Health & Safety Learning Journey
During the early years of the Industrial Revolution little heed was paid to health and safety within the working environment. Erecting safety fences, stopping machinery for cleaning, regulating temperatures in the work place, providing sanitation facilities and drinking water, allowing employees adequate breaks and time off, all cost money and received scant attention in an age when large profits were of foremost concern and working people were of little consequence.
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Health & Safety Learning Journey Step 1: In the early days
In the domestic and agricultural environments from which most people had come five minutes here and there had not mattered much. Workers were totally unprepared for a system which insisted that they start and finish work at strictly set times, that excuses for late or non attendance would not be tolerated, that they were expected to work at a constant speed for up to sixteen hours a day, and that they should accept without question working conditions which were dangerous and unhealthy.
Children were given the task of cleaning up the cotton fluff beneath moving machinery because they were small and nimble. Accidents were frequent and ranged from severed fingers and broken arms to crushed legs and severe head injuries. Women got their skirts caught in unguarded machinery, were dragged into or against the fast moving parts and maimed. Men lost fingers or had their hands mangled operating the spinning mules and the weaving looms.
The atmosphere was full of cotton dust which clogged the throat and lungs. Drinking water, when it was provided, was often clogged with fluff. The spinning sheds were overheated by the machinery; the weaving sheds were freezing. One or two toilets might be provided for up to three hundred workers. The smoke from the mill chimneys was so dense that the sun rarely shone through.