Candid Street shot, Montreal Canada.
In the early years of the ship building industry, workers covered their hats with pitch (tar), and set them in the sun to cure, a common practice for dock workers in constant danger of being hit on the head by objects dropped from ship decks.
Management professor Peter Drucker credited writer Franz Kafka with developing the first civilian hard hat while employed at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia (1912), but this information is not supported by any document from his employer.
In the United States, the E.D. Bullard Company was a mining equipment firm in California created by Edward Dickinson Bullard in 1898, a veteran of the industrial safety business for 20 years. The company sold protective hats made of leather. His son, E. W. Bullard, returned home from World War I with a steel helmet that provided him with ideas to improve industrial safety. In 1919 Bullard patented a "hard-boiled hat" made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint. That same year, the U.S. Navy commissioned Bullard to create a shipyard protective cap that began the widespread use of hard hats. Not long after, Bullard developed an internal suspension to provide a more effective hat. These early designs bore a resemblance to the military M1917 "Brodie" helmet that served as their inspiration.
In the 1930’s hard hats were mainly made of steel and were a requirement for such projects as the Hoover dam and the golden gate bridge. Aluminium replaced steel as the material of choice in about 1938 (except for electrical aplications where plastic was the norm (Bakelite was new back then).
Fiberglass came into use in the 1940s and Thermoplastics took over in the 1950s.
In 1997 ANSI allowed the development of a ventilated hard hat to keep wearers cooler. Accessories such as face shields, sun visors, earmuffs, and perspiration-absorbing lining cloths could also be used; today, attachments include radios, walkie-talkies, pagers, and cameras.
Another milestone was reached in 2013 with production of the MSA V-Gard GREEN Helmet, the first industrial safety product produced from nearly 100 percent renewable resources. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) construction sourced entirely from sugarcane ethanol is recyclable, reducing the carbon footprint associated with this product type.
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