-Charles-C-Ebbets-1932-photo.html).

[5] HAL’S LAMPPOST. “Miscellaneous Mining Items” (www.halslamppost.com).

[6] MySafetySign. “Do Hard Hats Save Lives?” (www.mysafetysign.com).