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80 Years of Safety: Are We Better?

The front cover of the 1942 edition of the Lifeline.

At Manson, we understand that our employees are our first priority as we continue to develop safety programs and initiatives to ensure they are taken care of every step of the way. The implementation of safety culture has seen tremendous growth within our industry, allowing various personnel the chance to learn about common, but effective safety practices that have become second-nature for most people. Safety culture and common safety practices were not as prevalent 80 years ago as it is today. Today, we will compare safety data from 1941 to 2020 that was recorded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the National Safety Council (NSC).

A publication written by the USACE called the “The Lifeline” is a monthly newsletter that covers a wide array of safety and production topics in the U.S. The February 1942 edition of The Lifeline highlighted injury and fatality figures that occurred in and out of the workplace. Types of injuries and fatalities included in the article ranged from traffic, flight, fall, and occupational incidents. The article hooked readers with eye-catching titles such as: Death Strikes Again, First Aid, Road Hogs, and Fender Benders. Examining the age range of fatalities for people 20 to 45-years-old, the Lifeline article recorded 26,000 fatalities in 1941, comparing it to the equivalent of two WWII army divisions to help people understand.

A snippet of the Road Hog cartoon from the Lifeline.

In 2020, the number of fatalities for the same age range comparatively has tripled to 75,370 which is enough to leave 10,000 Cincinnati Bengal fans without a seat for a sold-out football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The U.S. population has increased by 60% since 1941, with an increase in injuries of 83%; injury costs have also increased by 1,443.66%, taking inflation into account, costing over a Trillion dollars annually. One might expect such an increase given the rise in population and while the information may be alarming, there has been a positive shift in occupational safety as noted by the NSC.

According to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) 1941 census of injury and fatality rates, there were 101,500 accidental and preventable deaths in the U.S. Compared to NSC’s 2020 census that number has since doubled to 200,955 deaths.

NSC's injury statistics chart comparing 1941 to 2020.

The 1941 article also shared information of 18,000 occupational deaths and how another 29,000 people were killed in off-the-job accidents – a loss of manpower labor sufficient to build twenty battleships, 200 destroyers and 7,000 heavy bombers. A both sobering and positive comparison was the article’s remarks regarding occupational related fatalities; 18,000 in 1941 to 4,764 in 2020.

Although injuries and fatalities have increased in various areas, the key takeaway from this factoid of the census tables is the massive reduction of occupational fatalities. The decrease in occupational fatalities is the result of a strong emphasis on safety culture throughout companies in the U.S., especially here at Manson.

Manson’s management commitment to safety and our culture of people 1st and find a better way, the heart, soul and commitment of our crews and those who support them are paramount to what keep our personnel safe and sound in the office and out in the field. The company’s commitment to IIF along with incident and near miss reporting, safety tours and emergency drills, JSA’s, and safety meetings have all had an impact in the improvement of safety practices and productivity for craft and non-craft personnel alike.

Much like our planet, safety prevention is ever changing and what was accepted yesterday is not today, and what we accept today will not be tomorrow. But one thing holds true through the ages; people are important, lives are precious, and our jobs make us responsible to both.

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