Thursday, 17 May 2012

A history of accident prevention posters revealed



A history of accident prevention posters revealed

We tend to bemoan the modern Health & Safety culture, deeming it to be a product of today's risk-averse society where common sense and personal responsibility are going the same way as common courtesy and good manners.  We look at the past as a time when danger was a far greater fact of life and litigation was something reserved for serious crimes.

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To an extent this outlook is true, but safety at work and play was very much considered even as long ago as the 1930s as this latest display from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' archives goes to prove.

In pictures: RoSPA posters go on display

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Far more stylish than today's stark warnings, these old posters still manage to get their point across with ease and directness, while at the same time making the viewer think more clearly and (in some cases) to see how such accidents can occur and the results of them.  It is remarkable to note the difference between the modern "instructive" format and the older "advisory" approach.  Like so many things in those days - film, television programmes, newspapers - people were obviously expected to have a brain and to reason out and make inferences from these signs rather than be spoon-fed ever more comprehensive instructions as they are today.  Whether such a style of warning sign would work now I wouldn't like to say, but I know which I prefer!

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These images form just a minuscule part of 700 posters dating from between the 1930s and 1970s that were found by RoSPA while they were clearing out one of their warehouses (and obeying Health & Safety regulations, one imagines!).  Now they can be saved for future generations, as indeed they have been with photographic copies being displayed in Birmingham and prints available online from The RoSPA Collection.

These warning posters provide a fascinating insight into a past that was also concerned with safety, but which went about it in a far more wide-ranging, all-encapsulating manner.  I could see my old workplace being spruced up quite nicely with a few of these numbers.  They're great fun to look at, but the message is still clear.  Don't forget to be careful out there!

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4 comments:

  1. Very interesting post. I really enjoy those old posters. They as you said are much more interesting than what we have today and still get the message across. And I thought it all started with the OSHA Cowboy.


    Your comment on our own responsibility and common sense and manors reminded me of a book I read a few years ago : The Death of Common Sense. I believe the author could add about 5 or 6 words to the title of what has died in our society.

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  2. I find it is usually those who stand to gain from others' dangerous haste who bemoan health and safety legislation. These are the people who shirk their responsibilities. The same sort of people who also wail about 'PC gone mad' when they discover it's illegal to keep trafficked children in the basement as golf ball cleaners. The rest of us are indebted to those who fought for safe workplaces.

    I thank you for bringing these posters to a wider audience. The 'Courtesy is Infectious' one I especially like.

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  3. Weren't theae fabulous? A friend sent me a film clip of these and I was quite delighted.

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