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By: Thomas Carson

(Unlikely) Origins of Safety – Part 3

Continuing through our collection of safety tips published and distributed by the Imperial Tobacco Company in England around 1910.  Today I pulled out two categories that seemed especially appropriate in the context of today.

Safety Warnings

The first is a pair of safety warnings against distracted behavior.  Now we know that this is a broad issue with sadly daily reminders that the consequences can be deadly serious.  An image like this one is not at all a surprise today

But who knew that this behavior was enough of a problem 110 years ago to warrant a shout-out to the citizens of the day – and isn’t it interesting that we are not really inventing new problems – we are just updating old ones:

Physical Hazards

The second category that grabbed my attention this week addresses physical hazards, specifically atmospheric hazards and fire management.  Even in the early days of automobiles, at least a few people recognized that there was a problem with running the motor in an enclosed garage, but this was not wide-spread knowledge – cars were new, and this was another mystery of technology.  Our friend Drew Hinton at Arrow Safety explains in detail, and often, the dangers of atmospheric hazards in confined spaces – too bad his great-grandfather wasn’t around at the time to get that message out.

The other potential hazard introduced by automobiles was fire.  It wasn’t easy to set your horse on fire, but tanks of gasoline were another matter.  For a variety of reasons, early cars were prone to engine fires and so were usually equipped with little extinguishers that gave the owners a chance to attempt intervention.  This gave them a project that slowed the eventual incineration of their engine compartments.   Part of the problem was that these early extinguishers held just over a liter of carbon tetrachloride, the agent used to snuff out the flames, and it had to be hand pumped.  That’s not much snuffing agent and it took courage to get in close enough to aim for maximum effect.

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I hope that you enjoyed this look into our safety roots.  For the full background on these cards, see the blog here.