The safety profession continues to evolve as its practitioners adapt to the changing world of work and business, apply advancements in science and technology, and respond to world events. Yet, regardless of the era, safety professionals consistently demonstrate strong dedication to making the world a safer, healthier place.
Physician Alice Hamilton established the disciplines of industrial hygiene and industrial toxicology in the U.S. with little or no direct power during her intense investigative years. This article from the 2004 Professional Safety archives discusses Hamilton’s success and how today’s OSH professionals can gain insight into leadership from this public health pioneer.
Physician Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) established the disciplines of industrial hygiene and industrial toxicology in the U.S. through her tireless efforts to identify occupational exposures to toxic materials in industrial settings. From her first teaching position in Chicago in 1897 through her retirement from Harvard in 1935 and subsequent consultant status at the U.S. Department of Labor, Hamilton exposed unsafe conditions involving chemicals such as phosphorus, lead, aniline dyes, picric acid and carbon disulfide (Moye, 1986). Yet, she was poorly resourced and had little or no direct power during her intense investigative years—the period from 1908 to 1919.
How was Hamilton able to influence the occupational health of a nation with little money or organizational status? Today’s OSH professional can gain insight into leadership without authority from this public health pioneer.