The Human Machinery of War

Photograph: Person Sprawled on Floor of Industrial Workshop

Original Title/Caption: “Cluttered aisles not only cause painful accidents like this, but are known to lower plant morale and efficiency. Clean, clear aisles are important helps to safety and production. Bethesda, Maryland.”

 

Description: This black and white photograph is of a person sprawled on the floor of an industrial workshop.  The person appears to have fallen over a box cluttering the walkway and spilled the contents of the box s/he was carrying.  The photograph was taken in June 1942 by Howard Liberman.

 

Source: Liberman, Howard, photographer. “Industrial safety. Accident prevention. Cluttered aisles not only cause painful accidents like this, but are known to lower plant morale and efficiency. Clean, clear aisles are important helps to safety and production. Bethesda, Maryland.” Photograph, June 1942.  From Library of Congress: Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Call number LC-USE6- D-005561.  http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8b03953/ (accessed March 20, 2007).

 

Historical discussion: Industrial accidents on the home front had many causes: exhaustion, out-dated or broken equipment, a lack of safety guards on equipment, inexperienced workers, carelessness, and pure accident.  Workers put in long hours to meet the production needs of the American military.  Because production was dictated by the immediate needs of the war, it could be difficult to replace out-dated or broken machines.  The drive to produce quickly and make profits often led some employers to ignore available safety equipment.  Vast industrial changes as the nation geared up for war production and great shifts in employment brought many workers to new jobs, and inexperience certainly could cause accidents.  While some accidents, were simply that—accidents without cause or fault, wartime propaganda often emphasized carelessness on the part of the worker.