We're Turning 75

What's ahead for the industry and its practitioners?

THIS magazine and I are hitting milestone birthdays. Mine, turning 50, happened in 2004. But I'm a generation younger than Occupational Health & Safety, which will see its 75th birthday this year.

OH&S began in October 1932 in Chicago as Industrial Medicine, concerning itself principally in its early issues with illnesses that sickened railroad and steel workers. Interestingly, many hazards of concern back then are quite present today; silica, asbestos, lead poisoning, mercury, coal dust, and exposure to solvents were discussed in detail in its pages. These will sound familiar, too: Industrial Medicine observed in 1937 that more injuries at industrial plants it surveyed were happening early on Monday mornings than at any other time during the week, and in the same issue it reported 3 million lost-time injuries were occurring annually at U.S. industrial workplaces at a then-staggering cost of $5 billion per year.

We will publish a detailed account of this magazine's history one year from now in our 75th anniversary special issue. That issue also will tell the history of the U.S. occupational safety and health industry, from Alice Hamilton's groundbreaking 1909-11 work at the Illinois Occupational Disease Commission and the 1914 naming of the American Society of Safety Engineers to the first-ever congressional repeal of an OSHA standard in 2001 and the triumphant Quecreek #1 Mine rescue in 2002.

This industry has grown sophisticated in its tools and its thinking. Though it has improved the lives of all Americans, it is largely unknown to the general public. Its watershed event, the federal law that created OSHA and NIOSH in 1971, has been a mixed blessing. What's ahead for the industry and its practitioners? Our January 2007 issue will explore that question intensely.

Where do you think the profession is headed? Which individuals do you regard as the leading contributors to its growth and success during the past 75 years? Please send me your comments and nominations.

This column appeared in the January 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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