Occupational Hazards Celebrates an Anniversary

We're feeling very spry for 70. That's good, because while this is a time to reflect and celebrate, it also is a time for relentless commitment to change.

Occupational Hazards and Safety was founded in 1938 by Industrial Publishing Co. to help companies deal with the challenges of both safety and health hazards. Major newspapers reported on tragedies such as the epidemic of silicosis that sprang from the construction of the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel in West Virginia and killed more than 400 workers. From its beginning, the magazine sought to provide industrial managers with information and safety products to prevent such terrible incidents from recurring.

Soon, of course, the industrial landscape changed mightily. America went to war and ramped up its industrial production to unprecedented levels. The era of Rosie the Riveter emerged as 6 million women filled desperately needed jobs in munitions and weapons plants.

In the ensuing decades, Occupational Hazards reported on safety and health developments against the backdrop of constant evolution in industrial processes, safety management methods and research in chemical and other hazards. Probably no change impacted the magazine’s reporting as much as the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the subsequent boom in both attention to safety standards and influx of recruits to the safety and health profession.

The rise of federal standards was a heady brew for many practitioners, but as industry and labor tested the OSH Act in court, the era of “do it because OSHA says so” soon was tempered. The standards process became bogged down with difficult rulemaking on carcinogens and later, ergonomics. Globalization began to drain manufacturing jobs from the United States and industry leaders blamed onerous regulations and regulators, at least in part, for the problem. In the world of industry lobbyists, OSHA truly was a four-letter word.

OSHA adapted to this new reality, putting more emphasis on voluntary compliance through its Voluntary Protection Program. In industry, safety and health professionals felt the pain of downsizing, rightsizing and all the other permutations of companies shedding jobs in an effort to take advantage of new technologies and maintain or bolster profits. Senior managers began to put increasing pressure on safety and health managers to deliver cost-effective safety solutions and to contribute to company profits.

As we reported on the changes facing the safety and health community, we also underwent unprecedented change in the magazine business. Everything sped up. From overnight mail to fax to e-mail, we could track and transmit information at speeds undreamed of when the magazine was founded.

In fact, Occupational Hazards has evolved into a family of information products. Over the past decade, we developed a Web site and began posting daily news. Weekly and monthly electronic newsletters let us deliver news and information to segments of our audience with specialized interests such as construction safety.
We also put the power of the Internet to use by allowing readers to attend “events” without leaving their offices.

Webcasts and then the Safety WebExpo & Conference changed the dynamics of live presentations, putting every safety manager with a computer connection at an event where he or she could learn about new standards, innovative technologies and potential hazards such as pandemic flu. Just this past month, Occupational Hazards introduced SafetyLive TV, a marriage of video and the Internet that will continue to expand and enhance the ways the magazine can bring information to the safety and health community.

In October, Occupational Hazards will present a special 70th anniversary issue that will celebrate the people, events and organizations that have contributed to the rich tapestry of this magazine’s history. We invite you to share this extraordinary summer event with us.

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