Safety First: Don’t Let Work Get You Down

March 10th, 2010 by The Responsibility Project

Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute for Safety is dedicated to studying the causes and prevention of work-related accidents and injuries.

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The Responsibility Project

They say that people who talk on cell phones while driving are more likely to get into car accidents than people who keep both hands on the wheel. And they say that people who work in desk jobs and receive at least a little training in ergonomics are less likely to suffer from chronic pain than other people. Ever wonder who “they” are? In the area of safety research, “they” are the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, which has been helping to improve workers’ occupational safety and health for more than 50 years.

Since its founding in 1912, Liberty Mutual has been a leader is workplace safety research. The company’s first employee, David Beyer, was an industrial safety engineer who formed the company’s accident prevention department, offering customers the help of trained safety professionals as part of their insurance coverage. His innovations included partnering with Paramount Pictures in 1918 to produce an 18-minute safety film called The Outlaw, and later, The Hand of Fate, a more elaborate safety film that more than 250,000 Liberty Mutual employees watched in the 1920s. Well into the 1930s, Liberty Mutual pushed for customer acceptance of safety initiatives such as on-site first-aid facilities and lifesaving training.

In 1943, Liberty Mutual built a 4,800-square-foot facility on 80 acres of farmland in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, housing a small team of scientists dedicated to studying the causes and prevention of work-related accidents and injuries. Among the many notable early achievements were innovations that helped safely renovate the White House in the 1950s and the first microcomputer-based prosthetic elbow.

Since then, the Research Institute has evolved into an internationally recognized enterprise with 25 researchers, 20 support staff, and 11 state-of-the-art laboratories. They produce a number of annual, peer-reviewed publications. A partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health includes joint-research projects, symposia, and global initiatives. Its scope of research, meanwhile, has expanded to include epidemiological studies of the causes and spread of workplace injuries; biomechanical analyses of human motion patterns; and investigations of the physical, technological, and organizational demands of work environments.

Find out more about the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety at