The hygiene of the workshop is not the same problem as the hygiene of the home and schoolhouse, because there are by-products of factory work that contaminate the air, overheat the room, and complicate the ordinary problems of ventilation. Certain trades are recognized as "dangerous trades." The problem of adequate government control of factories is one for a sanitary engineer. It has to do with disease-bearing raw material that comes to a factory, disease-producing processes of manufacture. There is need for revision of the dangerous-trade list. Many of the industries not so classed should be; many of the so-called dangerous trades can be made comparatively harmless by devices for exhausting harmful by-products. Industrial diseases should be made "notifiable," so that they can be controlled by the factory or health department. It is those trades that are dangerous because of remediable unsanitary and unhygienic conditions which demand the employer's attention. Complaints should be made by individuals when carelessness or danger becomes commonplace.
The manner in which many organizations have tried to better working conditions is similar to the manner in which Europeans are trying to help defective school children. Here, as there, is the difference between doing things and getting things done. Here more than there is the tendency to exaggerate legislation and to neglect enforcement of law. Instead of harnessing the whole army of workingmen to the crusade and strengthening civic agencies such as factory, health, and tenement departments, houses are built and given to men, clubs are formed to amuse factory girls, amateur theatricals are organized. All this is called "welfare work." "What is welfare work?" reads the pamphlet of a large national association. "It is especial consideration on the part of the employer for the welfare of his employees." In the words of this pamphlet, the aim of this association "is to organize the best brains of the nation in an educational movement toward the solution of some of the great problems related to social and industrial progress." The membership is drawn from "practical men of affairs, whose acknowledged leadership in thought and business makes them typical representatives of business elements that voluntarily work together for the general good." As defined by this organization, welfare work is something given to the employee by the employer for the welfare of both. It is not something the employee himself does to improve his own working conditions.
We are told that employees should assume the management of welfare work.
Should they install sanitary conveniences? Of course not.
Would they know the need of a wash room in a factory if they never had had one? No.
Should they manage lunch rooms? A few employers have attempted unsuccessfully to turn over the management of the lunch rooms to the employees, the result being that one self-sacrificing subofficial in each concern would find the burden entirely on his shoulders before working hours, during working hours, and after working hours. Employees cannot attend committee meetings during working hours, and they are unwilling to do so afterwards, for they generally have outside engagements. Furthermore, the employees know nothing about the restaurant business. If they did, they would probably be engaged in it instead of in their different trades. All experiments along this line of which we have heard have failed. The so-called "democratic idea," purely a fad, never has been successfully operated.
Many employers would introduce welfare work into their establishments were it not for the time and trouble needed for its organization. The employment of a welfare director removes this obstacle. Successful prosecution of welfare work requires concentration of responsibility. All of its branches must be under the supervision of one person, or efforts in different directions may conflict, or special and perhaps pressing needs may escape attention. Pressure of daily business routine usually relegates welfare work to the last consideration, but the average employer is interested in his men and is willing to improve their condition if only their needs are brought to his attention.
First Lessons In Industrial Hygiene
Welfare Work That Counts
This method of promoting the welfare of the worker may have been a necessary step in the development of industrial hygiene. Undoubtedly it has succeeded, in many cases, in bringing to an employer's consciousness the needs of his workmen, in accustoming employees to higher sanitary standards, and in teaching them to demand health rights from their employers. In many cases, however, "welfare work" has miseducated both employer and employee. The fact that "the so-called democratic idea, purely a fad, has never been successfully operated," is due to the interpretation given to "democratic idea." The two alternatives in the paragraph above quoted are lunch rooms, wash rooms, as gifts from employers to employees, or lunch rooms and wash rooms to be furnished by employees at their own expense. The true democratic idea, however, is that factory conditions detrimental to health shall be prohibited by factory legislation, and this legislation enforced by efficient factory inspectors, regardless of what may be given to employees above the requirement of hygiene.