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The problem of the prevention of accidents is to a certain extent : different one for different industries. For the purposes of State regulation, however, industries are divided into the four classes of (1) railways, (2) mines and quarries, (3) factories and workshops, and (4) building and construction work. It is the purpose of the present paper to consider each of these classes in turn and show for each, first, the extent to which laws have been enacted making it obligatory upon employers to take certain precautions against accidents; secondly, the extent to which the laws have introduced the requirement that accidents shall be reported to a State officer, and a basis thus laid for the collection of statistics of accidents, and, finally, the extent to which such statistics of value have actually been obtained. Covering as it does the legislation of the Federal Government and 45 States, irrespective of the Territories, it is evident that this report must to a certain extent be summary in character.


Prior to the creation by the Federal Government of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 the legal regulation of railways was a duty resting upon the individual States. Practically all of the States have enacted laws regarding railway transportation within their boundaries, and probably the majority of them have created the office of commissioner of railways to supervise the execution of such laws.

a An amplification of a report on behalf of the Department of Labor submitted to the Congrès International des Accidents du Travail et des assurances Sociales, Paris, 1900.


As regards the prevention of accidents, this legislation has taken the form of making it obligatory upon railway corporations to equip their cars and locomotives with devices which render their operation by the employees safer, and to take certain other precautions to prevent accidents.

Though there are a large number of operations in connection with the running of trains that present elements of danger, the laws of the States relate only to the few which are the most important. These are in relation to the coupling and uncoupling of cars, the system of braking, the blocking of frogs, switches, and guard rails, the erection of warning posts to indicate that a bridge or other superstructure is near, and the insuring that such structure is of sufficient height above the railway track. The dangers which it is desired to lessen or remove are those resulting from the necessity for employees to go between the cars in coupling and uncoupling them and to run along the tops while the train is in motion in order to set the brakes, the risk of being struck by bridges or other obstacles over the road, and the danger of getting their feet caught between the rails where they are close together or form an angle.

Although the subject of deaths and mutilations occurring in coupling and uncoupling cars had been repeatedly discussed by the State railroad commissioners in their reports, and railroads had been urged to move more vigorously toward adopting automatic couplers, the first legislative action was not taken until 1882. (a) In that year Connecticut passed a law providing that automatic couplers as approved by the State railroad commissioner, and of such a character that it should not be necessary for the employees to go between the cars for the purpose of coupling them, should be placed on all new cars built or purchased for use on railroads of the State. A statute nearly identical in its provisions was enacted by Massachusetts in 1884. In that year also the legislature of New York passed a law that after July 1, 1886, only automatic couplers should be placed on new freight cars built or purchased for use in the State. A statute quite similar was passed by Michigan in 1885. In 1886 Massachusetts supplemented its legislation already mentioned by a law providing that before January 1, 1887, all frogs, switches, and guard rails, with the exception of guard rails on bridges, should be adjusted, filled, or blocked in a manner satisfactory to the railroad commissioners, so as to prevent the feet of employees being caught therein.

It is unnecessary to follow the history of this legislation in the succeeding years. The need for legislative action had been demon

a Third Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, 1889. This report gives the result of an investigation of the action taken by State legislatures to prevent accidents to railway employees, and contains a valuable consideration of the subject and the condition of affairs at that date.

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