To celebrate the theme of 2021’s International Women’s Day, #choosetochallenge, NCRQ are raising awareness of women who have invented solutions that help keep the world healthier and safer today. These women challenged the status quo by inventing solutions to mitigate loss of life in scenarios where others had merely accepted that risk and serious injury or death was commonplace. They also overcame their own challenges by pioneering their inventions in male-orientated industries at a period of time where gender equality was not even a consideration. As a result of the tenacity of these women to have their voice heard millions of lives have been and will continue to be saved globally.
Beasley was an entrepreneur and serial inventor. In total, Beasley held seventeen patents across the US and Great Britain. She was certainly not afraid to challenge what at the time was an extremely male orientated world. She rightly commanded a distinct level of respect and can therefore be considered a true pioneer of gender equality as we know it today.
Her endeavour to save lives resulted in the design of the first purpose-built life raft in 1882. At this time, intercontinental travel could only be achieved on the open ocean. Millions of migrants stowed away on extravagant ocean liners every year, whilst wealthy travellers could enjoy extreme luxury en route to their destination.
If it sounds like we are describing a certain fateful story it is no coincidence. One of the first inclusions of Beasley’s life raft was on the maiden and disastrous voyage of HMS Titanic. The raft did save some 700 passengers, it was just unfortunate that not nearly enough rafts adorned the Titanic as the designers of the liner did not want the rafts preventing passengers from traversing the deck. As a result, over 1500 souls were lost at sea. Whilst the design has undoubtedly evolved over time, Beasley’s life raft has come to the aid of many people who would have otherwise have suffered the same fate and that is why we are featuring her this International Women’s Day.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many successful cities in the US experienced exponential growth in population. As a result, many cities had to consolidate and significantly improve their infrastructure. One solution for the overwhelming population levels was skyscrapers. These gargantuan structures began characterising the skylines of cities such as Manhattan, but whilst this solved the problem of overcrowding, it presented many health and safety issues.
March 25th 1911 was noted as a particular disaster in the history of Manhattan as it infamously marks the date of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which claimed 145 lives. The disaster did lead to great advancements in building codes and workplace regulations. A change which would have undoubtedly benefitted Connelly who had acquired her patent for an external steel staircase some years before. Connelly was one of the first women to file a patent for herself after the American Civil War.
The fire escape allowed people to exit a building without being trapped by the fire. Platforms in the design provided regular opportunities for respite during the descent for those stricken by panic. These same platforms also enabled firefighters to effectively target specific areas of a building by allowing them to haul water to the correct level. Connelly’s invention is still heavily utilised and saves countless lives every year, as in the 21st-century buildings are now taller than ever. It is particularly fitting that we feature Connelly on International Women’s Day 2021 as her invention features in our own qualification content.
If you live in the UK and you drive, or your job requires you to operate a vehicle, the chances are you utilise Mary Anderson’s invention on a weekly basis. Anderson designed the windscreen wiper subsequent to a trip to New York in 1902. During the trip, Anderson was subject to constant delays. The delays were caused because the driver of her streetcar had to stop and exit the vehicle to remove snow from the windscreen. Not only did this cause delays but Anderson was subject to the freezing cold temperatures outside. The driver had to remove the snow from the windscreen – it would have been dangerous not to.
The design has barely been changed to this day other than it is now motorised and often automated. The basic concept still features a rubber blade affixed to a metal arm which is drawn along the windscreen. Unfortunately, Anderson never got the credit that she deserved as not one manufacturer bought into the idea. Of course, now the invention is a mandatory component on virtually every road vehicle in the world. With cars legally allowed to travel more than seven times the speed of a horse-drawn carriage and some capable of reaching speeds more than twenty times that amount, Anderson’s invention undoubtedly saves numerous lives during treacherous conditions every year. We believe it is time shoe got the recognition she deserves this International Women’s Day.
NCRQ will always promote a culture of equality including gender equality in the workplace, in the health and safety industry and generally. We fully endorse the #choosetochallenge message promoted by this year’s International Women’s Day, as it is proven some of those who have challenged gender stereotypes are responsible for developing solutions that save people’s lives today. We hope you enjoyed our feature on these extraordinary women and if there is any anybody you would have suggested, then please let us know on our social channels.