Around construction sites, hard hats are the best way to protect yourself from permanent, life-changing injuries or death. It’s important, then, that workers understand the several types of hard hats, how to care for hard hats, and requirements of wearing hard hats on the job.
This means that employers must provide hard hats and ensure that employees wear protective coverings in the following situations:
- When objects or debris might fall from above and strike workers on the head
- When employees may strike their heads against fixed objects, like supports, beams, or other equipment
- When there is the possibility that workers’ heads will make contact with electrical hazards
In 1933, construction workers on the Golden Gate Bridge became the first labourers who were required to wear hard hats, due to concerns about falling rivets.
Around 1938, aluminium became a standard for head protection except in electrical applications. Then in the 1940s, fiberglass became the popular material of hard hats. A decade later thermoplastics would take over because they were easy to mold and shape with applied heat.
Because hard hats are intended to protect the wearer’s head from impacts, hats are made from durable materials, originally from metal, then fiberglass, and most-commonly (from the 1950s onward) rigid plastic. Because hard hats are intended to protect the wearer’s head from impacts, hats are made from durable materials, originally from metal, then fiberglass, and most-commonly (from the 1950s onward) rigid plastic.
Today’s hard hats are made from a material called High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and a Type II hard hat is required to have a foam inner liner of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), for extra safety and comfort.
Hard hat colors can signify distinct roles on construction sites. These color designations vary from company to company and work site to work site.
The most common color scheme is white for managers, architects, engineers, foremen or supervisors. Other hard hat styles may be required for a job; brown fiberglass hard hats are worn by welders and other workers for high heat applications. Green often signifies a safety inspector, but is also occasionally used for new workers. General laborers and earth-moving operators often wear yellow. Carpenters, technical advisers and temps may wear blue. Orange is sometimes used for road crews, new employees or visitors. Some companies offer loaner hard hats in pink for workers who forget their own hard hat; the color operates as both a stigmatization penalty and a deterrent against theft.