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mental vision that had been widespread in
the industry during the nineteenth century.
Instead of continuing to focus on environ-
mental factors affecting health or activities
at factories and especially outside the fac-
tory (housing, food, and leisure), physicians
focused on prevention and on the early de-
tection of pathologies or factors that made
individuals prone to accidents or illness and
the evaluation of the potential productive
capabilities of the worker.
Major companies, particularly in the mining
and steelworks industry, were the pioneers
in introducing systematic medical check-
ups of their employees by the medical ser-
vices of the employers’ associations. The
medical check-up was integrated in the
procedures for hiring and evaluating wor-
kers as one more element in the employers’
strategies for managing the workforce.
During the 1960-1980 period, the workers’
and labour union’s fight for occupational
health was fundamental in the redefinition
of the new regulatory framework. At the
end of the 1970’s, the major trade unions
created occupational health departments
that contributed to detecting new health
problems, such as cancers related to work
conditions, noise, or psycho-social risks.
The role of the media was also essential in
bringing the debate on occupational health
to the forefront.
The occupational hazard prevention law
(1995), which purpose was to promote and
Some craftsmen use pipes
to blow glass (from the
book, De re metallíca by the
sixteenth century German
scholar and scientist,
Georgius Agricola).
consolidate a truly preventive culture, was
the result of incorporating European law in
the Spanish legal system.
Lastly, the European Union’s adoption of
the “precaution principle” meant that befo-
re introducing a chemical substance in the
production process, it was necessary to
first determine that it was harmless.