About the webinar:
The history of occupational illness and injury is fundamentally the story of how technological change modifies the ways in which the environment of employment puts workers at risk. Sometimes change makes the environment inherently safer, but all too often there are obvious and not-so-obvious hazards that accompany innovation. History teaches us that steam and pneumatic powered processes in the 19th century dramatically increased worker exposure to silica dust, bringing an epidemic of disease. It is not that silicosis, albeit poorly characterized, hadn’t been present long before, but it had never been on such a scale. Similarly, technological changes have driven the histories of various “trade palsies” as they evolved into modern repetitive strain injuries, from the metal pen nib causing scrivener’s palsy to wall-to-wall carpeting creating carpet layer’s knee to electronic mail sorters inducing carpal tunnel syndrome. History also teaches us how we need guard against the cyclical amnesia that characterizes the recurring recognition then apparent obliviousness and failure to control obvious hazards. Our current “surprise” at the resurgence of silicosis in the artificial stone industry, grinding a material that is nearly 100% crystalline silica, underscores this recurrent pattern. Finally, history teaches us how we should consider the lives and work of the leaders and pioneers of the discipline that we so often laud in the historical reviews. The stories of these figures should not be hagiographies, but rather need to show how these figures used their own experience paired with a critical reception of transmitted wisdom, to advance the field of occupational medicine. The history of occupational medicine is enriching. It is ignored at our own peril.