Obviously, from the picture above, there was little concept of Health and Safety in the early 1900s. However, a need for Health and Safety regulation had begun in the UK in 1833 with the appointment of the first factory inspectors. This was because of the Factories Act 1833. However, before this, was The Factories Act 1802 which regulated factory conditions, with particular regard to children in both cotton and woollen mills. Initially, these early Acts were to protect children in factories. The 1819 Cotton Mills and Factories Act stated that no children under 9 were to be employed and that children aged 9-16 years were limited to 12 hours’ work per day. This would seem appauling by today’s standards where it is illegal to employ a child under 15 years of age; and only under certain conditions. It wasn’t until The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in the US that instituted the first nation-wide restrictions on the use of child labor.
The Inspectors that were appointed, as a result of the Factories Act 1833, had good authority i.e they could introduce new regulations and laws to ensure the Factory Act. By 1871 the Factories Act was extended to almost every workplace. All workplaces now began to respect minimum standards. The Mines Act 1842 came into force because of the amount of fatalities and health risks to workers. Changes to the mining industry included the reporting of accidents, training, and, making the mines safer for workers. In 1893 the first female inspectors were appointed. The Quarries Act came into force in 1894. Before this inspectors could only inspect quarries using steam power, but this Act now allowed them to inspect all quarries.
Fast forward 50 or so years and we have the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956. This provided safeguards for children and agricultural workers who come in contact with machinery and farm equipment. This Act laid down laws for the reporting of accidents, provisions for clean sanitary conditions and the prohibiting of lifting of excessive weights. Due to a major incident at the Windscale nuclear site in 1957, the Nuclear Installations Act was passed in 1959. This Act is responsible for licencing and regulating all nuclear reactors in the UK. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 introduced a new system which consolidated detailed regulations into more understandable rules for all workplaces globally. It produced more of an engaging system for employees and employers. Shortly after this, the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) was formed and a year later the HSE was set up. The HSE undertook the requirements of the Health and Safety Commission and was responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in all workplaces in the UK. A number of regulatory organisations were now governed by the HSE. The HSC encouraged positive attitudes to health and safety in the workplace and the understanding of risk assessment to better ensure a safer work environment. There would now be safety representatives in the workplace.
In the 1980s many major Acts were introduced including the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1980, Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1985, Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations in 1988. In the 1990s, up to the present day, manyimprovements have been made in (including Acts introduced) rail safety, nuclear research, control of genetically modified substances, offshore gas rig safety, manual handling, PPE, construction, gas safety and the control of major hazards. Today, health surveillance of staff, risk assessments, and the protection of staff in every way possible to meet legislation and regulations is the norm. The HSE is continually introducing measures to make Health and Safety less bureaucratic and easier for all.
A brief look at Health and Safety in the US, to the 1920s