A History Lesson in Safety

SafetySmart has existed in some form or another since 1929. In fact, 90 years ago, we were a print publication called Safety Foreman.

Sometimes, when I have a free moment,  I walk down to the basement of our Main street office, past the heavy vinyl curtains and into the dusty caverns of our library. I’ll pull out a couple of the original Safety Foreman issues, sit down and read a few articles about “Idle Hands Working For Hitler,” or “Letting Employees Smoke in Safety Meetings.”

I often times think about how safety has changed over the last 100 years.

[mk_custom_box bg_color=”#f6f6f6″ bg_position=”left top” bg_repeat=”repeat” bg_stretch=”false” padding_vertical=”10″ padding_horizental=”20″ margin_bottom=”0″ min_height=”70″]If you didn’t know, there was a time when employees were commoditized and safety was an after thought, or not a thought at all. In some parts of the world, it might still be that way.

Did you know that there were a total of 154 deaths in the construction of the Dam, 42 from exposure, 37 from head trauma associated with falling rocks?

You can read about how the hard hat was invented by high scalers building the Hoover Dam because they were afraid of dying from falling rocks. (The first use of “hard hats” came about during construction of the Hoover Dam. The high scalers took to covering cloth hats in tar. When the material hardened, it could deflect falling objects to such an extent that the dam’s construction company ordered commercial production of the hats. The early versions were called “hard-boiled hats.”)

But for most North American businesses today, employees are more than just an asset, their the lifeblood of a successful business.

The one thing I can say about all of the safety managers that I interact with on a daily basis, whether they are Supervisors or VPs, is that they all wear their hearts on their sleeves. I mean to say that they genuinely care about the safety of their employees.[/mk_custom_box]

Yesterday I was speaking with a safety director with a large winery and the key part of our conversation that I kept hearing over and over again, was that both employees and management are often confused about what safety is at a cultural level and how important it is to make safety a part of an organization’s culture.

Have you heard that? Do you, as a safety manager struggle with reinforcing and/or building a safety culture?

It isn’t a unique issue, trust me… I know I hear it a lot from the people I talk to.  But what is especially interesting is that this was a common issue over 50 years ago too – how do I know, look at the Safety Foreman article I found from 1964.



Safety is NOT only a pair of steel-toed shoes, but also the common sense habits of working in these safety shoes.

30e7487fece7c663f0bda0ce69995d2bSafety is NOT only the best pair of goggles man can make, but also the care and wisdom which insists that the goggles be worn whenever and wherever there is the slightest hazard to eyesight. Safety is NOT a sleeping pill to make us forgetful of responsibilities. It is an alarm clock to awaken us to our individual responsibility to our own life and limb, and the life and limb of the other fellow. Safety is NOT a crutch; it is a shield.

Safety is NOT something we can leave for the other fellow to do something about. It is a combination of all these things and more.

Safety is NOT only a system of red, green, and orange traffic lights working at busy street intersections or dangerous highway crossings.  Rather, It is an enlightened human obedience to the meaning of those traffic lights.

A good thought to keep in mind at all times is REACH FOR A GOAL.  We are trying to reach the top of the safety ladder, but there seem to be some anchors holding us down.

There are several things that enter into this one subject.  Keeping our minds on work is one; taking a personal interest in safety is another. While we are reaching for a goal, trying to reach the top of the ladder, it takes personal interest by all of us to be able to do that.  Let’s keep our mind on our work.  We have but one mind and that mind won’t let us think of but one thing at a time.

Keep your mind wherever your body is! Those  two things cannot be separated. Therefore, THINK, ACT, AND DO THINGS SAFELY!


Building a safety culture is about making your DSC_00242safety message engaging and consistently, if not daily, making your safety message a part of every employees work day. Make your safety message relevant to the individual; even in 1964 it was always about taking a personal interest in safety. 

Good advice – now and 50+ years ago.

If you are looking for safety training and compliance guidance and resources built on almost 100 years of experience, you might want to look at SafetySmart today.


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