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Occupational Safety and Health Workers

History

For thousands of years, people thought that accidents and illnesses just happened, or they blamed such unfortunate occurrences on fate, the wrath of the gods, or evil forces. Very little was done to prevent accidents systematically other than to wear charms, offer sacrifices, or engage in other rituals or behaviors thought to be preventive. At the same time, the slave trade reinforced the concept that certain workers' lives were expendable. The builders of the great ancient structures, such as the pyramids of Egypt, gave no thought to the well-being of their human inventory other than giving them enough food so that they were strong enough to work.

Throughout history many types of workers have been compelled to accept their lot in life. Even in more modern times, the early history of the Industrial Revolution demonstrated that workers were considered less important than the machines they operated or the output of a factory or mine. Little relationship was seen between productivity and the safety and health of the workers.

These exploitative practices were eventually halted through the joint efforts of social reform movements, labor unions, and progressive politicians. The rapid growth of technology in the 20th century made it possible to design machinery and equipment with built-in safety mechanisms. As medical research increased our knowledge of the effects of the working environment on health, psychological studies made us aware of the human factors that may lead to accident or illness. Labor unions and the federal government increased the pressure on companies to pay more attention to workplace conditions and the welfare of workers.

Now in the 21st century, we are probably safer at work than in most other places, including the home. Companies of all sizes have instituted practical safety measures and reduced worker hazards by developing new machinery and devising better safeguards. At the same time, they have established work safety rules and safety education programs for their workers. To protect the well-being and productivity of their workers, companies continue to allocate large sums to research and development in this area.

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