You are currently viewing Occupational Medicine after the Liberation (1946-1964): Between Ambitions and Realities

Occupational Medicine after the Liberation (1946-1964): Between Ambitions and Realities

The post-war period saw the emergence of ambitious aspirations in the field of occupational health, particularly with the establishment of occupational medicine. However, the years from 1946 to 1964 were marked by a series of challenges and contradictions that hindered the full realization of the initial objectives.

Estimated reading time: 1 minute

Let’s delve into this pivotal period where public health issues collided with economic and political interests.

The Comprehensive Plan for Workers’ Health

After the Liberation, occupational medicine was entrusted with the noble mission of tuberculosis screening, under the impetus of Alexandre Parodi, Minister of Labor. However, obstacles arose from the outset. The Medical Board, fearing competition, limited its role to prevention. Despite the 1946 law making occupational medicine mandatory for private enterprises, its implementation faced resistance and deficiencies in terms of resources and controls. Tripartite negotiations among the state, employers, and unions attempted to define the boundaries of this new discipline, but disagreements persisted, particularly regarding activities requiring special medical surveillance.

The State’s Lack of Interest

Despite the stated ambitions, the state showed a growing disinterest in occupational medicine. A lack of resources and controls led to a patchy implementation of the 1946 law. Requests for accreditation of medical services went unexamined, leaving companies unsupervised. Employees, meanwhile, expressed reservations about medical visits, seeing them as tools for selection rather than prevention. The state’s disengagement also resulted in a reduction of companies’ obligations regarding occupational medicine, relegating it to mere fitness assessments.

Managerial Practices

Concurrently, the practice of occupational medicine often succumbed to managerial and economic imperatives. Physicians, paid by companies, faced pressures compromising their independence. The biological orientation of the workforce aimed less at improving working conditions than at adapting workers to existing positions. Non-clinical activities, such as ergonomics, were marginalized in favor of a machine-centered approach. In this context, genuine improvements in working conditions struggled to materialize.

In conclusion:

The period from 1946 to 1964 was characterized by a significant gap between the initial ambitions of occupational medicine and the realities of its implementation. Despite noble objectives and regulatory attempts, political, economic, and cultural obstacles hampered its full development. Nevertheless, this period also laid the groundwork for a growing awareness of the importance of occupational health, paving the way for future developments, particularly after the events of 1968.

Philippe Casanova

Specialist in occupational medicine and forensic medicine.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.