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A Purveyor of Safety

Born on March 4, 1877 Garrett Morgan founded the National Safety Device Company and was best known for creating the first Safety Smoke Prevention Hood, the predecessor to modern Escape Hoods & Gas Masks; for which he was granted a patent in 1914. The invention was created after Morgan witnessed firefighters struggling from the smoke they encountered in the line of duty. The hood was sewn from heavy cotton and contained clear eye holes. A hose dangled to the ground which allowed clean air to enter into the hood (due to the hot, smoke rising upward). The device was used “to provide a portable attachment which will enable a fireman to enter a house filled with thick, suffocating gasses and smoke…and enable him to perform his duties…without danger to himself from suffocation”. Morgan went on to state, “The device is also efficient and useful for protection to engineers, chemists and working men who are obligated to breathe noxious fumes or dust derived from the materials in which they are obliged to work”

Morgan’s Hood (left). Early Gas Masks (middle). Modern Escape Hood (right)

In 1916 he put his invention into service when he personally rescued workers trapped within a water intake tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Eight men were saved and the mayor of Cleveland hailed Morgan as a hero and credited his safety hood for saving lives. The National Safety Device Company went on to sell Morgan’s hoods to several firefighting brigades across the United States and Canada. By World War I, his breathing device was refined to carry its own air supply, making it one of the first gas masks in use. Garrett Morgan also invented the modern day Traffic Signal with the first ever ‘warning’ position in 1922.

Morgan dons his device to rescue workers from a collapsed Lake Erie water tunnel in 1916

Today, an estimated 5 million workers are require to wear respirators in 1.4 million workplaces throughout the United States. Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. RPE is used in several industries such as firefighting, military, marine, manufacturing, construction, welding, machining, confined space and food service.

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