The History of Occupational Health and Safety

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In the early 1900s industrial accidents were commonplace in this country; for example, in 1907 over 3,200 people were killed in mining accidents. At this time legislation and public opinion all favored management. There were few protections for the worker's safety. Today's industrial employees are better off than their colleagues in the past. Their chances of being killed in an industrial accident are less than half of that of their predecessors of 60 years ago. According to National safety Council (NSC), the current death rate from work-related injuries is approximately 4 per 100,000, or less than a third of the rate of 50 years ago. Improvements in safety up to now have been the result of pressure for legislation to promote health and safety, the steadily increasing cost associated with accidents and injuries, and the professionalization of safety as an occupation. When the industrial sector began to grow in the United States, hazardous working conditions were commonplace. Following the Civil War, the seeds of the safety movement were sown in this country. Factory inspection was introduced in Massachusetts in 1867. In 1868 the first barrier safeguard was patented. In 1869 the Pennsylvania legislature passed a mine safety law requiring two exits from all mines. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was established in 1869 to study industrial accidents and report pertinent information about hose accidents. The following decade saw little progress in the safety movement until 1877, when the Massachusetts legislature passed a law requiring safeguards for hazardous machinery. In 1877 the Employers' Liability Law was passed. In 1892, the first safety program was established in a steel plant in Illinois, in response to the explosion of a flywheel in that company. In 1907 the U.S. Department of the Interior created the Bureau of Mines to investigate accidents, examine health hazards, and make recommendations for improvements. One of the most important developments in...
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