Celebrating Our Past

The Safety and Health Historical Society seeks to share lessons learned from past events, people, methods, and accomplishments of many individuals, companies, and organizations that advanced safety and health for the public and workers.

Welcome to the Safety and Health Historical Society (SHHS) web site! SHHS seeks to celebrate the people, events, methods, accomplishments, and records from the history of safety, industrial hygiene, fire protection, physicians and nurses, insurance, government, human factors, societies, organizations, publications, companies and other entities that have moved the safety and health professions forward for well over 100 years. There are many, many stories to tell and accomplishments to capture and share. That is the goal of the Safety and Health Historical Society.

Join SHHS to learn of our past and to contribute to uncovering and telling about the significant accomplishments of the past!

The Archives of Safety and Health

The primary means for sharing the accounts from the past is through the official journal of the Safety and Health Historical Society. The Archives will tell the stories that influenced safety and health today.

Archives of Safety and Health

Framingham Safety Survey – 1917

Summary Somehow, Framingham, MA became a center for health studies and surveys. Probably the most famous study extended from 1948 through 1966 and focused on heart disease. In fact, the famous Framingham Heart Survey included several surveys covering a variety of heart problems. The study continued for two more decades after the 1960s. As a… ...
University Chalk Board

Teaching Safety in Technical Schools and Universities – 1918

Summary With the grown of the safety movement during the early years of the 1900s, some saw a need for safety education through post-secondary institutions. One goal was to educate individuals who could enhance the roles created for “safety inspectors” and “safety engineers.” The term safety inspector was often used for those who specialized in… ...

A Shipbuilder’s Idea of Safety First – 1918

Summary The slogan “Safety First” became extremely common during the early decades of 1900 as employers, employees and the public began to focus on improving safety and health in their lives. In 1918 a foreman at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, NJ composed the following acrostic: Safety First sloganFrom… ...

Origins of Federal Workmen’s Compensation Law

Summary The basis for this article is a report published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Compensation for Accidents to Employees of the United States - Report of Operations under the Act of May 30, 1908, Bulletin 155, September 17, 1914. The main content of this report is deceiving because the… ...
Teaching Safety Inspectors

Training Early Safety Inspectors

Summary As the safety movement expanded in the early 1900s, there was a need to train people who play a leading role for employers seeking to implement safety practices. A common term for these front-line individuals was “safety inspector.” For some, their role was to visit operations and find fault. They saw the role as… ...
Women's Bodies and Dangerous Trades in England, 1880-1914

Women’s Bodies & Dangerous Trades in England, 1890-1914

A Book Review by Howard Spencer Between 1880 and 1914, there was widespread public debate about the threat of the labor done by women and its effect to their bodies, reproductive abilities, and the future of the race. Stimulated by a series of sensational stories in the press, this debate included legislators, politicians, doctors, working… ...
The Preshtigo Fire Coverage Area

The Worst Fire in United States History (1871)

Summary On Sunday evening, October 8, 1871 a fire occurred in northeast Wisconsin, The Peshtigo Fire. It was overshadowed in the news and in history by the Great Chicago Fire that occurred the same day and nearly the same time. The fire story in Wisconsin centered on a town of about 2,000 residents named Peshtigo.… ...
Road Crossing Painted On Cobblestone Road

Promoting the Safety Profession – 1923

Organized accident prevention effort in the United States started about some twelve or fifteen years ago. Since that time the whole plan of this activity may be measured up to the time of the big industrial slump. The progress and development in this great work was notable year by year and a new and most useful campaign, that of safety engineering, came into being and established itself. ...
Browder Life-Saving Net - In Use

The Browder Life-Saving Net

Introduction How do you save people caught in an upper floor of a building during a fire? For many years that was the role of a device invented by Thomas F. Browder. Mr. Browder was a soldier of the civil war. He was born in Greene County, Ohio on June 14, 1847 in a family… ...

Shaving Cream Promotes Safety

Summary Invented in 1925, Burma Shave was a new product that changed shaving techniques. It was a cream rather than a traditional lather. It came in jars and tubes for easy dispensing. Many in the United States grew up reading the more than 500 different, fun, informative series of six roadside signs promoting Burma Shave.… ...
1977-Beverly Hills Supper Club - External View Painting

Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire of 1977

Introduction Going out for dinner and a show has been one of the casualties during the time of Covid-19. Before quarantine, working from home, and social distancing, many people enjoyed an evening at a favorite restaurant or club, often with friends or family. One of the most famous clubs in the country a few decades… ...
NIOSH Logo

NIOSH – Project MINERVA

About the mid-1980s NIOSH pursued a project to encourage inclusion of safety and health information in business school academic programs. The idea was to improve the long-term safety and health performance among employers. NIOSH named the program Project Minerva. The name came from the Roman goddess of wisdom. The program sought to develop occupational safety and health materials and encourage schools of business to integrate them into existing undergraduate and graduate curricula. ...
Dr Walter Dill Scott - Business Efficiency

Walter Dill Scott: Business Efficiency- 1912

Walter Dill Scott was a pioneer who linked psychology to business and advertising. His works on advertising first appeared in 1903 and 1909 and remain classics in the field. ...
Alice Hamilton

Meet Alice Hamilton

One of the most important names in the history of safety and health is Alice Hamilton. This article introduces this pioneering woman. She defined occupational medicine and industrial hygiene as essential field of practice in protecting workers. She deserves the numerous honors recognizing her long and productive career. ...
Lead Symbol

Plumbism and Saturnism

A work-related disorder that extends back centuries had the name plumbism until recent times. Another name was saturnism. Today we know the disorder as lead poisoning. This article reveals details from history. ...

Factory Inspection Challenge – 1905

Some of the earliest positions for ensuring safe workplaces were factory inspectors. This is a reprint of an article written by a factory inspector and published in a weekly social advocacy publication. The article challenges the ineffectiveness of factory inspections in New York State. ...
Red Cross Ad to Advise People to Wear Masks - 1918

Spanish Flu of 1918

It is timely to look back more than 100 years to the most devastating flu epidemic ever known. This article reviews the origins, spread and impacts of the flu and its role in WWI. Individuals, society and government actions sound somewhat familiar. However, death was much worse for those age 20 to 40. ...
NIOSH Project SHAPE Logo

NIOSH – Project SHAPE

One of the early initiatives of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was helping engineering schools to teach engineering students the important role they have to protect the public. For example, the Number One Canon of the Code of Ethics for the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) is”Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: 1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.” In order to assist in achieving this, NIOSH created Project SHAPE (Safety and Health Awareness for Preventive Engineering). ...
Safety Cone on Black Pavement

Early Accident Classification

In 1922 the Pacific Gas & Electric Company published accident data for 1,928 industrial accidents for the year with classifications, frequency and percent. The classification scheme preceded any standards for accident classifications. ...
3D Printed Fire Protection

1911 – 3D Printing for Fire Protection?

In 1911, Was there 3-D printing of concrete for Fire Protection? Read the article to find out. ...
Training Safety Engineers - Chalkboard With Mathematical Formulas

On The Training of Safety Engineers – 1943

Why is there a varying degree of success (among newly trained safety engineers)? The question is not perplexing. On the contrary, close examination of the training that they undertook reveals the probable reason for the variation in the results obtained in the field: they have not been able to develop the practical application of their training. ...
National Electrical Code - 1897

Electrical Safety Code History

With the introduction of electrical power distribution in 1882, there was a rapid growth for lighting and other uses of electricity. Because there was a need to standardize the installation of electrical equipment and lighting, the first code for electrical systems was published in 1882. Initially introduced for fire protection, NFPA soon took responsibility for the National Electrical Code. ...
Airplane Engine and Rotor

English as the Aviation Language

In order to reduce communication errors among pilots and controllers, English was first adopted as the language of aviation in 1944. Since then the English requirements have become a strict international aviation standard. ...
Poster for Tho-Radia - Lethal Makeup from Radium

Dangerous Fashions

History tells about many kinds of fashions for men and women. Some created dangers for wearers and some harmed workers making them. This article presents several examples of dangerous fashions. ...
Springfield, IL – Sociological Survey

Springfield, IL – Sociological Survey – 1914

In the early 1900s, the Russell Sage Foundation sponsored some detailed studies of certain communities in the United States. One study focused on Springfield, Illinois. The study covered housing, education, industrial conditions, public health, and other important factors regarding the welfare of residents. ...
You Are Here Painted On Pavement

English for Safety Campaign of 1918. Is this still an issue today?

The following is a summary of an article in the February-March 1918 Issue of Safety (the publication of the American Museum of Safety in New York City). The author was Marian K. Clark of the New York State Industrial Commission challenging the inability of many workers to speak English and also their illiteracy in their native language. To what extent is this an issue more than 100 years later? ...
Trolley Car

1917 Safety Poetry

At times safety promotion got attention through poetry. The following three poems appeared in the October 1917 issue of Safety Engineering, Volume 34, Number 4. ...
Frances Perkins

Meet Frances Perkins

As a witness to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire she became an advocate for workers and the poor and played many roles at local, state and federal levels. She was the first woman to serve in the cabinet of a U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and created and implemented many reforms found in the New Deal. ...
Fire Engine Company 5 Building

Battling to Improve Fire Protection – 1908-1912

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was an event that provided publicity for a national effort to improve fire protection in the United States and reduce the huge level of “fire waste.” Many factors led to this challenge that put the U.S. at a huge disadvantage. ...
Triangle Shirt Waist Company - Sewing Floor

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – March 25, 1911

This was a classic fire in the history of safety and health. Young women involved in the manufacture of blouses and other clothing became trapped in upper floors of the factory building. It was very sad as 47 jumped to their death and others died from the smoke and heat. Locked exits prevented normal escape. Overall, 146 perished. ...

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