We’re talking health & safety history


If you’re talking UK  health & safety history, there’s no better place to start than the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website.

I stumbled across it while researching health & safety signs history for The Sign Shed. The history timeline starts in 1833 with the formation of the HM Factory Inspectorate, a recommendation of the Factories Act of that year. When it was set-up there were four inspectors covering 3,000 textile mills!

Within the space of a decade, a Mines Inspectorate was established to investigate working conditions in Britain’ mines. Hugh Seymour Tremenheere became the country’s first Mine’s Inspector. Although his powers were limited, he was able to secure prosecutions and make recommendations for training and the reporting of fatal and serious accidents.

It took a further 60 years before the first female health & safety inspectors were appointed, thanks to campaigning by the Women’s Protective and Provident League and the London Trades Council, to mention but two. May Abraham and Mary Paterson were based in London and Glasgow respectively and earned an annual salary of £200. Their work in the early years mainly involvcd enforcing the Trucks Acts, enforcing health & safety in laundries and investigating the hours of employment for women. The Truck Acts replaced laws dating back to the mid 1400s where payment by masters of their men’s wages was made “wholly or in part with goods”. The new laws, consolidated into one Act in 1831 stated that “the entire amount of the wages earned by or payable to any artificer in any of the trades herein-after enumerated, in respect of any labour by him done in any such trade, shall be actually paid to such artificer in the current coin of this realm, and not otherwise;…”

The Quarries Act of 1894 brought health & safety and the enforcing and reporting provisions of notifying accidents to encompass all mining quarries. Before this, factory inspectors only had jurisdiction over quarries using steam power.


More to follow…

For more information on the history of the HSE, visit their website at www.hse.gov.uk


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