From the late 1960s and early ‘70s there emerged a new term and a new perspective on earning a living: workplace safety. Let’s take a look at more than six decades of safety innovation designed to reduce the frequency and severity of on-the-job injuries. Our retrospective begins way back in 1954 when radios played Perry Como’s “Papa Loves Mambo” and movie-goers packed theaters to see Humphrey Bogart in “The Caine Mutiny.”
- 1954: Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute for Safety opens, and beginning in 1960 it develops its Manual-Handling Task Guidelines that determine the “maximum acceptable weights and forces that workers can lift, lower, push, pull or carry without excessive fatigue.”
- 1962: General Motors’ manufacturing operation robot is first put into use, launching a wave of robotics innovation throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, including the PUMA robot arm and welding robots.
- 1969: a handful of safety professionals form the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, a group that offers accredited credentialing and establishes standards for safety
- 1971: President Nixon signs a law creating the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), established to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards.”
- 1980s: Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute began studying repetitive stress injuries. The research would lead to guidelines for repetitive wrist motion and stress measurement.
- 1990: the American Society of Safety Engineers established the ASSE Foundation to fund scholarships and research grants for occupational safety, health and environmental development.
- 2000: the very first North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week is held.
- 2001 to 2006: the Research Institute’s Center for Injury Epidemiology begins producing a ranking of leading causes of disabling occupational injuries and illnesses.
- 2008: the birth of the collaborative robot (cobot) intended for direct human-robot interaction within a shared space.
- 2016: GM begins testing of the RoboGlove it developed with NASA to reduce strain on workers in auto manufacturing. The glove’s sensors and tendon-like servos increase the worker’s gripping and lifting forces.
- 2019 to 2019: BMW, Ford, Toyota and others begin using exoskeletons in factories to reduce workers’ muscle loads and increase endurance.
- 2020: technologies emerge to help detect and contain the spread of the coronavirus, including thermal cameras that sense elevated worker temperatures and wrist devices that alert users to their proximity to other employees.
If you have suffered a workplace injury and been denied Wisconsin workers’ compensation benefits, please contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney.