In the latter half of the 19. Soon many state bureaus began investigations into all facets of labor and industry and published data in their annual reports. One of their primary concerns was the emerging problem of hazardous industrial working conditions. Questionnaires were sent to employers, workers were interviewed, and statistical data was collected on deaths, injuries and illnesses. The bureaus' reports included examples of safe and healthful workplaces. century newspapers would print gory details of work-related accidents. In response to labor advocates and general concern for the condition of the working classes, most states began to establish bureaus of labor statistics.
In a Massachusetts 1875 report titled "Special Effects of Certain Forms of Employment upon Female Health" found that "The Working Girls of Boston" had a general deterioration of health. Many of the females questioned frequently got their fingers smashed or cut off from the punch presses in button factories. They reported that the factory gave free dressings the first three times an employee was injured, but after that she had to pay for her own.
The first law went into effect in Massachusetts, requiring guards on hazardous machinery. Other Northern industrial states soon followed, and fourteen states had similar factory acts on their books by 1897. Ten of those states gave their inspectors authority to require guarding of machinery.
The safeguarding law in Massachusetts led to the establishment of the first inspection force within the state. Reports began emerging with notes such as the following: REASON FOR ACCIDENT: a 14‑year‑old girl lost four fingers because of "curiosity" (circa 1885). A third law in 1887 banned workers under age 15 from cleaning machinery in motion. Sweatshops in 1895 and bakeries in 1897 came under the scope of the inspection laws.
After grotesque reports continued, more states followed Massachusetts’ lead by implementing mandatory inspections of machine guarding. The following is an excerpt from an Ohio report:
The 1890 report of the New Jersey bureau noted labor agitation for healthier conditions in factories and stressed the importance of prolonging the life of the individual worker. The bureau hoped that its reports on working conditions would stimulate general interest and arouse public opinion to demand action.
Obstacles for safeguarding appeared nationwide. A commissioner in New York reported in 1900 that about 75 percent of the workplaces he entered had unguarded machinery. Notices were posted in most New York factories forbidding the cleaning of machinery while it was in motion. Employees commonly ignored the warnings because companies usually expected the workers to do cleanup on their own time when the machinery stopped. The employees avoided having to spend their own time doing this by cleaning the machines while they were still running. Some inspectors reported that after installing safeguards on machinery, employees removed them. A few employers claimed to threaten to fire them if they wouldn't leave the devices alone.
A movement to implement a national safety law began in 1905 by various employers.
The use of belt shifting devices to protect against "scalping" accidents went into effect in 1906. Inspectors were given the authority to shut down any machinery that posed a serious danger by posting a notice on it that was not to be removed until the dangerous condition was eliminated.
, published in 1910, helped put workers' compensation in a new light — as a preventive program — and won support for it from business and labor supporters. Isaac Rubinow, a leading advocate for Eastman's book was "" on industrial accidents.
Studies found that woodworking machines were the leading source of injuries on the job (18.5 percent), and circular saws were 53 percent of those injuries.