History

​Since 1954, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has advanced occupational safety in the U.S. and around the world through the dedication and hard work of its researchers.  Here are a few examples of significant innovations and milestones achieved along the way.

Pioneers in Psychophysics

In the early 1960s, Liberty Mutual researchers were the first to apply psychophysical methods to study the injury risks involved in manual handling tasks. Researchers used data from these studies to produce tables of maximum acceptable weights and forces that workers can lift, lower, push, pull, or carry without excessive fatigue. For decades, the Liberty Mutual Tables have helped safety experts design tasks to reduce injury risks.

Innovators in Disability Research

For more than 50 years (1943–2000), Liberty Mutual operated a medical service center near Boston, where injured workers received treatment to help them recover and return to work safely. This early effort helped inspire and fuel the Institute’s later disability research efforts, formalized with the establishment of the Center for Disability Research in 2000.

Architects of Vehicle Safety

Liberty Mutual partnered with Cornell University in the early 1950s to develop Survival Cars I and II. In a time when cars were designed almost solely for looks and function, these prototype vehicles introduced the world to safety features such as collapsible steering columns, arm and headrests, air bags and seatbelts, 17 of which have since become standard in all U.S. automobiles, helping to dramatically reduce the rates of crash-related injuries and fatalities.

Champions of Floor Safety

In the 1960s, Liberty Mutual researchers developed and patented the first Horizontal Pull SlipmeterTM, a portable device for evaluating floor slipperiness. By providing an objective measure of slipperiness, this device—a forerunner of modern floor surface assessment tools—helped researchers and safety practitioners develop prevention strategies. It also provided a valuable tool for investigating floor surface assessment methods and cleaning protocols.

Assessors of Ergonomic Risk

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, researchers developed and patented several tools for evaluating ergonomic risks associated with common workplace tasks. These tools included CompuTaskTM for manual handling tasks, VidLiTeCTM for lifting tasks and the Musculoskeletal Stress Measurement KitTM for repetitive hand tool tasks.

Experts in Epidemiology

In 2000, Institute epidemiologists produced the first reliable, published ranking of the 10 leading causes of U.S. disabling work-place injuries and their direct costs to industry. Produced annually since then, the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index has been cited in various mainstream and business publications, including USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, Risk & Insurance, and Occupational Hazards.

Frontrunners in Safety Research

Since the start of the new millennium, the Institute has added an 1,800 square foot biomechanics laboratory, a centralized telephonic data collection system, a state-of-the-art driving simulator and other technological enhancements. In addition, it has built investigative capacity in several new areas of expertise including demography, sociotechnical systems safety and pain self-management.