Some transportation departments assign hard hat colors to specific stations on the job. So, a visitor’s hard hat would be green and a manager’s hard hat would be white, etc. California DOT actually spells it out in their regulations:
- White hard hat with the Caltrans logo for most employees, used in most settings;
- Yellow hard hat for electrical crews;
- White hard hat without the Caltrans logo for people who participate in Adopt-A-Highway;
- Orange hard hat for, well, what California refers to as “Special Program People,” who pick up litter, (some suggest that’s probably done so they have a matching hat for their outfits).
There are very large jobs where the hard hat colors are also assigned so that different players can be easily identified. For example red hard hats might be designated for first aid responders.
Hard Hat Knockoffs
I’ve never been impressed with the various hard hat knock-offs like the cowboy and NFL ones. OSHA has a few requirements for hard hats used in construction that one can only surmise are in effect because they help with safety. One note is that they should be inspected regularly for dents, cracks or deterioration. Some maintain that putting stickers and labels on the hard hats will prevent you from being able to do that. I’ve seen a lot of hard hats with all kinds of stickers on them and I have to admit I don’t think I could have seen a dent or crack in most cases.
The First Hard Hats
Believe it or not the very first hard hat was most likely black. Bullard, a 100-year old manufacturer of personal protective equipment, claims it perfected and popularized the concept of protecting heads from damage while working. In 1915 one of the company owners used a design based on the helmets worn by soldiers in World War 1. It seems miners were interested in these devices. The hard hats were made by blending together steamed canvas, glue and black paint. A suspension device fit inside the helmet. At least 18 years later the very first U.S. “Hard Hat Area,” was set up during construction of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, according to Bullard.
Today, hard hats defy any industry standardization on color, and any standards appear to simply be those set up by organizations to denote various job functions.
Here is a link to an OSHA letter regarding western-style hard hats.
This link provides another OSHA letter about hard hats with the bill facing to the rear.