April 18, 2016
Safety committees and safety meetings have always played a role in encouraging employees to participate in their company's safety effort, but there was a time when the concept of employee involvement extended from the family – especially the spouse – to the entire community.
According to an article in the April 1921 issue of The Oregon Safety News, the safety mass meeting was "the dynamo of the safety movement… [that will] send its current into the minds of the masses, and which will unquestionably have good results." (At a safety mass meeting, all employees in a company got together and discussed safety because "in this busy world of productive activities, workmen will get lax in matters pertaining to safety if they are not reminded.")
The worker's family "especially his wife" was also critical to the endeavor. The September-October issue of Oregon Safety News made it clear in 1927 that "…the worker's wife is always his safety valve. If she attends the meeting with him and learns to know something of the nature of his work she will always remind him to be reasonably cautious [and he will] respond and be reasonably careful."
And this suggestion from the (July 1944) issue of Safer Oregon must have been very well received: "Why not invite the wives to the next safety [committee] meeting? Why? Well, they have a way of getting together the things that most please the inner man while items of safety are discussed in a nice shady spot somewhere and everyone becomes better acquainted."
By the 1950s, the safety mass meeting had morphed into the Safety Rally, an outreach effort promoted by the Oregon Accident Prevention Division and the State Industrial Accident Commission. There were two types: community rally and the company rally. The community rally sought to raise safety awareness within the community while the company rally continued the mass-meeting concept at the plant level.
Today, the sprit of the safety mass meeting and the Safety Rally lives on in a couple of annual events that will happen in Oregon this spring: the 13th annual Safety Break for Oregon on Wednesday, May 11, and the third annual National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction May 2-6. Safety Break encourages companies to take a short break during the day and refocus on safety, while the National Safety Stand-Down raises awareness about falls from elevates surfaces – the No. 1 cause of deaths on construction sites.
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