This is one of the books in the bibliography of Heinrich’s 1931 version of Industrial Accident Prevention. I am trying to follow up all of these books in order to get some measure of their influence on Heinrich’s work. My main focus with this review/summary (and others) is an attempt to distil the main threads and a comparison to Heinrich’s book, and - in a later phase - to the other safety handbooks that came out around the same time.

Beyer was a rather big name in safety at the time. He was the manager of the Accident Prevention Department of the Massachusetts Employees Insurance Association. Formerly, he had been Chief Safety Inspector of the American Steel and Wire Company. He was active in various safety organisations, as the director of the Standardization Committee of the National Safety Council, chairman of the Standardization Committee of the Boston Safety Society, and member of the American Museum of Safety, to name but a few.

Beyer moved on to become the Vice-President and Chief Engineer of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company of Boston. Fun trivia, he was married to opera singer Maria Conde who debuted in December 1917 in the Metropolitan Opera and dueted with none other than Caruso. She wrote poems and attended her husband on safety rallies, inspiring her to compose a verse titled Safety Last (published in Safety Engineering in 1919).

The first thing that strikes us is obviously the fact that Heinrich appears to have taken the title of his book from this one (and then added the subtitle A Scientific Approach). Heinrich does not explain this, but besides Heinrich’s book, there are some others with the same title so it may be plain coincidence. (Interestingly, like Heinrich, Beyer’s book was supported by his organisation’s top management.)

Like Cowee’s book to which we can see several parallels (apart from the year of publishing) this is a voluminous one. Counting 407 pages with lots of pictures and illustrations (e.g. drawings of machinery, ventilation or fire protection measures) and a huge index this must have been an excellent help to safety practitioners at the time.

In contrast to Cowee’s book, Beyer appears to have given a bit more thought to the structure of the book, dividing it in eight part and a total of 54 (!) often short chapters. Another difference is that Beyer seems to have a bit more thoughtful referencing to other sources. In fact, the final chapter contains some ‘recommended further reading’.

Like Cowee’s, Beyer’s book also concentrates on the practical side of safety work, dealing mostly with hazards and how to deal with them. “…it has been the author’s aim to make it an authoritative statement of accident prevention methods, proven by the ‘road test’ of actual experience to be effective and practical.” (p.v) There is little discussion of general principles or theories on safety. However, the first couple of chapters deal with more general subjects.

Firstly, there is a discussion of compensation legislation, including some of the historic background that makes it interesting to read if you want to know something more of safety’s formative years. The chapter includes an interesting discussion of ‘fault’, which was essential in the old system in order to receive compensation after an accident - or be rejected. This leads Beyer to a nice reflection on the subject of ‘fault’,

“As a matter of fact, very few accidents occur where there is not a certain element of fault or carelessness on the part of someone, and the injured man is usually more or less to blame; such carelessness, however, is of an inevitable sort, and might be compared to upsetting a cup of tea at the breakfast table. This involves carelessness, but such carelessness is an unavoidable characteristic of our human make-up. Where men are working around machinery to which the human body offers practically no resistance, a slip or mis-move, insignificant in itself, may prove disastrous.” (p.2)

Beyer then discusses the advantages of the compensation legislation, which led to more emphasis on accident prevention. This is good because, “From any standpoint, an accident prevented than an accident compensated.” (p.4)

The second chapter deals with costs, waste and prevention. This connects to the cover picture of the book, which shows two circles, a green one, saying “Safety = Saving”, versus an orange one telling us “Danger = Waste”. Beyer is already familiar with hidden costs of accidents - “incidental accident expenses due to loss of product, disorganisation of working forces…” (p.5). The chapter also contains a pleasantly cautious discussion of accident statistics.

The third chapter is titled ‘Causes of Accidents’, but the two page list is rather an uneven mishmash, blending injuries, activities, agents and ‘causes’. This is what Heinrich would critique as so-called causes. Beyer seems not to have had a specific causation theory yet.

After this, Beyer moves to practical solutions, although chapters 4 and 5 are still part of the first general part of the book, dealing with engineering provisions and plant arrangements. Here, it is interesting to see how little has changed in a century (or more). Beyer argues for the greatest safety gain in the design phases where safety can be drawn into the design with little or no additional cost, while later add-on safety provisions will be expensive, ineffective and sometimes impossible. He also argues of including safety in the specs and be cautious about low bids - and we see an example of an early LOTO-provision.

After this, Beyer takes us through a number of technical and sometimes super-technical chapters about Building, Construction and Arrangement (Part II, Chapters 6-10), Power Generation and Distribution (Part III, Ch. 11-15, especially the chapter on Electricity is very detailed, including safety rules), Machine Construction and Arrangement (Part IV, Chapters 16-25, the chapter on Guarding reminds of Heinrich’s chapter on the same subject, including many pictures and the discussion of several accident cases), and Special Industries (Part V, Chapters 26-39). Some of the latter are rather short, like the one on Mining that basically redirects to other literature. It is interesting to see that separate chapters deal with Contracting (“especially hazardous industry”) and Candy Factories.

The follow two short parts about Fire Hazard (Chapters 40 and 41) and Explosion Hazard (Chapters 42-45). The final part, VIII, then deals with Personal Elements. Some of these are more practical like eye protection and first aid, but we find also some more organisational elements here, including Safety Education, Bulletins and Slogans (Ch.46, here we find a nice nuance on ‘preventable’ on p.359: “No one who has given the matter careful study believes that all industrial accidents can be prevented.” So much for ‘zero’!), Inspection (Ch.47, including work of Safety Committees), Housekeeping (Ch.49), Occupational Diseases (Ch.52) and Welfare work (Ch. 53).

When looking for explicit connections to Heinrich’s work, there are the abovementioned practical remedies (guarding), a bit about costs and efficiency, and the ‘old’ way of looking at causes. We can also find some discussion of foremen, but probably less than with other authors. Most explicit are the specific rules for foremen in chemical industry (p.279-282), although many of these rules would also be suitable for other industries. Also the ‘human element’ is not very pronounced, apart from the earlier reflections on carelessness it is most clear in the chapter on electricity where we find a paragraph on the human element and how human failure ‘caused’ some accident.

Looking back, we can say that 1916 was a good year for practical safety with the arrival of two solid handbooks, presenting the state of the art then. Cowee and Beyer’s books are close contenders, but I guess that Beyer would be best value for money with Cowee being a close runner up. As such it may have made sense to use the title of this book, although I am very unsure whether this really was a reason for Heinrich.


Beyer, D.S. (1916) Industrial Accident Prevention. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


Find the book online (and download if you fancy):


Here is a very positive review from when it came out:


Beyer also wrote a super-interesting paper on the early years of safety:

Beyer, D.S. (1917) Accident Prevention. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 70, Modern Insurance Problems: 238-243.