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Longshoreman's hardhat

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Longshoreman's hardhat
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Kirstin DeGrace


This object appears in the following sections:

Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960–1970
Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960–1970 — Negotiating Change

Longshoreman's cap

Longshoremen working in the hold of a ship

Longshoreman's Hardhat
Catalog #: 2001.0214.03, Accession #: 2001.0214
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
Local 10 longshoreman Herb Mills wore this hardhat while loading and unloading ships at the Port of San Francisco. He credits the hardhat with saving him from serious injury in a 1979 accident when he was discharging mobile cranes from the hold of a ship.
Physical Description
Artifact. Faded yellow hardhat made of plastic and measuring 21 cm W x 25 cm L x 13 cm H. Round stickers are affixed on both front and back. "ILWU" is shown in large white block letters over the blue and yellow map that is the logo of the ILWU. Two stickers--black horizontal bars--are affixed to each side of the hat. A canvas chin strap is attached to metal rings at the sides, with "MILLS" handwritten in blue ink.
Date Made:
about 1971
Dates Used:
about 1971 - about 1992
San Francisco waterfront
Gift of Herb Mills
Longshoring is dangerous work and was one of the occupations covered in the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1971. The Act's Longshoring Standard required employers to provide employees with protective hardhats to wear when working aboard vessels. The employers' group on the West Coast, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), implemented the program and began supplying longshoremen with yellow hardhats in 1972. The new policy was not readily embraced by all longshoremen, as noted in the PMA's 1973 Annual Report: "Although the West Coast has adopted a mandatory hard hat position, its enforcement is difficult. There is opposition to the requirement of wearing a hard hat in all environments of longshore operation." By 1977 the PMA was offering special awards to longshoremen who avoided head injuries by wearing their hardhats. The hardhat is now part of the longshoremen's occupational attire and is worn when working aboard vessels and in marine terminal jobs.

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