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World famous author and professor, Peter Drucker, believes that equally famous writer Franz Kafka was the first civilian person to develop hard head protection while he was employed at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute in Bohemia around 1912. This may be the first recorded instance of a third party requiring this protection in construction areas. The E.D. Bullard Company, a mining equipment manufacturer in California, generally gets credit for producing the first U.S. labor head protection, producing hats, first in leather, then in steel, for civilians in America. Bullard hardhats became the best known in the construction industry.
The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, begun in 1933, is the first construction site wherein workers were required to wear hard hats. Around 1938, aluminum replaced steel in hard hats (except for workers dealing with electricity for obvious reasons), and by the mid 1940's, fiberglass became the material of choice. Now, hardhats are usually made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), often with a foam inner liner made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) for comfort and added safety.
As industrial head protection has evolved from leather helmets to hardhats, creative manufacturers now offer custom hard hats with company logos, NFL hard hats to support your favorite team, and even pink hardhats for female construction workers. About 10 years ago, the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) issued new recommendations for construction hard hats, which, while not mandatory, outline the quality of hardhats and most manufacturers now comply with these standards.