Work Place Hazards

Capitol construction workers suffered from injuries that were the result of the working conditions in place c.1900. From the information the project team uncovered, their injuries resulted from falls, uncontrolled dust in the environment and from contact with machinery: Several photographs of stone workers and sculptors show no dust control measures in place.  So silicosis, an illness caused by exposure to silica dust from stonecutting and polishing, that resulted in the scarring of lung tissue, must have been a common occurrence. Silicosis is the most commonly reported occupational disease worldwide and has been known since ancient times. It results in shortness of breath, persistent coughing, fatigue, and ultimately, death. For more information about silicosis see: Silicosis

Minnesota State Capitol, Stone Shed, Stone Carving, Eagle Statue, n.d
Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.

Falls also occured and most of the men who died on the capitol were killed in falls. The construction photographs show scaffolds with no railings and no evidence of safety harnesses or other equipment have been found to date. Numerous other photographs show both the construction site and quarries strewn with either marble and stone debris resulting in uneven walking surfaces.

Minnesota State Capitol, NW View, Ladders and Hoists, July 1, 1900
Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.

Stone polishing and cutting machinery was also a danger to the men working on the construction site and in the quarries. The first man killed on the construction site was caught in the flywheel of a stone polishing machine and several photographs show machinery with exposed belts and gears in which worker's clothing or arms could be caught in. 

Bohn Refrigerator Company machine shop
Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.