Seven Decades of Safety

The magazine's first publisher, Irving Hexter, noted in the first issue of Occupational Hazards and Safety, “Each stride of modern industry towards faster, better manufacture of old products, or towards development of new ones, has created additional health and accident hazards.”

In particular, the new magazine sought to call attention to both safety and health hazards, some of which were caused by new chemicals and processes in American industry, and the cost these hazards exacted in terms of personal suffering, workers' compensation and lost productivity.

“…A man killed by silicosis is just as dead as one killed by a walking beam,” wrote Hexter. “A man laid up with oil dermatitis is just as much a drag on production as one recovering from a cut suffered in a drill press.”

In planning this special 70th Anniversary section, we decided to examine some of the headline events that occurred during Occupational Hazards' 70 years and helped shape the safety and health field. As we move forward as EHS Today, we will offer the same award-winning coverage of occupational safety and health topics, but also provide more comprehensive coverage of environment, health and wellness, sustainability, workers' compensation and risk management topics.

For the 1940s, we focus on two wars, one against silicosis and the other against accidents that would impede production during World War II.

In the 1950s, we explore the United States' confidence in its industrial safety programs and the serious health problems not yet fully addressed.

Asbestos was revealed in the 1960s as a potent carcinogen, and health officials began a long public crusade to rid the workplace of the substance.

In the 1970s, serious safety and health problems still facing the country led to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which soon faced myriad legal and political challenges.

The 1980s witnessed the single most frightening event in occupational safety history: the release of methyl isocyanate from a Union Carbide plant into the Indian city of Bhopal.

The 1990s looks at the legislative struggle to reshape OSHA as competing ideologies attempt to put their imprint on the nation's workplace safety law.

Our final story examines the March 23, 2005 BP Tesas City explosion and fire that killed 15 workers and injured 107, triggering the largest OSHA fine — $21,361,500 — in the agency's history.

Underpinning these articles are themes that have recurred throughout the magazine's history: the adequacy of safety resources, the tensions between production and safety, the relative obscurity of occupational illness, and the debate over regulation of safety in private industry.

As we move forward into the future with a new mission and a new title, we want to remember the past and honor those who have died or been injured as a result of occupational hazards, and those who continue to fight to keep workers safe and healthy.

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