Safety First: Technology, Labor, and Business in the Building of American Work Safety, 1870-1939

Overview

In 1907, American coal mines killed 3,242 men in occupational accidents, probably an all-time high both for the industry and for all laboring accidents in this country. In December alone, two mines at Monongah, West Virginia, blew up, killing 362 men. Railroad accidents that same year killed another 4,534. At a single South Chicago steel plant, 46 workers died on the job. In mines and mills and on railroads, work in America had become more dangerous than in any other advanced nation. Ninety years later, such ...

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Overview

In 1907, American coal mines killed 3,242 men in occupational accidents, probably an all-time high both for the industry and for all laboring accidents in this country. In December alone, two mines at Monongah, West Virginia, blew up, killing 362 men. Railroad accidents that same year killed another 4,534. At a single South Chicago steel plant, 46 workers died on the job. In mines and mills and on railroads, work in America had become more dangerous than in any other advanced nation. Ninety years later, such numbers and events seem extraordinary. Although serious accidents do still occur, industrial jobs in the United States have become vastly and dramatically safer.

In Safety First, Mark Aldrich offers the first full account of why the American workplace became so dangerous, and why it is now so much safer. Aldrich, an economist who once served as an OSHA investigator, first describes the increasing dangers of industrial work in late-nineteenth-century America as a result of technological change, careless work practices, and a legal system that minimized employers' responsibility for industrial accidents. He then explores the developments that led to improved safety—government regulation, corporate publicizing of safety measures, and legislation that raised the costs of accidents by requiring employers to pay workmen's compensation. At the heart of these changes, Aldrich contends, was the emergence of a safety ideology that stressed both worker and management responsibility for work accidents—a stunning reversal of earlier attitudes.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Explains how the American workplace became dangerous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and why it is now much safer, looking at factors such as careless work practices and the legal system and exploring developments that led to improved safety, including legislation that required employers to pay workmen's compensation. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801854057
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1997
  • Series: Studies in Industry and Society Series, #13
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Aldrich is Marilyn Carlson Nelson Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at Smith College. He is the coauthor of The Economics of Comparative Worth.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface
Introduction 1
1 Perilous Business: The Beginnings of Railroad Work Safety, 1850-1900 9
2 Needless Perils: Toward the Regulation of Coal Mine Safety, 1870-1910 41
3 Manufacturing Dangers: The Development of the Work Safety Movement, 1880-1925 76
4 A Management Responsibility: The Business of Manufacturing Safety, 1906-1939 122
5 Combating Collisions and Other Horrors Railroad Safety, 1900-1939 168
6 Less Blood on the Coal, More Despair in the Homes of the Miners: Safety in the Coal Fields, 1910-1940 211
7 Conclusion: Economic Change and Work Safety, 1870-1939 259
App. 1 Steam Railroad Injury and Fatality Rates, 1880-1939 283
App. 2 Coal and Metal Mine Injury and Fatality Rates, 1870-1939 298
App. 3 Manufacturing and Economywide Injury and Fatality Rates, 1870-1939 309
Notes 321
Note on Sources 391
Index 407
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