The Golden Gate Bridge: Birthplace of mandatory hard hats

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Have you ever worn a hard hat? Little do many of us know, the history of that tool passes right through the Bay Area and across the Golden Gate.

Have you ever worn a hard hat? Little do many of us know, the history of that tool passes right through the Bay Area and across the Golden Gate.

"Boom!"

"Bang!"

You would know those sounds if you paint the Golden Gate Bridge. You make them every day as you drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. In enclosed spaces beneath the roadbed, those workers hear them.

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It might as well be an alternate universe.

"The places we climb, you need to be a gymnast or contortionist to get up," said bridge worker Jay Seaman.

He must wear a hard hat. It's mandatory.


"This hard hat saved me a bunch of different times, knocking on steel beams or things falling," he said.

Hence a historical tidbit dating back to the time of construction. Back in the 1930's, the Golden Gate Bridge was the first job site ever to mandate hard hats.

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"I have hit my head and seen stars," said superintendent Fred Mixon. "Hard to think what would have happened if I didn't have my hat on."

It came about because of personal connections - architect Joseph Strauss had a friend in the city named Edward Bullard, who made mining equipment. Strauss asked Bullard to make something to protect his men.

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"It was designed for rivets falling from towers," said Wells Bullard. She represents the company's fifth generation. As CEO, she came to town for a sales meeting. When we learned she has one of the original hard hats, we asked Wells to show us. They're made of leather and canvas.

"It feels hard because of the process grandfather used to hard boil the canvas," she said.


Hence the "hard boiled" name. The original hat cost all of $3. Her great grandfather used the doughboy helmets from World War I as inspiration, and added cotton straps for suspension.

It is no small trivia that now you see improved versions of this basic hat on job sites around the world. And this is where it started.

History passing directly above the Golden Gate.

"Boom!"

"Bang!"

But, not on heads.
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