The passage of workmen's compensation laws in 1910 and the succeeding years gave a powerful impetus to the efforts of specialists in the area of industrial safety. In this environment the “Safety First” movement, which was an organized effort in accident prevention led by chief safety inspectors who were more commonly known as “safety men, ” extended all over the country. Many safety men were not engineers, so there were some critical views to the movement from engineers who had much training and experience in mechanical engineering and systematic management.
At the beginning of the movement safety men and engineers had totally different viewpoints in approaching industrial safety. Engineers insisted that industrial accidents could be prevented by safety devices and in no other way, and that designing the safety devices was an engineering problem. Whereas safety men preached that only a few percent of accident cases could be reduced by guarding dangerous places, and that the prevention of the vast majority of accidents was possible through educational methods eliminating the carelessness of workmen.
One of the most important features of the educational programs was the safety committee, which was sometimes composed entirely of foreign speaking workmen for “sowing seeds of caution” among them. The effectiveness of the educational methods was gradually accepted by some engineers, especially members of the Association of Iron and Steel Electrical Engineers. And the Association supported projects of safety men in the steel industry to found a national organization for disseminating the movement. From these efforts the National Council for Industrial Safety was founded in September, 1913 (one year after renamed the National Safety Council).
It is interesting to note that in the course of every-day accident prevention work on the shop floor, safety men realized that any safety work would not gain fruitful results without resolving the problems of industrial relations. In order to organize the communication system between employer and employee they enlarged step by step the functions of the safety committee, at last which became in fact the prototype of the employee representation plan. Arthur H. Young, a prominent safety man, recalled that one of the by-products of the safety movement had been the growth of the industrial relations movement.