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Frequently they bore no relation whatever to the industries which sprang up since the war. A central authority, therefore, was necessary to investigate working conditions, if for no other reason than to advise the States as to the operation of their laws and to provide proper standards and conditions in Government contracts so as to secure the maximum war production.
Organization.-In dealing with working conditions as a war problem, the primary necessity was to avoid complicating an already complex situation. One of the principal reasons for authorizing the Secretary of Labor to act as War Labor Administrator was the necessity for securing a centralized authority responsible for standards and administration. Practically every production department of the Government had established a separate labor administration with consequent multiplicity of inspectors and standards. As a result of this decentralization of control, managements in industries were forced to submit to numerous inspections and were so confused by conflicting orders and standards that production was impeded. The first duty of the Working Conditions Service, therefore, was not to add to the already existing multiplicty of standards, but to secure cooperation of all production departments in futherance of a common policy and program,
An analysis was therefore made to delimit the scope of the service It could not, for instance, take cognizance of industrial controversies and those problems which are properly the field for agreements between management and employees. Its functions were considered as limited to the conditions of environment and processes that affect the health of the workers and their safety, and those personal relations between employers and employees that grow out of association for production purposes. Upon this theory an organization was planned to consist of a Division of Industrial Hygiene and Medicine, a Division of Labor Administration, and a Division of Safety Engineering.
In organizing the first of these it was necessary to take into consideration the proclamation of President Wilson of July 1, 1918, by which all Federal agencies dealing with health problems were instructed to make use of the facilities of the United States Public Health Service in order to avoid duplication of agencies. This division was therefore organized in cooperation with the Secretary of the Treasury, who was requested by the Secretary of Labor to detail personnel from the United States Public Health Service for this work.
Preliminary to its organization for field work, plans were under way to centralize control over the sanitary inspections of war production. These efforts resulted in the Division of Industrial Hygiene and Medicine being designated by the War Ordnance Department to be responsible for all sanitary and safety inspections. It was also made responsible for similar work in arsenals and all construction projects for the United States Housing Corporation.
The second division to be organized was that of Labor Administration. In this field, also, there were various Federal agencies organized to promote better employment policies and practices. Agreements were reached, however, to centralize these.
The last division to be organized was that of Safety Engineering. Owing to the fact, however, that the Division of Industrial Hygiene and Medicine had been made responsible for safety and sanitation in the Ordnance Department, there was included in the personnel a number of specialists in accident prevention and safety engineering. It was therefore possible to carry on considerable accident prevention work without the organization of a separate division for that purpose. The division was therefore really not organized until after the armistice was signed.
In addition to these other agencies, a committee was established in the early days of the organization to draw up a code of sanitary standards for the making of explosives. The development of the work of this committee revealed the fact that it was impossible to secure the adoption of general practices and policies without the voluntary cooperation of all concerned, and that it was impracticable to attempt under emergency conditions to enforce uniform standards that should be maintained without modification to meet the exigencies of war production. As a result of this experience it was determined that the most effective way to promote continuous betterment of working conditions was to advise specific managements how to make improvements and to furnish industries with information and service designed to meet their varying needs and conditions rather than to concentrate on development of industrial codes.
This principle developed in war experience became the central principle of the Working Conditions Service in the peace program also. Since it possessed advisory power only, it necessarily had to depend upon the good will and cooperation of both employers and employees in order to secure results. It was determined, therefore, to develop a bureau whose function and duty it should be to furnish industries with information and suggestions for the betterment of working conditions. This purpose had both a humanitarian and a business value. Production must be upon a paying basis. But when suggestions for such betterment are based upon scientific data and have a practical application to efficient production they have a strong appeal to management. Every employer is interested in eliminating unnecessary costs, but all know how much industrial health. safety, and good administration of the working force contribute to that end. But employers should not be expected to know what constitute the most desirable standards and policies. They properly determine their general policies upon working conditions and then employ specialists to secure desired results. The working out of better methods and practices requires the application of science to the industrial field.
The Working Conditions Service therefore offered to industries a consultant service of specialists in employment management, industrial relations, sanitation, ventilation, illumination, medical supervision and service, and accident prevention. Industries were advised that upon request they could secure information and advice in dealing with industrial problems. Coming at a time when industries were facing the critical period of transition from a peace to a war basis and were very slow to make changes because of financial and commercial conditions, the generous and hearty response which the announcement met is a very definite test of the practicability and desirability of the assistance. What the Department of Labor offered was not a welfare proposal but a business proposal based upon the conviction that good working conditions are good business. Good working conditions build up a spirit of good will toward the management and result in greater efficiency and increased production. High labor turnover means high labor costs of production.
Division of Industrial Hygiene and Medicine.—The function of this division was to protect and improve the health of those employed in industry and thereby facilitate production. The program dealing with industrial health recognized two fundamentals—-control over physical working conditions is in the hands of the management, and the approval and cooperations of workers are necessary to make equipment and regulations effective. Both workers and management may appreciate the value of good health, but the problem of what constitutes a sanitary work place, what processes and materials are harmful to workers, involve scientific research and determination by specialists. To furnish this scientific information and advice is properly the function of the Government. The only effective and constructive method is to find out what conditions cause sickness and secure the elimination of those conditions. By such preventive methods industrial losses through sickness can be reduced and the field for curative methods minimized. The researches of the division, therefore, cover three main fields:
1. General hygienic conditions in industries in order to determine wherein existing conditions both within and without the plants comply with sanitary requirements.
2. Special occupational diseases and poisonings, to ascertain cause, effect, and prevention.
3. Physiological requirements of various occupations as the basis for developing methods of proper placement of workers with regard to physical ability.
Illustrations of the kind of work done are numerous. One of the most important and comprehensive investigations was the study of the pottery industry. This was done upon the request of both employers and employees. The survey covered plants in four States and included not only the study of conditions and processes but physical examinations of the workers themselves. The results so far obtained have brought about the granting of insurance to workers hitherto denied because of the alleged hazard in the dipping process. Many firms have sought information and the assistance of specialists has in addition been furnished. The service rendered varies from the perfunctory furnishing of routine information to the drawing up of complete programs, including diagrams and the layout of buildings and equipment. Six district offices were established in Philadelphia New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis. The United States Employees' Compensation Commission requested this division to assume advisory and in some cases direct charge of plants, whose employees were judged to come under the Federal compensation law. In accordance with this arrangement five separate investigations were made and supervision was assumed in 11 large plants. Aid was granted in improving or installing systems of medical and surgical relief in 19 establishments. Investigations were made at the request of the Ordnance Department and detailed reports furnished in the case of 11 establishments. Requests for service involving technical skill were received from 11 others. Reports were received from field offices on investigations of hygienic conditions in no fewer than 105 plants. Excerpts with recommendations from plant reports upon investigations made since September 1, 1918, were furnished to 78 con
On July 1 researches had been completed in the case of 27 establishments and were under way in the case of 5 others.
Division of Labor Administration. The Division of Labor Administration was organized on the theory that handling human beings in industry with knowledge and understanding of their personalities and with due consideration of their feelings, prejudices, and ambitions constitutes the problem of personal relations in industry as distinguished from industrial relations, which cover the controversial subjects of the division of the product and control of industry, such as wages, hours, unionism, and so forth. The personal problem in industry, the problem of administering the human element that goes into production, ought not to be a matter of industrial controversy. Like safety and sanitation it is a technical problem rather than a problem for capital and labor to fight about. The function of the Division of Labor Administration, therefore, was to find out the best
methods of administering the labor forces in industry and to pass on this experience to other employers by spreading the knowledge of the best methods as widely as possible among industrial managers. To accomplish these purposes, the division organized its work to enable it to render three kinds of services to industry, which may be grouped under the headings (1) information, (2) standardization, and (3) consultation. Under the head of the first was collected all available information on employment and labor-management problems. Their purpose was to analyze and classify such information and serve as a national clearing house of information upon the subjects. Under the head of standardization, the Department aimed to develop standard employment practices based upon the most successful experience as disclosed by information collected. Model employment forms and record systems, standard methods of keeping employment statistics and improved methods of employment department organizations were prepared and distributed among employers. Under the third heading the methods and information worked out under the other two activities of the division were made effective to individual employers. Whenever an employer desired it, employment experts were detailed to make studies of his individual plant and to make recommendations for improvement. During the existence of the Working Conditions Service no fewer than 167 establishments were so served. The problems involved ranged from absence and tardiness of employees to such subjects as profit sharing, employees' representation, and shop management.
Division of Safety Engineering.–The function of this division was to reduce accident hazards in industry. These fall within three classes: (1) Those due to engineering defects; (2) those due to unavoidable trade risks; (3) those due to the human element. The first of these requires but the cooperation of the employer; the second must necessarily be dependent upon structural changes in industry; the third, however, is a classification within which the greater number of industrial accidents come. Therefore, an important part of the program was to reach workers and provide the information to secure intelligent safeguarding on their part. Its work has, therefore, been of necessity a work of publicity and information, although many requests have been received and much service has been rendered in particular industries by special studies.
Discontinuance of the service.-In spite of the fact that the Working Conditions Service fulfilled a vital need, it was necessary to discontinue the entire service at the conclusion of the fiscal year, because of the failure of Congress to appropriate funds for its continuance. That this was necessary is a source of regret. The supervision of working conditions is one of the three principal purposes attributed to the