Shipyard Solution: Pink Hardhats Don’t Walk

Charles “Dutch” Heetbrink, facilities supervisor at the Foss Seattle Shipyard, has come up with a solution to the problem of visitors walking off with the white loaner hardhats handed out at the guard shack: Make them pink.

Security Guard K.C. Jones displays one of the pink hardhats he now hands out at the shipyard guard shack.

“It’s been a continuing problem over the years,” Heetbrink said of the disappearing hardhats. “But since we shifted to pink ones, nobody wants them, and 98 percent of them come back.”

Hard hats and safety glasses are required to be worn by everyone entering the shipyard, so Foss provides them to people who don’t have their own.

When about 40 hardhats went walking after they were handed out to contractors working on a couple of fishing boats recently, Heetbrink decided something had to be done.

“Maybe 20 percent came back, and the rest disappeared,” he said. “As a cost-saving measure, I went looking for inexpensive hard hats that were so ugly no one would want to keep them.”

The old white hard hats ran about $15 each, and the new pink ones, purchased on sale, were $7.

Heetbrink notes that based on a request from Shipyard Director Jon Hie, he keeps a stash of nice white hard hats bearing a Foss logo for VIP visitors.

The facilities supervisor recalled an episode in which a tug captain was handed one of the pink hats at the guard shack.

“He gave it a glance and told the guard he wouldn’t wear it, that no self-respecting mariner would wear a pink hard hat, and he went back to his truck and got his own,” Heetbrink said. “We thought that was kind of amusing.”