Workplace safety is a relatively recent idea. In the early 20th century, for example, Canadians who chose to work in fields such as mining or construction accepted that accidents were apart of the job and workplace safety was basic common sense.
Thankfully, that has changed.
Still essential in the safety landscape today, posters pre-date safety signs. In fact, until laws were passed making signage mandatory to warn workers of the dangers in the workplace, governments, insurance companies and employers were creating awareness building posters to warn workers of the inherent dangers of their jobs.
Seton is very well known for safety signs, which are very different from posters. Safety signs are alerts for potential hazards that compromise workplace safety. Posters often help personalize or contextualize tips through artwork depicting real life settings, slogans and otherwise remind workers how to avoid workplace safety hazards.
Until workplace safety signage was mandatory, governments, advisory councils, employers and insurance companies produced posters to help keep people safe. Today, signs and posters play an important role in helping to keep workers safe.
Here is a collection of retro workplace safety posters from around the world. Some are funny, others are gory, but every one of these posters tells a story of a very different time when workers didn’t always wear safety gear and high heels weren’t always regarded as inappropriate jobsite footwear.
The vintage workplace safety posters shown in this post can be found at the following locations on the web:
- “Sensible Shoes Protect Your Feet” (Source: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
- Accidents are caused NOT CASUAL! Spanish, USA 1960 (Source: Nimins Shop)
- “Safety is better than compensation.” 1940 -1975 Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Labour and Industry (Source: VirginiaMemory.com)
- Beware of the Swarf! 1940. The Royal Society For The Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
(Source: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
- Cables & Hose must be planked over or tied overhead. National Safety Council (Source: Nimin’s Shop)
- You’re Left Out With Hearing Loss. 1960 National Safety Council, USA. (Source: Vintage Goodness)
- “You’re not paid to take risks” 1961 RoSPA (Source: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
- “Don’t Walk on Fish” Soviet Russia Accident Prevention Poster. Date unknown. (Source: Retronaut)
- “Rescue from Live Wire” National Safety Council (Source: Nimins Shop)