From Tar to Sugarcane: the History of Hard Hats.

Caring about safety it’s something that comes naturally today, but only a few decades ago this concept was completely different or even not considered.


Not so many ago there was no regulation and injuries were very common: workers were exposed to dangers without wearing proper equipment and hard hats, elements which define the image of the construction worker as we see it today. In the past, in order to prevent injuries from falling objects, workers used to smear their hats with tar and then set them to dry in the sun.

The first safety helmet for civilians (because helmets were made for soldiers) seem to have been created by Franz Kafka in 1912, according to management professor Peter Drucker, but there is no documentation that can support this information.

What is certain, instead, is that the first civilian hard hats were made of leather and manufactured in California by E.D. Bullard Company, a mining equipment firm founded in 1898.The first evolution happened when the founder’s son came back from the World War I bringing a steel helmet which inspired him with the idea of improving industrial safety of the workers. He patented the “Hard-Boiled Hat” in 1919, which was made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint. In the same year, the U.S. Navy commissioned Bullard to create a protective hat for shipyard workers and he improved his hard hat with inner suspension. From that moment the use of hard hats began popular, but only in the 1931 it became officially required: on the Hoover Dam project hard hat use was mandated by Six Companies, Inc.

In 1933 by order of the project chief engineer Joseph Strauss, workers were required to wear hard hats while building the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. He wanted to create a safer workplace by installing safety nets and commissioning from Bullard hard hats for workers that did sandblasting. This hat covered the worker’s face, had a window for vision and air supply from a compressor for breathing.About the materials, at the beginning safety helmets were made of steel. In 1938 aluminium became a standard except for electrical jobs. Another popular material was the plastic Bakelite, to ensure a rigid protection and less weight on the worker’s head, while fiberglass came into use a few years later. Thermoplastics started to be used in the 1950s.

In 1952, MSA (Mine Safety Appliances) developed the Shockgard Helmet to protect electrical linemen from electrical shock and ten years later released the Topgard Helmet, the first made of polycarbonate.

1962 is the year of the V-Gard Helmet, one of the most widely used in the United States.

Today, most safety helmets are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or advanced engineering resins

In 1997 the American National Standards Institute allowed the development of a ventilated hard hat to keep the head cooler as well as face shields, sun visors, earmuffs, and perspiration-absorbing lining cloths. Hard hats functionality can also be improved with other attachments like radios, walkie-talkies, pagers, and cameras.

Green note: recently (2013) has been developed the MSA V-Gard GREEN Helmet, which is the first industrial safety product produced from 100% renewable resources, made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) derived from sugarcane ethanol. This helmet is also recyclable.

What about the latest innovations? Stay tuned for the next post, we will have a look at the smart helmets!

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The Eye in the Sky: How Drones are Transforming the Construction Industry


There is no doubt that advances in construction have led to increased levels of safety and decreased project completion times. However, we may very well be entering into a new era in the construction industry thanks to the presence of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Let’s look at various aspects of construction and how these state-of-the-art devices are literally transforming the entire sector from the ground up.

Surveying Needs

In the past, surveying a parcel of land (particularly a large one) would require areal footage from a plane or helicopter. The amount of money spent for what what could be a limited return on investment, meant that the negatives outweighed the positives. Drones are beginning to make this concern irrelevant. Remotely piloted vehicles are also able to mitigate the chances of human error on a fly past, which are often associated with more traditional surveying methods (1).

Architectural Inspection

One of the issues involved with large building projects is making certain that the exterior is up to scratch. This would have involved a manual inspection only a handful of years ago. Such a task could be quite dangerous for structures hundreds of metres into the air (2). Drones have the ability to hover literally inches away from a superstructure, inspecting important areas such as joints, welds and seams that can be examined in greater detail than ever would have thought possible with traditional methods.

Job Site Security

A major concern for any contractor revolves around how secure a site is during the entire build process. It is possible that a number of expensive materials could be stolen or vandalised, setting back the entire project for days or weeks. This is an obvious concern in regards to contractual obligations and completion dates. Drones can now monitor a location 24 hours a day and seven days a week if necessary. As they are able to effectively augment an existing security scheme, their contribution to maintaining site integrity is invaluable.


In conjunction with standard blueprints, construction projects first need to be visualised with the help of three-dimensional software animation such as AutoCAD, sketchup or VectorWorks. Thanks to the 4k high-definition capabilities of drones, real-time data can be streamed and downloaded in seconds. Visualisation metrics can then be transferred to proprietary three-dimensional visualisation software (3). Although many articles point out that such technology is still in its infancy, the power of these applications becomes obvious.

Transportation and Deliveries

One surprising advantage associated with many drones is their ability to transport materials to the site itself. This has already been demonstrated in referenced to companies such as Amazon. Some of the advantages which are associated within this logistical field include:

  • The prospect of delivering goods to a site in a fraction of the time that would normally be required.
  • Standard traffic laws are no longer a concern.
  • An ability to manoeuvre with greater precision.
  • The delivery of schematics, contracts and other important documents.

We should note that drones (as of yet) do not have the capacity to handle heavy payloads. Most payloads will only weigh a few kilogrammes. Still, these devices are able to greatly enhance the efficacy of a normal delivery schedule.

Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles are set to have a massive impact within the construction industry in the coming years. While they will never replace skilled workers, their benefits cannot be denied. To learn more, it is always wise to keep up to date with our latest posts and news releases. It will be quite interesting to see what the future has in store.
Carey London Drones

We employed the services of construction drones supplied by SkyFly Video to inform the build process on our sites in Clapham, Mayfair, Hampstead, Cambridge & Ancaster House.