Health and Safety Issues in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the Inter-War Years
Safety Regulations
Implementing Safety Practices in the BNY: 1929-1933
Implementing Safety Practices in the BNY: 1934-1939
Safety in the BNY: 1940-1941
Some examples of health and safety issues in the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Eye Injuries
Working in Closed Spaces
Air Quality
Head Injuries and Hard Hats
Foot Injuries and Steel-tipped Shoes


Navy yards, as well as shipyards in general, have been, and still are, dangerous places in which to work.  Virtually all the construction and metal trades, with their respective dangers are found there.  Workers faced potential injury from numerous sources.  Some examples: falling from scaffolding; material falling on them; chemicals and other toxins; fumes; lack of oxygen; fires; machinery both stationary and mobile; electricity and welding glare; hoists and elevators; almost every job in the BNY could harm its holder.  Accidents could break skulls, arms, legs, and feet, as damage the organs they protected; crush or rip apart whole bodies; burn eyes from unprotected welding; damage ears from excessive noise; injure lungs from fumes or over time by exposure to toxins and particulates.  [On contemporary hazards in shipyards, see "OSHA Produces New Training Video Aimed at Reducing Shipyard Fatalities," OSHA Quick Takes, 15 March 2005]

And from time to time, accidents claimed the lives of navy yard workers.  Periodically, the Navy Department sent out fatality reports to navy yards that listed the accidents--minus the worker's names--along with the its comments.  Fatal accidents could occur anywhere.  Some instances:
  • In October 1929, one worker fell from staging, another was caught in a crane, a third was caught in a hydraulic jack, and a fourth hit by a falling object.  In all cases the ASN laid the major cause to “failure of supervision” [see below].
  • A memo from the Department in February 1934 letter focused specifically on locomotive cranes.  In the previous five years six workers had died from riding improperly on them and subsequently being caught in the rotating mechanisms.
  • The year 1934 in general was a bad one for the navy yards, their ending up with a total of 14 fatal accidents: five workers from falls, two electrocuted; another caught in an explosion; four others hit by falling or moving objects; one sandblaster from silicosis; and one last worker from complications from an apparent pre-existing condition that was exasperated by a minor injury. 
  • In November 1940, a machinist died when his head was caught in the moving mechanism of a gun mount.    
  • [Memo, Commandant, to Construction, Engineering, Public Works Officers, and TO BE POSTED, 21 October 1929, copying letter from ASN to Commandants, 16 October 1929; Letter, ASN(SED), to Commandants, 15 February 1934; Letter, ASN(SED), to Commandants, 19 February 1935; Letter, ASN(SED), to Commandants, 27 November 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Safety Regulations
    Accidents occurred frequently throughout the navy yards.  By 1924 the Navy Department had classified them into four categories: a) safety lacking; b) failure employee; c) unsafe practices; and, d) unavoidable.  The regulations attributed “safety lacking” accidents to faulty conditions, or to the lack of safety devices or safety operating instructions, provided that they had existed they would have prevented the accident, even if unsafe practices were involved.  “Failure employee” was just that--an accident brought about by a worker's failure to use safety devices or to follow proper procedures, which resulted in him injuring himself or another worker.  “Unsafe practices” involved more blatant disregard of the rules by a work, such as carelessness, which included "horse-play, skylarking, carelessness in securing, stowing and leaving articles about, failure to use ordinary precautions when safety appliances can't be provided, or fitted."  Finally, there was the catchall “unavoidable,” for those accidents that safety devices or safe practices would not have prevented, such as eyes injuries from airborne paticulates; management thought there “should be comparatively few” of these accidents.  Shop Masters and safety committees determined into which category any particular accident belonged.  [“Classification of Accidents,” Memo, Manager, to Industrial Department, 19 November 1924; RG181; NA-NY.]

    By the end of the decade workers' accident records were incorporated into their efficiency ratings: Masters and supervisors held accountable for safety lacking; supervisors and employees for employee failure and for unsafe practices
    The Safety Engineer recommended disciplinary action for employees whose accidents were deemed “failure employee.”  In September 1929 the Yard added the threat of discharge to the disciplinary possibilities of those accused of unsafe practices. [“Classification of Accidents,” Memo, Manager, to Industrial Department, 19 November 1924;  “Procedure in case of accidents - Effect on efficiency marks,” Memo, Manager, to Industrial Department; To Be Posted, 19 September 1929; P2-4; RG181; NA-NY]

    The Department printed its safety rules in a lengthy pamphlet.  The preface set forth the Navy's attitude: “Accidents are an economic loss both to the employer and the employee.  To the employer the loss of trained men, and the subsequent losses in training new men to take their places.  To the employee, however, falls the great loss; not only are his earnings reduced during the period of time lost through a small accident but the loss may extend over a period of many years.  Not only does he have physical suffering, but in most cases his loved ones are also made to suffer through reduced finances.  Thus the loss is multiplied.” [Booklet, “General Safety Rules (revised), Section No. 1; Navy Yards and Naval Stations," Washington: G.P.O., 1 July 1928; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The Navy Department set up procedures to follow in case of an accident, based on the regulations of the U.S. Employees Compensation Commission, the federal workers' compensation program set up in 1916.  The BNY operated a Dispensary for its civilian workers, and for any accident, no minor how slight, they had to report to it.  As federal employees, navy yard workers did not receive medical payments and financial compensation through the New York Workmen's Compensation Program, but instead through the USECC.  As policy, the government generally refused to pay for work-related medical services provided by hospitals or personal doctors.  Therefore, a prime responsibility of the Medical Officer was to establish in fact if the presented injury was indeed work-related.  The navy yard did not even condone shops having their own first aid kits as management thought it defeated the purpose of the safety regulations.  In 1937, shortly after Congress passed a law granting trades workers sick leave pay they were permitted to use their leave, sick or annual, in lieu of receiving disability compensation. [Memo, Commandant, to HDDO, 11 June 1931; “Medical Services for Injured Employees - Availability of,” Commandant's Order no. 10-38, to All Concerned, 11 January 1938; Circular Letter, Secretary of the Navy, to AN&MCAC, 11 January 1938; "Information for new employees," 10 April 1935; RG181; NA-NY. The exception to accepting non-governmental medical attention occurred when an accident occurred in a remote site where no government doctors were available or the injury or disease required a specialist found only in local private practice.]

    Navy yards administered their safety programs through a central Safety Committee, which met monthly.  It consisted of the Safety Engineer and a shop Master from each of the four major divisions of the yard.  In turn, in each shop and office of the yard a shop Master or departmental administrator chaired a shop committee that included two other supervisors.  It was their
    responsibility to “instruct, caution and advise” their employees on safety matters.  They posted safety bulletins and notices, ensured the provision and maintenance of safety devices, investigated and categorized accidents, and suggested means to prevent them in the future.  Navy yard workers as well as shop committee members put forward recommendations to the the chair of their committee who in turn passed them on to the Safety Engineer, who was a naval officer specifically assigned in each navy yard.  However, except for cases of “failure employee” he could only propose solutions to problems.  As a result, the SE's primary duties lay in instructing and supervising members of the shop committees and distributing to them information on accidents, prevention, and health hazards.  In the BNY the SE office consisted of two officers and a clerk, none of whom were solely detailed to safety work. [Memo, Lyon, to All Concerned, 2 January 1929; Letter, ASN, NYD, to Commandants and COs of Shore Establishments, 14 July 1931;  Letter, Commandant, to ASN, NYD; subject: Report of WP Biggs, Safety engineer; 7 April 1928; RG181; NA-NY;]


    Implementing Safety Practices in the BNY: 1929-1933
    Rules are one thing; implementing them is another matter, and in the navy yards health and safety practices fell into two distinct patterns.  In the interwar years the Navy Department paid much attention to the safety of its civilian trades workers.  It authorized numerous measures to minimize safety hazards such as placing guards and other barriers on machinery and devising new safer operating procedures.  But regulations needed to be explained and supervised so that workers performed their duties in an appropriate safety-conscious manner.  Here, the record of the BNY proved unsatisfactory and seemingly indifferent to improvement.

    We can start examing the safety record of the BNY in these years by looking at the records of the Safety Committee meeting held in October 1929.  Its members discussed a various number of issues, from the need for more exhaust blowers for a set of furnaces, to the need to clean gutters on certain buildings to prevent the accumulation of ice that could fall and injure someone.  As part of its duties the Safety Committee compiled accident statistics monthly, and for that month, it recorded 43 accidents having befell BNY workers, incurring 129 lost days of work.  Injuries to fingers led the list, with eight incidents.  The report compared these numbers to September and August's: 39 accidents and 107.5 lost days, and 43 accidents and 160.5 lost days.  Based on this data the Manager followed up with civilian supervisors, informing them that for the previous six months going back to May, the Yard had had 213 accidents, of which management credited 205 to unsafe practices, and only five as unavoidable.  The final three were chalked up to safety lacking.  In what will be the first instance of instructions oft-repeated over the next twelve years, he blamed the large number of unsafe-practice accidents to a lack of instruction on their part.  Appropriate instruction was essential since supervisors could not constantly watch over each of their workers.  In the case of an injury the Manager ordered the appropriate Master to investigate the accident and interview the injured worker and the immediate supervisor as soon as possible.  If a lack of equipment that was on hand contributed to the accident then it had to be installed at once. [“Report of proceedings of General Safety Committee convened 9 October 1929,” Memo, General Safety Committee, to Commandant, 11 October 1929; Memo, Manager, to All Masters and Supervisors, 12 November 1929; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Not much had changed, a year later.  For May and June of 1930 the Safety committee reported 26 and 42 accidents--16 and 12 of which resulted in 103 and 91 days of lost time--, attributing them to falling objects, the mishandling of objects, or the stepping on or hitting objects.  As was the pattern, most of June's accidents, 36 in number, were classified as "unsafe practice."  And, once more, fingers led as the largest category of injury, with eight cases.  The Committee did have a relatively positive piece of news to report in early December 1930: that it had been almost a year, since the previous 26 December, that the BNY had suffered its last fatal accident.  But the Manager thought that work in general still remained sloppy when it came to safety.  He pointed out that the 87 unsafe practice accidents of November 1930 and the 206 total accidents for December represented six per cent of the work force, and were proof of poor supervision.  The BNY had never been in first place among the navy yards in terms of its safety record.  [“Monthly Report of Accidents as Compiled by the office of Safety Engineering,” 15 July 1930; Memo, Manager, to All Employees of the Yard, 1 December 1930; Memo, Safety Engineer, to Engineer Officer; Construction Officer; Public Works Officer, 17 December 1930; Memo, Safety Engineer, to Shop Safety Committee, 15 January 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Yet a year later, in January 1931, the Safety Engineer noted that the BNY's annual accident rate had not changed.  At approximately six per cent of the work force, it compared unfavorably to the records of other navy yards.  He recommended that the Manager and division heads [naval officers] make their interest in "safe working conditions" directly known to their subordinates.  He acknowledged that they had already made much progress in this area, installing machine guards, making shops run more orderly and keeping them cleaner, and giving more attention given to maintaining tools and equipment.  Civilian managers, though, needed to show "sincere interest," by making every effort to provide safe working conditions, encourage safe working practices, and by working accordingly themselves.  Otherwise, it should not be surprising if employees did not heed safety rules.  Accidents were examples of "inefficiency" on their or their workers' part. [Memo, Safety Engineer, to Shop Safety Committees, 15 January 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The Safety Officer's main tool seemed to be hectoring.  Six months later, after noting that the New York Navy Yard ranked eighth among the navy yards in safety for the first four months of 1931 he once more insisted that the Masters and supervisors do more to cut down on the accident rate.  It was only right to expect that the yard's workers "do their work well within the cost, within the time, and safely, to themselves and their fellow workmen."  Those who could not, he felt, were “not desired employees.”  They should be penalized in their efficiency ratings and if their record remained poor, be fired.  As a carrot, he also suggested that perhaps supervisors could add efficiency-rating points to those workers who maintained a good safety record. [Memo, Safety Engineer (H. McEvoy), to All Masters, 10 June 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    The BNY was not the only navy yard whose safety record the Navy Department thought needed improvement. 
    For instance, in June 1931, in one of many such correspondences, the Department informed the navy yards that at one of the “larger shore establishments” a worker was injured and another killed when in attempting to lift a large piece of machinery for cleaning, in a common but inappropriate way, it slipped off its hooks and fell on the men.  The ASN did not blame the yard's Safety Engineer as he was away on other duties, but instead accused the Shop Master of poor supervision.  As a preventive measure he suggested that navy yards with a minimum of 1500 workers give serious thought to expanding their Safety Engineer posts to full-time positions.  The ASN thought that if the yard under discussion had an officer solely engaged in safety duties he could have ensured the use of proper safeguards.  Strictly in terms of cost the ASN noted that the compensation for a fatality averaged $8000, with the total cost to the yard about triple that. The BNY Safety Officer heartily agreed to his recommendation. [Letter,  ASN(NYD), to Commandants and Commanding Officers, 2 June 1931; Memorandum to Manager, from H. McEvoy (Safety Engineer), 16 June 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    ASN Jahncke made a point of how expensive accidents were.  The yearly cost of compensation for civilian accidents ran close to one-half million dollars and it was triple that for repairing machines and equipment.  Plus, workers needed to consider the suffering to themselves and their families in terms of lost wages, and physical and psychological damage.  In an interesting comment, which might presage the attitude of the Department towards its wartime civilian workforce, the ASN thought the term safety engineering an “unfortunate” one for navy officers to use, as the concept of safety was incompatible to the concept of warfare.  But Jahncke countered his own aside by arguing that since naval ideals demanded that warships be kept in top shape, that this ideal should also be applied to the shore establishments that serviced them. [Letter, ASN, to Commandant [of all navy yards], 21 May 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    In an attempt to improve the safety records of all its shore establishments the Navy Department instituted in March 1931 an annual safety competition, the prize being a safety trophy.  Each year the winning navy yard was to have its name engraved on the trophy and the first yard to win it three times kept it, with the procedure then being repeated with a new trophy.  The ASN sent along a draft of grading guidelines asking for comment, and suggested that the larger shore establishments set up their own competitions among their shops.  The rating system was set up as follows:

    -  The ratio of lost-time accidents per one-million-hours worked was placed in one column;
    -  The number of days lost per one-thousand hours worked was put in a second column;
    -  The two numbers were added together in the third column;
    -  This score was then multiplied by a hazard factor assigned to each shore establishment for a final score.

    A.  The Safety Rankings of Navy Yards for the First Eleven Months of 1931
    Yard or Station
    L.T.A. per
    mill. hrs.
    Days lost per
    hrs. worked
    Mare Island
    Cavite (Phil.)
    New York
    Pearl Harbor
    Puget Sound
    [PNY] Aircraft
    Newport Torpedo

    [Letter, ASN(NYD), to Commandant, [of all navy yards], 9 March 1931; Memo, Commandant [BNY], to All Employees in the Yard, 17 March 1931;  RG181; NA-NY.
    Source, chart: Letter, ASN(NYD), to Commandant [all navy yards], 23 December 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    As per the Secretary's suggestion, BNY management devised a statistical means of comparing shops.  It took the number of hours worked in a shop or office for the previous twelve months, divided that figure by the number of accidents in the shop/office, and then divided that number by 1000 to come up with the shop's “standard score.”  For instance, the office that came up with the best score, Administration, worked 664,458 hours and had 19 accidents, which calculated to a standard score of 35.0.  The shipfitter shop on the other hand had a score of 1.9, due to its 191 accidents for 360,540 hours worked.   This first standard score was to become the base for future grading, with an extra two percent to be lopped off the scores for each lost-time accident.

    B.  Shop Accident Scores, May 1931
    St. Score
    St. Score
    Brass Foundry
    Admin. Labor
    Supply Labor
    Power Plant
    Sail Loft
    Public Works
    Machine, In
    Bldg Trades
    Machine, Ord
    Iron Foundry
    Central Tool
    Machine, Out
    Source: Memo, Manager, to All Shops, 26 May 1931; RG181; NA-NY.

    Following this, the BNY Commandant issued new instructions on safety matters and ordered all supervisors to read them to their staff.  First, he let it be known that from 1916 to 1930 accident compensation had cost the navy yard $741,253.93; for fiscal year 1930 alone, the costs were $74,799.  Then, he went into the heart of the matter.  The Yard had spent much over recent years to correct structural and operating safety hazards; however, this had proven insufficient on it own in raising its safety record, due to the “negligence or lack of care on part of the injured employee, or on part of a fellow workman.”  Such work behavior would not be tolerated.  Workers who consistently caused harm to themselves or others through disregard of safety procedures, or because of physical disabilities or diseases would not be considered as having gave their appropriate service to the Yard and their efficiency rating under “adaptability” and “quantity of work” would henceforth be lowered in proportion to their lost-time, and in “flagrant” cases they would be dismissed.  Accidents in the "safety lacking" or "unavoidable" would not count against them, as before.  And now the commandant added a small carrot.  Every six months, all the employees, including leadingmen and quartermen, in the shop that showed the greatest improvement in its safety record and that had no unsafe practices or employee failures would receive a one per cent bonus in their efficiency marks. [“Accident Prevention,” Order No. 3, To Be Posted, W.W. Phelps, Commandant, 15 June 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    To implement this order Yard management constructed a new accident "standard score" based on the one it derived a few weeks earlier [see chart B above], with the new chart to go into effect on 1 July.  But the Navy Department decided it wanted a standard way of comparing shops' records and drew up its own standard set of hazard factors for navy yard shops.  This would permit each navy yard to construct a safety chart of its shops similar to that the Department compiled for its navy yards as a whole [see chart A above].  [“Accident prevention,” Order no. 4, Phelps, Commandant, 17 June 1931;  RG181; NA-NY.]

    C.  Shop Hazard Factors
    Machine, In
    Bldg Trades
    Machine, Out

          Source: “Safety Competition,” Commandant's Circular no. 28/31, Norfolk Navy Yard, 10 August 1931; RG181; NA-NY.

    In July 1931 the ASN ordered the BNY Commandant to improve the safety record of three of his shops, joiners, laborers, and shipfitters, after learning that they had scored particularly poor for the first five months of the year.  Ten of thirteen accidents for the joiners, fifteen of seventeen for the laborers, and eleven of twelve for the shipfitters had been put down as unsafe practices.  Jahncke informed the commandant that if he found that any of the Masters and shop safety representatives had permitted unsafe practices to have occurred, he was to reduce their efficiency ratings. [Letter, ASN(NYD), to Commandant, Navy Yard, NY, 1 July 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The Assistant Secretary then decided to crack down on safety discipline across the board.  He let all navy yard supervisors know that it was not sufficient to instruct workers in safety techniques at the time of their hiring and then blame them alone for any future accidents.  No matter the cause of an accident, the government was left paying the compensation bill, any sick leave [if applicable], the cost of an investigation into the cause of the incident, and finally, the replacement or repair of any damaged equipment.  Overall safety responsibility had to remain with the supervisors who not only had to teach safety but had to be on the watch for unsafe practices, for which they should use the help and guidance of the shop safety organizations.  However, for those workers who did not adhere to the rules and proper work practices supervisors were to take disciplinary action against them, and include the worker's violations in determining the “adaptability” factor in his efficiency rating, and for who showed a knowing disregard of safety policies, the ASN approved that direct disciplinary action be taken. [Letter, ASN(NYD), to Commandants and Commanding Officers of Shore Establishments, 14 July 1931; RG181; NA-NY.]


    Implementing Safety Practices in the BNY: 1933-1939
    The year 1933 may have marked a change in administrations but not in the safety records of the navy yards.  Little real progress seems to have been made in improving the BNY's performance in this area over the rest of the decade.  In September 1934 the Manager notified his Masters that in the previous month the Yard had had 156 accidents to personnel, a number he declared “extremely excessive" and indicative of "a laxity on the part of workmen in the use of safe and proper working methods.”  Eye injuries from foreign bodies topped his list, with 45 cases, followed by: 23 lacerated wounds; 15 contusions; 12 infections; 11 each of incised wounds and abrasions; 7 cases of conjunctivitis; and 7 burns.  The Manager thought the eye accidents and welding conjunctivitis proof that workers did not use their goggles or used them inappropriately.  The rest of the accidents he lay to carelessness and so forth.  He instructed all supervisors from Masters on down to be vigilant as to maintaining safe working methods in their shops. [Memo, Manager, to All Masters, 17 September 1934, RG181; NA-NY.]

    The following spring it was the Production Officer's turn to chastise the Masters and insist that safer working methods be instituted.  The Yard recorded nineteen lost-time accidents in the first quarter of 1935 and all had all been credited to carelessness.  The injuries had been fairly severe; for the fourteen workers back on the job as of the time of the the memo's writing, they had on average lost 17.7 days, with the range being from five to fifty-six days.  Twelve accidents occurred in the shops, one in a dry-dock, and three each on ships and on the grounds.  The shipfitters had the worst of it, leading the list with eight accidents.  Following the new policy, the supervisors of the workers who had already returned to work had assessed them penalties on their efficiency ratings. [“Lost-time accidents 1 January to 31 March 1935,” Memo, Production Officer, to all Masters, 16 April 1935; Letter, ASN, to Commandant, Navy Yard, New York, NY, 18 April 1935; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The Production Officer also criticized the workers' reluctance to buy personal protective gear, which he claimed also led to accidents happening.  While the BNY supplied many safety items used by its employees in common, such as goggles, helmets, masks, and respirators, workers were expected to purchase personal items like safety gloves and shoes.  As the PO reminded them, it "pays to keep yourself protected." [Memo, Production Officer, to All Employees, 26 April 1935; RG181: NA-NY.]

    In the mid-1930s the Department added a new carrot to help promote good shop safety records: to supervisors whose shops maintained a perfect score for the year it awarded safety pins, succeeded in following years by bars, along with a letter of congratulations from the ASN.  Some BNY shops made perfect scores fairly consistently in the the immediate years that followed:
    in 1934: copper shop; sail and flag; pattern.
    in 1935: sail and flag; copper; pattern; foundry, brass; ordnance machine; forge; central tool; outside machine.
    in 1936: sail and flag; pattern; ordnance machine; central tool; foundry, iron; public works, misc.
    in 1937: sail and flag; pattern; ordnance machine; central tool shop; foundry, iron; public works, misc.; central power plant; forge shop.
              in 1938: sail and flag; pattern; ordnance machine; central tool shop; public works, misc.; forge shop; foundry, brass.
    in 1939: pattern; ordnance machine.
    [Memo, Safety Engineer, to all Shop Masters, 5 January 1938; Letter, Commandant, to ASN, 6 February 1939; 16 January 1940; Letters, ASN, to Miss Ellie Sheehan, Leadingwoman Flagmaker, and C.J. Kiernan, Foreman Sailmaker, 1 February 1938; --ditto, for 1939, in ltr of 1/16/40; Letters, Commandant, to ASN(SED); 21 January 1935; 23 January 1936; 5 January 1936; 11 January 1938; 6 February 1939; 16 January 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    But these were only a handful of the shops in the navy yard and far from the largest ones.  The prevailing pattern continued.  In March 1937, the Navy Department saw the need once more to reprimand its shore establishments' commanding officers.  Despite the many new mechanical safeguards put in place since 1929 the yards' fatality rates had shot up during the previous year.  ASN Edison chronicled seven particularly gruesome accidents that took the lives of ten workers, including some working on WPA projects: one fell from a scaffold; another had been cut in half trying to crawl out of an elevator shaft when the unblocked car fell; the next crushed by a truck against a loading dock; a train crane's falling boom killed three at once; a water tower under repair that collapsed took two more; a falling armored hatch cover, one; and the last worker to died got caught in a crane's gears.  In addition, the number of permanent partial disabilities had increased.  Edison insisted that greater attention be paid to safety; it was the failure to use safety devices and caution at work that caused most accidents.  While workers needed to be careful, it was "the duty of ... Management to indoctrinate all officers, supervisors and employees with the importance of being SAFETY MINDED at all times."  The ASN also linked job stress to safety, saying that statistics showed “accidents more likely when men [are] being taken on or being laid off.”   With the initial spate of Vinson-Trammell construction leveling off navy yards could soon be experiencing layoffs and each Yard had to do what it could to see that “anxiety doesn't get the better of the worker.” [Letter, ASN Charles Edison, to Commandants and Commanding Officers, Shore establishments, 23 March 1937; P2-4; RG181; NA-NY.]

    As a further effort to increase safety in the navy yards, the Navy Department, in the mid-1930s, started sending out its own Safety officer to perform inspections.  These visits seemed successful in correcting any hazards that the officer saw on his visit.  For instance, in October 1935 the Department Safety Engineer reported that most of the recommendations he had made after a visit to the BNY the previous December had been implemented.  The then-messy machine shop now appeared clean and orderly, the two Coast Guard cutters under construction presented “excellent examples of good housekeeping in shipbuilding,” and the Yard had set up an accident prevention program for work on the Erie.  These periodic visits from the Navy's Safety Engineer became so valuable from the Department's point of view that in early 1939 ASN Edison informed commanding officers that in the future if the recommendations made by the Engineer after one visit were not remedied by the time of his next, then that failure would be “made the subject of official comment by this office.”  [Letter, Navy Department Safety Engineer, to Director of Shore Establishments, 9 October 1935; Letter, ASN, Edison, to Commandants and Commanding Officers, All Shore stations, 24 January 1939; RG181; NA-NY.] 

    Yet, despite everything the Department attempted, or even ordered, the actual day-to-day enforcement of safety rules in the navy yards remained remained less than adequate throughout the decade.  In September 1938, the ASN announced that they had accumulated 203 lost-time accidents to date that year.  One hundred twenty-five had come from three yards alone, with the BNY contributing an additional 33, including one fatality.  And the following January the ASN once more warned the shore establishments on their safety records and that they and their staff must give the matter their full attention.
    Letter, ASN (SED), to Commandant, Navy Yard, New York, NY, 20 September 1938; Letter, ASN(SED) to Commandants, Commanding Officers, 12 January 1939;  RG181: NA-NY.]

    Still, the recording of accidents continued on methodically.  In October 1939 the Department's Safety Officer reported that 75 injuries that occurred in the BNY in August and that another 15 workers were still out from mishaps in July.  He blamed 66 of these incidents on worker carelessness, such as causing objects to fall, giving poor instruction, or maintaining poor housekeeping.  He quizzed the masters of the machine, foundry, and shipfitter shops on their safety education, and he noted that for the last shop, which had the highest rate of accidents "there [did] not appear to be any systematic and periodic instructions to the men." 
    Going to the heart of the matter, he emphasized that “safety education and instruction can be extended without loss of efficiency and . . . that with the large number of new men being taken on, New York will continue to show a high frequency rate unless personnel are made more safety-minded." [Memo, Commander Carney, to Commandant, Navy Yard, New York, NY, 2 October 1939; RG181; NA-NY.]  


    Safety in the BNY: 1940-1941
    The two-fold pattern in the BNY of implementing new safety procedures and then ignoring them in practice continued into the new decade.  On the preventive side of the issue, based on the observations and recommendations of the Public Health Service, the navy yards began instituting in the 1930s a program of physical examinations for their workers at risk, such as testing boilermakers and chippers and caulkers for possible hearing loss.  The number of jobs included in the program increased over time.  By May 1940 the health of a sizable portion of the workforce was under periodic review: sandblasters and asbestos workers received x-rays on a semi- or annual schedule; radium and industrial x-ray workers had their blood tested bimonthly; and other workers such as coppersmiths, slate and putty, spray painters, crane operators, enginemen underwent tests appropriate for their trade.  [Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to Manager, 30 March 1938; Letter, Sr. Member, Labor Board, to Dr. A. Ray Dawson, CSC, 1 April 1938; “Periodical physical examination of employees exposed to potential health hazards: recommended,” Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to Commandant, 26 April 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The prevalent accident rate went on unabated, however.  For the first three working days of August 1940, for instance, the BNY Safety Engineer reported 102 injuries in 16 different shops, attributing them either directly to unsafe practices on the part of the injured men, or to collateral harm from exposure to unguarded arc flashes.  He made the usual plea that supervisors be ordered to personally instruct their employees on how to work safely. [Memo, Safety Engineer, to Production Officer; 8 August 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The BNY even resorted to safety posters appealing to workers' better nature:

    1. I WILL work safely on each job on which I am employed.
    2. I WILL help others to work safely and will take an active part in the plant safety program.
    3. I WILL observe all safe practice at my daily job.
    4. I WILL inspect my machine or job daily for hazardous conditions and report the same.
    5. I WILL discuss safety matters with my fellow worker, my foreman and members of the departmental safety committee.
    6. I WILL try to encourage interest in accident prevention among my fellow employees, especially by my own example as a safe worker.
    [Poster for Bulletin Boards, h/w date 9 January 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    In early 1941, the ASN reminded the shore establishments of the correlation between the rate and severity of accidents and the rate of increase or decrease in the size of the work force.  As the navy yards now were hiring at a tremendous rate he ordered all managers to “redouble efforts” to reduce injuries and illnesses in their yards, especially as the crowding of the yards with larger numbers of men and greater amounts of material itself created new hazards.  More attention needed to be paid to safety, in particular, to fire hazards, fire protection, and to dust and fumes.  To aid in this, the Navy Department ordered each shore station to establish an Industrial Health Office as soon as possible, to be run by a Medical Officer for Industrial Hygiene selected by the Bureau of Medicine, who would report to the Commandant.  Initially, the duty of each IHO was to cooperate with his station's Safety Engineer and Medical Officer, leaving questions of overlapping responsibilities to a later day for resolution.  The BNY set up its Industrial Health Office in October, its mandate being to: investigate health hazards and make recommendations; investigate “doubtful” industrial illnesses to see if a causal relationship to work could be established; treat occupational illnesses; inspect the shops and grounds; advise the Safety Engineer; and analyze statistical data. [Letter, ASN Ralph Bard, to Commandants and Commanding Officers of Shore Establishments,  21 January 1941; 21 February 1941;  “Expansion of safety and industrial health program in naval industrial shore establishments,” Commandant's order no. 38-41, from the Commandant, to HDDO, 26 February 1941; “Industrial Health office - Establishment of,” Commandant's Order no 38-41, sup no. 1, to HDDO, 30 October 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Nonetheless, as the ASN feared, as the number of workers in the BNY grew rapidly in 1940 and 1941, so did the number of serious accidents.  From October 1940 through April 1941 the Yard reported four deaths: a molder supervisor killed by an exploding casting machine filled with molten metal; an electrician helper crushed by an overhead crane on top of a building way; an engineman from pneumonia contracted after being hit by his crane; and a shipfitter helper whose staging fell out from under him while working on a ship in drydock. [Annual Report of Expenditures and Operations for Fiscal Year 1941, for Bureau of Yards and Docks, at Navy Yard, New York, NY, 20 October 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    But then, for one brief moment it finally seemed that the constant haranguing had finally paid off.  On 4 December 1941, the commandant posted a notice stating that the rate of accidents had fallen in the previous three months.  The number of hours worked had increased 7.4% yet the number of accidents had fallen from 1115 in September to 875 for November, and the lost-time fell from 173 to 100 days.  He praised the better teamwork being shown--the lack of which he had deplored in a notice in September--and the work of the shop safety organizations and supervisors. [“Accident Prevention, ”Commandant's Order no. 17-40, sup. 3, to HDDO, To Be Posted, 15 September 1941; “Prevention of injury,” Commandant's Notice, to be posted until December 31, 4 December 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    It was a short respite.  Pearl Harbor gave the BNY and the other navy yards a new set of priorities under which to work.  With the almost geometrical rise over the next year of a workforce that labored long hours under great pressure the accident rate once again rose.  For the first half of 1942 the Yard experienced a total of 8836 accidents resulting in almost 22,000 lost days.  In August 1942 the BNY's Industrial Safety Officer called the Yard's accident frequency rate "unusually high," a rate only exceeded in industries such as construction, lumber, and mining. [Memo, IHO, to Lt. Cmdr. Vanasse; August 15, 1942; Memo, from Sr. Engineer (Safety), Navy Dept., to Commandant, Navy Yard, NY, NY; 29 September 1942; RG181: NA-NY.]

    It is a puzzle: the shore establishments were after all military outposts, and so the question should be asked why did the Department simply just not order its subordinates to obey when it came to safety?  They obeyed on other operational matters.  Was it then when push came to production shove, timely production outweighed all other concerns?

    Some examples of health and safety issues in the Brooklyn Navy Yard:

    Eye Injuries
    They were of two major types: blinding, to various degrees, from the brightness and heat of welding torches; and impact, from particulate matter thrown into, or floating in, the air from any number of activities, such as chipping, scraping paint, sandblasting, or cutting rivets.  To protect themselves navy yard workers wore protective eye covering, usually goggles or hoods to counter welding glare, or goggles and/or the placement of screens for protection from pneumatic chipping and other debris-causing activities. [A selection of documents on eye hazards and their prevention: Memo, Shop Superintendent, Hull Division, to Connors, Quarterman Shipfitter, 27 January 1927; “Extracts from Safety Standards for the protection of the Head, Eyes, and Respiratory Organs,” Memo, TO BE POSTED, Captain Lyon, n.d., but date 11/26/26 written on bottom, distributed with covering note from ASN(NYD), 1 November 1927; Letter, ASN(SED), to Commandants and Commanding Officers, Shore Establishments, 10 April 1937; Letter, from ASN(SED), to Commandants, Commanding Officers, 8 April 1938; “Electric Arc and Gas Welders of Navy Yard: health study recommended,” Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to the Commandant, 2 January 1940; “Eye Injuries - use of goggles and masks,” Industrial Safety Order 1-40, from Manager, to All Concerned, 20 November 1940.  All in: RG181; NA-NY.]

    As usual, work habits slipped, and in November 1940, the Manager ordered employees involved in “grinding, chipping, handling of hot metal, busting rivets or bolts,” or other such work to wear goggles.  He also mandated that welders as well as those working near them wear them and he instructed supervisors to oversee such workers carefully and report to the Safety Engineer those who fail to comply so that he could begin disciplinary action against them.  [Commandant's Order 39-40, 25 July 1940; “Eye Injuries - use of goggles and masks,” Industrial Safety Order 1-40, from the Manager, to All concerned, 20 November 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    But the Department's interest in safety precautions did have its limits.  In January 1941 the BNY Safety Engineer recommended that all the employees in the central tool and inside machine shops be ordered to wear goggles as there had been a recent increase in eye injuries among the shops' workers.  When the Production Officer responded by asking him if he knew of any commercial firms that required goggles in these shops, the SE could only reply with the name of one company.  The Manager then told the Safety Engineer to re-think his proposal and come back with a more “modest” recommendation. [Memo, Safety Engineer, 15 January 1941; Memo, Production Officer, to SE, 17 January 1941; Reply, 17 January 1941; Memo, Manager, to SE, 23 January 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Working in Closed Spaces
    Warships are full of closed spaces.  They are constructed with double hulls and multiple tanks and boilers of all sizes, to hold and utilize fuel, oil, water, and other liquids.  These spaces not only have to be built but periodically cleaned and repaired.  Those working in them risked exposure to numerous hazards if these spaces were not properly ventilated:
    general asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen; lung injuries and poisonings from toxic chemical fumes and welding gases; and general injury or death from explosions generated from errant sparks. 

    The Navy Department developed a complex series of regulations for such work.  Before entering any confined space workers tested the air quality; then, when entering the space they brought a safety lamp to detect gases.  If employees found a space to be impure, they followed a set of cleaning instructions, then vented the tanks.  While people worked inside a tank, rules mandated someone in charge remain outside to watch, keeping a fire extinguisher and oxygen apparatus handy.  If welders worked in enclosed areas, they set up the work so that their torches could never go out, thereby allowing for the buildup of acetylene and oxygen.  In recognition of their potential danger and the extra care they required,
    most of these tasks were classified as "dirty work" and under the wage guidelines workers performing these them received an extra six cents per hour.  [“Change in Bureau of Construction and Repair Manual - Precautions to be Observed before entering closed compartments,” Memo, from the Commandant, to All Masters, 3 December 1930; Memo, from the Bureau of Construction and Repair, to All Shore Stations and Vessels in Commission, 21 May 1934; “Dirty Work - Extra compensation for,” Commandant's Order No. 46-38, 20 May 1938; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Air Quality 
    Breathing in open spaces had its risks too.  Foundry chippers risked contracting silicosis, for which they were periodically tested.  Gas cutters and welders wore air-hose masks to protect themselves from lead poisoning when they
    cut or welded painted metal, and wherever possible, they performed such work outdoors.  The maintained a basic personal sanitation by wearing gloves and cleaning up thoroughly after a job, and the navy yard highly recommended that they undergo monthly exams.  If any of them were found to have the symptoms of lead poisoning they would be transferred if possible. 
    May 1940 as part of the passel of new safety rules put into effect, the commandant ordered that no welder could work continuously on lead-painted metalsPainters put on masks when spray-painting, and Yard rules prohibited others from working in the same space if it was inside, or mandated that they keep their distance if the painting was being done outdoors.  If this was not practical, then spray painters did their work at odd hours if it could be arranged. [Memo, Production Officer, to The Medical Officer, 12 January 1933; Letter, ASN(NYD), to the Commandant, Navy Yard, New York, NY, 30 March 1932; Commandant's order no. 39-40, to HDDOeCP, 16 May 1940; Memo, Production Officer, to Master Painter, 27 May 1937; RG181; NA-NY.]
    Head Injuries and Hard Hats
    The hard hat,
    now a universal symbol of the blue-collar worker, was introduced into industry in the late 1930s. 
    At a National Safety Congress convention held in October 1939 the BNY's Safety Engineer learned that commercial shipyards in the New York Port area had begun mandating their use.  As long as the skullguards, as they were then called, were sterilized, and their sweat bands replaced, after each shift they could be used interchangeably among the workers.  In September 1940 the BNY distributed 50 skullguards to selected employees for their evaluation, giving 25 to workers on the North Carolina, 15 for general use on the building ways, 5 to riggers on new construction, and 5 to those on Public Work projects.  After two months the Commandant reported only a few complaints--some workers found that the hat's large shadow-causing brim made it difficult to use in confined spaces, and welders found them too big to fit inside their head shields--but overall, the skullguards had already prevented several head injuries and in general the workers liked them.  He therefore requested that the Navy Department provide the Yard with 3000 more, asking that 250 of them be adapted for use by welders and that they all be provided with chin straps. [Letter, Stewart, Sr. Inspector of Safety, to Navy Dept, (NYD), 27 October 1939; Letter, Commandant, to ASN(SED), 29 November 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    While skullguards were in general use in the Yard by September 1941, wearing them was voluntary.  In October 1941, the Medical Officer recommended that wearing skullguards be made mandatory wherever a risk existed.  From January through June 1941 of 214 accidents resulting in 77 lost-days that had occurred to hat-less workers, the MO said 195 of them, leading to 76 lost-days, might have been prevented if the affected men had worn skullguards.  But the Safety Engineer disagreed, saying that many workers had taken to wearing the skullguards eagerly and he thought it premature to force the issue.  This was where the issue lay at the entry into the war by the United States. [Memo, from the Shop Superintendent, to Master Mechanics and Foremen; 10 September 1941; Memo, Safety Engineer, to Manager, 23 October 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Foot Injuries and Steel-tipped Shoes
    Injuries to the foot were common in the BNY.  In his accident report for the first quarter of 1935 the Production Officer noted that of the nineteen lost-time accidents that had occurred, toe injuries led the list of injuries, with nine.  The ASN thought that five of these foot injuries could have been prevented if the men had worn safety shoes, and he told Yard management to encourage workers to buy them.  The staff tried first to cajole their workers into buying steel-tipped work shoes.  For instance, a year later, a notice from the Safety Engineer informed them that of the 16 lost-time injuries in a recent month (August 1936), five could have voided through the wearing of safety shoes.  Further, they cost no more than regular work shoes. [“Lost-time accidents 1 January to 31 March 1935,” Memo, Production Officer, to all Masters, 16 April 1935; Letter, ASN, to Commandant, Navy Yard, New York, NY, 18 April 1935; RG181; NA-NY; “Safety shoes,” Notice, from Safety Engineer, 21 September 1936; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The informal approach proved insufficient.  From November 1939 to November 1940 BNY workers experienced 94 fractured toes and toe injuries, representing 12 percent of all lost-time accidents.  Overall, the average lost-time per injury was 14.3 days, which added up to a cumulative 1153 lost days.  The Medical Officer claimed that safety shoes would have prevented at least 75 percent of these injuries, and he wanted the wearing of them to be made compulsory.  To back up his recommendation, he had reports from commercial shipyards, such as Federal, Todd, and Bethlehem where their wearing was mandatory, that showed the near elimination of toe injuries.  Management felt that applying a punitive approach en masse would bring on organized opposition, and so the staff decided to implement a new shoe policy one shop at a time.  In February 1941, the Production Officer notified the Master of the Forge Shop, one major source of the injuries, that his workers should buy them and that after sixty days the failure to wear them would be taken into consideration in making promotions and in grading efficiency.   Within a month the majority of the shop's workers had bought them and the Master reported the rest were expected to do so shortly.  In March the riggers were ordered to follow suit, followed by the boilermakers in April, and the sheetmetal workers in August. [“Study of toe injuries in relation to accident prevention,” Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to Commandant, 21 January 1941; Memo, Manager, to Production Officer, Master, Forge Shop; 5 February 1941; Letter, Commandant, to ASN, 5 March 1941; Memo,  Manager, to Production Officer, Master, Rigger Shop, 8 March 1941; Letter, Capt. Broshek, to Commander R.H. Roberts, SED, 10 March 1941; Memo, Manager, to Production Officer, Master Boilermaker, 24 April 1941; Memo, Manager, to Production Officer, Master Sheetmetal Worker, 16 August 1941; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Information on the use of asbestos in the BNY in these years is scattered among the yard's files.  It was used both in tools and as a building material.  For instance, asbestos gloves appear on a 1928 list of the Yard's safety equipment. 
    A list of protective clothing from 1940 shows that asbestos leggings, aprons, and gloves were issued to foundrymen, and that welders wore leather or asbestos gloves. [Letter, Commandant, to ASN(NYD), 9 May 1928; Industrial Department Order No. 34-40, Manager, to All Concerned; 10 October 1940; RG181; NA-NY.  Also, interested researchers should look in the "S" (Supply and Account) files of the navy yards for records of all materials that the BNY purchased.]

    In construction, asbestos served as a fire retardant and an insulant.  The BNY's pipe shop used it as a component of the lagging it produced, a cloth-like material that was then cut and wrapped around hot water and steam pipes in warships.  The BNY's boiler shop and its central power plant also insulate
    their boiler systems with asbestos-containing material. [Memo, Safety Engineer, to Production Officer; 10 December 1940; 6/9/41 note; Letter, Commandant, to Chief buDocks; Public Works Program 1941; 23 May 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The commercial and medical world knew asbestos to be a dust hazard early on in the twentieth century, at least so far as in its causing asbestosis.  In recogintion of this, BNY pipe shop workers wore half-masks and mixed under hooded exhaust fans the magnesia and asbestos they used to create lagging insulation.  (Where the dust exhausted to is another matter.)  When, in December 1940 the Safety Engineer noted that the motor driving a fan sparked excessively and in any case was too small to draw off all the dust, he cited the dust floating in the shop as a safety hazard.  A new fan was put in place by the following June. [Memo, Stewart, Sr Inspector of Safety, to Lt Cmdr Flaherty, SE; 4 February 1938; RG181; NA-NY; Memo, Safety Engineer, to Production Officer; 10 December 1940; h/w note added on 9 June 1941; RG181; NA-NY]

    In addition to the hooded exhaust fans, BNY employees who worked with
    asbestos and fibrous glass received annual chest x-rays starting around 1940.  Also, as a means to “safeguard employees' health,” they worked with their sleeves rolled up and fixed with bands to keep the dust out of their shirts, wore clear goggles with guards, and the shop kept a pail of water nearby to wash their exposed skin. [Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to Commandant; 26 April 1940; Letter, Shop Supt, Charleston navy yard, to Shop Supt, NYNY; 19 November 1940; Letter in reply on 28 November 1940; RG181; NA-NY]


    Welding is a good example of how the issuing and the observing of regulations were often two different matters altogether.  As a means of constructing a ship, welding began supplanting riveting in the 1920s and soon became a heavily regulated task in the navy yards.  There are numerous memos from the mid-1920s on the regulation of welding in the BNY.  One, for instance, describes how to set up cutting and welding jobs, starting with the removal of any potential fire hazards.  It then describes how to set up and disconnect electric welding machines, how to work with painted metals, and that wearing goggles is mandatory, as well as hoods, respirators, and helmets where needed.  A second one from the Yard's Material Laboratory gives tables that displayed the various shades of lenses to be used in protective goggles and how to be determine which one should be used.  [“Precautions to be taken in connection with acetylene and electric welding and cutting,” Memo, Manager, to the Industrial Department, 17 September 1925; Memo, Safety Engineer, to the Construction Officer, 20 October 1926;  Memo, from Safety Engineer, to the Construction Officer; subject: Eye Protection; 20 October 1926; Memorandum, to Tool Room Keeper; subject: Eye Protection - Lenses; 22 October 1926; RG181; NA-NY.]

    However, welders seemed no different from the rest of the BNY workers when it came to lax supervision and work habits.  One memo from the Safety Engineer from the mid-1930s, for instance, noted that numerous cases of conjunctivitis and allied diseases caused by the arc flashes or gaseous fumes had been reported and he wanted a list detailing what precautions, equipment, and safeguards the Yard used to lessen these hazards.  At about the same time the Production Officer warned the Master Shipfitter that his shop faced possible disciplinary action if it did not bring welding fires under control.  The officer charged the shop's welders with not paying enough attention to the presence of flammable items near them when they worked on board ships and he asked that all supervisors be available to aid their welders. [Memo, Safety Engineer, to Supervisor, Shop x-26, 14 August 1935; Memo, Production Officer, to Master Shipfitter, 23 August 1935; RG181; NA-NY.  Poor work habits among the welders  was not restricted to the Brooklyn yard, for in spring 1937 the ASN notified the navy yards that across the board there had been an increase in eye injuries from welding: some from not putting up protective screening to shield others; and the welders themselves not using safety equipment, and that the situation had to be remedied at once. Letter, ASN(SED), to Commandants and Commanding Officers, Shore Establishments, 10 April 1937; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Sometimes the workers filed safety grievances.  In June 1937, a representative of the independent welders' organization at the BNY informed the Safety Engineer that welders working on galvanized metal had insufficient ventilation and had contracted illnesses from the fumes.  They had asked that more blowers be supplied immediately but their supervisors could only reply that they were on order.  They also wanted air-supply respirators, claiming that  the filter masks they currently wore were insufficient.  The Manager replied that Yard management knew well the dangers associated with welding galvanized metal and that they had left “no stone unturned in removing hazards.”  By policy, welders performed such work only a few hours at a time before they rotated out to different work, and compartments were kept open as much as possible.  He thought their equipment adequate for their work and he told them they would soon receive more blowers as the volume of work was about to increase.  He did however hold open the possibility of switching to using masks.  As to the alleged injuries, he thought them minor, or in the serious cases not yet proved to be work-related. [Letter, George Murphy, Business Representative, International Association of Mechanic Welders, Local Lodge, no. 2, to Lt. Whitehead, Safety Engineer, 22 June 1937; Reply, Captain Dunn, for the Commandant, 24 June 1937; RG181; NA-NY.]

    Near the end of 1939 a doctor, L. Greenberg, working for the New York State Department of Labor asked permission of the Navy Department to conduct a study of the BNY's welders.  An expert on silicosis, he wanted to investigate the hazards of welding, such as toxic gases, fumes, dust, and eye damage, with the goal of discovering whether current safety practices were adequate.  Brooklyn's large force of welders, then about 930, would provide an ample number to examine.  The Medical Officer of the Yard felt enthusiastic about the project, noting that no extensive testing of welders had yet been done and that such a report should be of aid to the Employees Compensation agency, especially as in the two-year period from April 1937 to April 1939 welding had accounted for 56.9% of navy yard injuries nationally.  While Greenberg wanted to conduct the testing in with the assistance of the MO's office, the state office would provide most of the personnel, so the study would entail no cost to the Yard.  The doctor's staff would give welders a chest X-ray in a truck, taking about forty minutes for each one, and the testing was confidential.  The Commandant agreed and passed on the request to the ASN, noting that there was a cost to the Yard in lost time of about $2000. [Memo, Medical Officer of the Yard, to  Commandant, 2 January 1940; Letter, Commandant, to ASN(SED), 8 January 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

    The Navy Department disapproved the request, stating that its Safety Engineer and Bureau of Medicine had been studying the problems associated with welding for a long time and as a result, the government's own Inter-departmental Safety Council had recognized the Navy as the lead agency for investigating welding hazards.  And further, the Department did not believe that the appropriate background in research and methodology had yet been developed to make a clinical study like Greenburg's viable.  However, if the doctor did do a study with anybody else, they would like a copy. [Letter, ASN, to Commandant, 27 January 1940; Letter, Manager, to Dr. Greenburg, 2 February 1940; RG181; NA-NY.]

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    John R Stobo      ©         November 2005