This page was printed from

Celebrating 100 years of head protection

Business | August 1, 2019 | By:

Hard hat manufacturer Bullard celebrates the 100th anniversary of its revolutionary invention. 

Women got the vote. Prohibition began. The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I. And worker safety was advanced with a new device—the hard hat.

The invention of the hard hat is credited to E. W. Bullard, the son of the founder of a mining equipment supply company. When Bullard returned to the U.S. from the war, he combined his understanding of the needs of the company’s mining customers with his experience with his doughboy army helmet to design a protective headgear for miners. 

The “Hard Boiled®” hat was introduced in 1919. Today, the Bullard company, based in Cynthiana, Ky., continues to manufacture the hard hat along with a wide range of personal protective equipment and systems.

“The original Hard Boiled hat was manufactured out of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim and black paint. My great-grandfather built a suspension device into what became the world’s first commercially available industrial head protection device,” says CEO Wells Bullard. “We may take it for granted today, but we are proud to be celebrating 100 years of an innovation that truly helped our country grow and keep the hardworking women and men who built it safer.”

Here are guidelines from Bullard for the safe use of hard hats: 

When should I replace my hard hat?

Industrial head protection devices do not have an indefinite useful life. A regular head protection replacement program should be conducted by employers as a responsive solution to the task of addressing service life of hard hats/caps.

The details of such a program must be developed based on work conditions at each jobsite. As a general guideline, many large corporations replace all employees’ caps every five years, regardless of the cap’s outward appearance. On average, the suspension should be replaced every 12 months.

Where user environments include higher exposure to temperature extremes, sunlight or chemicals, hard hats/caps should be replaced automatically after two years of use. This is based on information and cap samples returned to Bullard after exposure to such conditions. In rare instances, a cap may need to be replaced within less than two years.

If a cap has been struck by a blow of any magnitude, both the hard hat shell and suspension should be replaced immediately, even if no damage is visible.

To determine possible degradation of a polyethylene shell, compress the shell inward from the sides about 1 inch (2.5 cm) with both hands and then release the pressure without dropping the shell. The shell should quickly return to its original shape, exhibiting elasticity. Compare the elasticity of the sample with that of a new shell. If the sample does not exhibit elasticity similar to that of a new shell, or if it cracks due to brittleness, it should be replaced immediately.

Can I wear a baseball cap under my hard hat?

There are no requirements or tests to examine the effect that a cap or any other object worn inside a hard hat may have on hard hat performance. Therefore, Bullard recommends that hard hat users should never carry or wear anything inside a hard hat, with this reasoning:

  • A clearance must be maintained between the hard hat shell and the wearer’s head for the protection system to work properly. An additional cap or other object may limit this clearance.
  • Wearers may be unaware that the cap or object contains metal parts, such as a metal button at the top of a baseball cap, which may diminish the dielectric protection provided by the hard hat.
  • Under no circumstances should any item be placed above or below the crown straps. This will affect the performance of the hard hat.

Some products, such as fabric winter liners and cotton sunshades, are designed to work in conjunction with hard hats.

Is it okay to put stickers on my hard hat or engrave it?

The use of self-adhesive stickers to personalize hard hats or for identification purposes is a common practice. Stickers should be placed at least ¾ inch (2 cm) away from the edge of the helmet and be kept to a minimum to permit regular inspection of the helmet shell for signs of damage from use or aging. If any surface cracks, however small, should appear on the shell surface, either in the vicinity of the stickers or elsewhere, the helmet should be removed from service and replaced immediately.

The practice of engraving identification data on the underside of the brim of the helmet will not adversely affect the helmet’s performance; however, this engraving must be restricted to the brim only. Any engraving or modification of the helmet shell material in the crown area above the intersection between the crown and brim, or in the vicinity of the suspension key sockets, may result in failure of the helmet.

The best practice is always to use the helmet as it was received from the manufacturer, or to consult the manufacturer before making any product modifications.

For more, go to

Share this Story