August 19, 2009 The Pump Handle 4Comment

Our colleague Mark Catlin (SEIU and APHA OHS Section) has done it again, finding another amazing collection of historical films with worker safety themes.  The latest were produced by the U.S. Federal Security Agency’s Office of Education in 1944, entitled “Problems in Supervision: Instructing Workers on the Job.”   They were produced for the federal government by Caravel Films.   Mark’s loaded one on YouTube he’s called “How not to do safety training”  (00:01:06).  

You’ll meet Mary, the new drill press operator, Fred the guy assigned to show her how to do the job, and their boss who off-handedly remarks “better remove that wrist watch, Mary” and tells Fred “fix her up with one of those new safety caps.”  In today’s parlance, it’d be an example of an employer delegating safety training responsibility to a “competent person” without any method to ensure the worker understood the training and could effectively apply it.   The kicker in the 1 min film is when Fred says

“oh, and read your safety book before you start to operate.”

What if Mary didn’t quite get the jig solidly into the drill, or didn’t tighten up the thumbscrews, or forgot to put a little oil on the drill, and she suffered some ghastly injury.   Would the big boss assert:

“Mr. Inspector, we teamed her up with our best operator.  He made sure she had her safety cap, showed her how to operate the machine, and told her to read the safety manual.   It’s not our fault if she didn’t follow procedures.” 

I know of at least one fatal injury that happened earlier this year, where this kind of debate is going on between OSHA and the employer—“he had the OSHA 10-hour, he was trained, he should have known better.”   But the worker’s not around to tell his side of the story.  In this case, the company has predictably contested the citations (including 1 willful.) 

I’m looking to the Solis’ Solicitor’s Office to fight mightily to defend the OSHA inspector’s findings and conclusions.   The company is going to argue their point of view, OSHA/SOL must be arguing for workers’ lives.

4 thoughts on ““Yes Sir, she got her safety training”

  1. Nice research Mark- I used to dream of raiding the Prelinger Archives; I actually met the guy once but he’s a total capitalist about digitizing the collection. I was able to find out afew years ago they’re stored just minutes ourside Pittsburgh but obviously out of reach.

  2. Thanks Brett,

    You might also enjoy viewing other historic films clips on workplace and environmental health and safety topics that I have posted to my YouTube channel:

    Workplace and Environmental Health and Safety Films at .

    Most of these clips, taken from old government and industrials films from 1905 to 2000, are in the public domain.

    Prelinger has placed some of his extensive collection on the Internet Archives and they can be downloaded and used. Overall, the Internet Archive is the best source of old films and video available in the public domain. It is my promary source of material for clips for my channel.

  3. It’s pretty amazing to see what pasted as “safety training” in the old days. Also, Mark, that’s a pretty impressive collection of videos you got there!

  4. Hey Brett —

    We’ve digitized over 2,100 titles since 2001 and they’re online for free downloading and unrestricted reuse at Check out the Prelinger collection there.

    Also, what you say isn’t true — we have no material stored near Pittsburgh. In 2002-03 the Library of Congress acquired our entire collection, but it’s so large that they are still waiting for space, funding and personnel to unpack it and prepare it for public access. In time it will be available to everyone.


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