08:20 AM

The Hardhat Turns 100

Designed as a protective headgear for miners, the hardhat turns 100 this year.

Edward Bullard invented the hardhat in 1919 after returning to the United States from serving in France during World War I. Dams, bridges and skyscrapers were being built across the nation, and with them came new dangers for workers who toiled in precarious positions at hazardous worksites.

Bullard joined his father, who made carbide lamps and other supplies for miners, to fashion a helmet modeled after the metal helmet he and his fellow soldiers wore overseas. The first hardhat was fashioned with steamed canvas and leather, painted black, and featured a suspension system.

A century later, the Bullard family continues to produce millions of hardhats each year, most at the company headquarters in Cynthiana, Ky. The company’s Turtle Club welcomes members whose life was saved by a hardhat. The club motto is “Shell on head, you’re not dead.”

Through the years, material to make the hardhat shifted from canvas to metal to fiberglass to plastic, which is used today.

Hardhats prevent injuries in numerous work conditions, like during World War II when electrical engineer William Ross Aiken had a close call at a shipyard. “I was saved by my hardhat once when some metal fell 60 feet from a gantry crane and hit me on the head,” he said. “It made a big dent in my aluminum hat, but it saved my life.”

As Bullard enters its second century next year, it plans to introduce a new line of hardhats, specifically for industrial workers, featuring foam padding and integrated chin straps.

At Jackson EMC, hardhats were introduced in 1958. Hardhats at Jackson EMC must meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, according to Steve Chambers, Jackson EMC's Director of Safety and Training.

“Hardhats not only protect you from falling objects but from contact with energized conductors,” Chambers said. “They are to be worn on all jobsites where construction is being performed, whether you’re an employee or a visitor.”