No matter what job you’ve worked, you’ve likely gone through a health and safety regiment that outlines best practices. We have come a long way from practices during the Industrial Revolution, and at times, we may even take the safety protocols that are in place today for granted. Despite everything we know about health and safety, there is always room for standards to improve and evolve year after year as they have throughout the past two and a half centuries. To go through a brief history of health and safety and how it has evolved in what it is today, we spoke to industry leaders, US Standard Products.
The Beginning of Workplace Safety
Before the Industrial Revolution in 1760, it was normal to make a living through agriculture or making and selling products at home. US Standard Productsexplain that when new developments in machinery and manufacturing processes were made, countries like Britain, parts of Europe, and the United States began moving towards a society fueled by mass production. For many, this innovation meant opportunity for employment. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of people seeking employment, and the need for cheap labor, pay was low, there were hazardous factory conditions and a massive increase in child labor. The hours were long and dangerous, and it was commonplace for people to lose their lives at work.
The Factory Act
There was a public outcry against child labor conditions, causing factory owner, Sir Robert Peel, to introduce the Factory Act in 1802. US Standard Productsexplains that this act included the need for proper ventilation, cleaning, limited working hours, providing suitable clothing and sleeping accommodation, and much more. While this regulation was not perfect, it is where many people believe the birth of health and safety began.
A second version of the factory act was initiated in 1833, which saw reduced hours from 12 to 10 per day. A major part of this act was the introduction of safety inspectors, to ensure that factories were adhering to regulation. While there were initially only four inspectors appointed to over 3000 textile mills across the country, they were able to influence subsequent legislation relating to machinery and accident reports.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act
US Standard Productsexplain that growing concern about health and safety measures following World War II led to the signing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) into US law. The primary objective of the legislation was to ensure that employers provide workers with a work environment free from hazards, including exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, and unsanitary conditions.
The Present and Future
While this does not tell the whole story about workplace safety, one thing becomes extremely apparent: workplace safety will never stop evolving. Although OSHA is still the standard within America for health and safety protocols, it has been continually iterated on and updated as new technology has been introduced. As new technologies, machines, and environments are created, so too will the need to ensure that employers and employees work safely around them. In addition, as new information becomes available about the safety of noise levels, exposure to certain materials, or impact of exposure, our workplace safety regulations may have to change as well. US Standard Products concludes that workplace safety is something that is always of importance and as new technologies get introduced to the world, workplace safety standards also need to improve.