The British Safety Council launches a digital archive documenting 60 years of its campaigning history to prevent injury and ill health at work
The British Safety Council has unveiled a digital archive of its work, featuring momentous events from 60 years of British economic, social and political history. The archive contains unique documents and correspondence, as well as photographs, newspapers, magazines and posters which were thought to be lost but have now been rescued from oblivion.
When James Tye created the British Safety Council in 1957, thousands of people were being killed at work every year in the UK, while many more suffered serious injuries and disease. He campaigned passionately for seat belt laws and comprehensive protection for all workers. His efforts contributed to the creation of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. Far ahead of his time, he helped to establish the British Wellness Council in 1980, which dealt with issues such as repetitive strain and stress. Since its inception, the British Safety Council has been working and campaigning on a variety of platforms to keep workers safe.
In 2015, as the British Safety Council started to prepare for its 60th anniversary celebrations, a treasure trove of materials, in the form of campaign posters, articles, photographs and correspondence, was discovered bursting from old boxes in a Midlands warehouse. These have now been digitized and made publicly available for the first time.
Among the treasures in the archive are:
- The first UK report into the need for seat-belt laws, from 1959;
- A comprehensive collection of publications from 1959 to 2010, documenting the British history of this period, including tragedies, eg. the Kings Cross fire and Hillsborough disaster, changes in politics, industry, fashion and gender;
- Hundreds of unique, hand-drawn posters from the 1970s, 80s and 90s;
- Photographs of celebrities who were involved in the British Safety Council’s campaigns, including Dame Barbara Windsor DBE, Des Lynam OBE and Dame Esther Rantzen DBE;
- An insight into the life and struggles of James Tye, a powerful and sometimes controversial campaigning voice trying to change the attitude of British industry and the public to safety and health at work;
- The British Safety Council’s magazines from the 60s.
Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said: “The British Safety Council has a long history of involvement in health and safety. Our digital archive, which we have saved for future generations, is testament to this. It also offers a unique insight into the history of health and safety in Britain and is a record of the commitment, passion and unrelenting efforts of those health and safety professionals who campaigned tirelessly against all the odds to make Britain a safer place to work.”
The digital archive is now available online for people to freely view and explore. It was created by Storetec Services which supply a wide range of document scanning services across the UK. Storetec is one of the UK’s leading document scanning services that enable businesses to access, manage, protect and share their data.
The archive will also feature in a picture book and a film to be released later this year.
A film based on the archive will be screened at the British Safety Council’s 60th anniversary launch event on the 23 March 2017. The film will tell the story of the charity over the last 60 years, including its big wins and achievements, and feature rare footage and images. The film will be available online after the event.
A commemorative picture book is being prepared by social historian Mike Esbester, which will tell the story of the British Safety Council and James Tye. It will use images from the archive, revealing the charity’s colourful heritage and past campaigns, as well as how they shaped the social, political and economic changes of the last 60 years.