12 Safety Guidelines, circa 1917

In 1917 Barney Cohen was the Chief State Factory Inspector for the State of Illinois and as such issued an annual report.

In addition to concerning himself with various laws1, Mr. Cohen tried to help workers remain safe in the workplace.

Here are 12 safety guidelines from the 1917 report:


  • Keep away from all machinery to which your duties do not call you.
  • Keep away from all departments where you have no business.
  • You must not hold conversation with machine operators while they are performing their duties.
  • Examine your machinery critically at all times for defective and dangerous parts. Report to foreman at once any defective part observed.
  • The toilets, wash basins and latrines are kept clean for your safety. See that you leave them in as clean a condition as you find them.
  • Do not touch or attempt to clean or adjust any part of machinery while in motion.
  • Goggles should be worn by the electrical worker when working on switchboard and live wires also by carpenters and painters when doing any work on ceiling to prevent foreign substances from entering the eyes.
  • The use of intoxicating liquors being a menace to the plant and to the safety of it any person reporting for work under the influence of liquor or caught with liquor on his person will be discharged.
  • Eternal vigilance is the price of safety.
  • One think before an accident is worth a million thinks afterwards.
  • Think before you act.
  • Be safe.

Were these helpful? We are offered some evidence they may have been:

“The picture of large band saw equipped with safety appliances is in our wood shop which has an average of 378 employees for the past ten months; during that period there were twelve accidents, only one of which was of a serious character, an infection resulting from a sliver, the others caused loss of employment of from 14 days down to one, and no case resulted in permanent disability or disfigurement.”2

This is the large band saw mentioned above with the admired creator of the safety guard.

Even with the safety equipment, this was one serious piece of woodworking machinery. As Barney Cohen reminds us, “One think before an accident is worth a million thinks afterwards.”

Source: Twenty-Fourth Annual Report Of The Chief State Factory Inspector Of Illinois

1 These laws included The Child Labor Law, The Garment Law, The Blower Law, The Health Safety and Comfort Law, The Occupational Disease Law, The Women’s Ten Hour Law &┬áThe Wash House Law.

2 The statement goes on: “This in view of the fact that work done in this department is accomplished with high speed machinery, saws, planers, shapers, jointers, roller lathes and other hazardous machinery. We feel that much of this success is due to the hearty cooperation of our employees, which is partially brought about in this manner; all of the guards and safety appliances were made and installed by a co-worker of the men in this department, his fellow workers placed every confidence in his ability as a mechanic and they had the privilege of suggesting how they wished the guards to be made; of course, they were held to limits by the safety department.”

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  1. Pingback: Safety Week 2010 – Community Links 1 | The Wood Whisperer Woodworking Video Podcast and Blog

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