A potted history of protective equipment in Construction..
We’ve created a short potted history of safety in Construction for your reading pleasure – hope you enjoy!
Early scaffolding made of wood and rope is seen on the Berlin Foundry Cup in ancient Greece from as early as 5th Century BC! In 1913 David Palmer-Jones patented a revolutionary scaffolding device to assist with the construction of Buckingham Palace, and an improvement to this patent in 1919 is what is most used today.
Hard hats were invented in the early years of the shipping era when workers covered their hats with tar to protect them from falling objects from the shipdecks. In America in 1898, the Bullard company made protective leather hats. In World War I soldiers wore leather hats until the French Army mandated steel caps due to the large numbers of men inflicted with head wounds, and from there they became mandated on building projects.
While Rubber gloves are credited to The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s first Surgeon in Chief William Stewart in 1894, leather gloves stem furthest back to mentions in Homer’s Odyssey written at the end of the 8th Century BC, probably in a very different form than the one we recognise today!
Safety harness / fall protection:
There was a video on Linkedin showing workers in the 1920s many floors up without fall protection, going about building. Harnesses can be traced back to mountaineering roots, some of the first climbing harnesses were invented in the UK in the early 1960s, with the sit harness invented by Yosemite climbers. When the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Work at Height Regulations 2005 came in harnesses became mainstream protective equipment for working at height.
Earplugs were invented in 1864, and caps attached to an adjustable headband in 1884 to protect soldiers and sailors from hearing damage. These developed into Mallock‐Armstrong plugs in 1914 and mechanical efforts to lower gunfire noise in the first World War.
The safety goggles we recognize today came into existence in 1914 as part of the invention of the gas mask. However, as early as the 19th Century Inuit people carved snow eye goggles from caribou antler, wood, and shell to help prevent snow blindness.
Site safety signs
Site safety and access signs notifying safe access rules, to warn of hazards, indicate mandatory actions or list required PPE became legislated in the UK 1996.
From scaffolding 5th Century BC to today’s drones, BIM and wearable devices, safety innovations and construction have been inextricably linked throughout the ages.
Wearable technology to track workers and alert site managers about clusters could be a good strategy for your site. Beable™, an award-winning technology created by EMS is an easy-to-use system using self-monitoring and wearable devices (no phones) and simple on-site beacon self-installation. Contact EMS today to find out more.