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Work and Health, Term 2, Lecture 6


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Title: Work and Health, Term 2, Lecture 6

Work and Health, Term 2, Lecture 6
From Cradle to Grave
Lecture Outline and Themes
  • Effect of industrialisation on health (C19th)
  • Relationship between working conditions and
    health (factory system, individual trades)
  • How successful were the measures taken to solve
    health problems caused by industrialisation?
  • Can work be good for health?
  • Work and life cycle prime of life/middle
    working years, but for much of C19th also old and
    young people.
  • Work is one of biggest influences on the health
    of an individual and family.

Population Urbanisation

  • 1800 1850
  • Population of Britain 11m 21m
  • London 1m 2.4m
  • Manchester 25,000 (1775) 400,000
  • urban dwellers c.50 1851
  • c.80 1901

Crowded and insanitary conditions for the
labouring poor resulting from industrialisation
Poverty and squalor - Blue Gate Fields, 1872.
Taken from London A Pilgrimage by Blanchard
Jerrold and Gustave Doré.
Contemporary Accounts (1830s)Frederick Engels
Manchester and Charles Thackrah on dwellings of
the poor in Leeds
  • Everywhere the heaps of debris, refuse, and
    offal standing pools for gutters, and stench
    which alone would make it impossible for a human
    being in any degree civilised to live in such a
    district. (Engels, 1830s)
  • I saw, or thought I saw, a degenerate race -
    human beings stunted, enfeebled, and depraved -
    men and women that were not to be aged -
    children that were never to be healthy adults.
    (Thackrah, 1832)

Contemporary Accounts
  • Charles Thackrah, The Effects of the Principal
    Arts, Trades and Professions, and of Civic States
    and habits of Living, on Health and Longevity
    (1831). First to write on relationship between
    work/different trades and health
  • J. P. Kay, The Moral and Physical Condition of
    the Working Classes employed in the Cotton
    Manufacture in Manchester (1832)
  • P.Gaskell, The Manufacturing Population of
    England, Its Moral, Social and Physical Condition
  • Edwin Chadwick, Report on the Sanitary Condition
    of the Labouring Population (1842)
  • Dr Calvery Holland, Diseases of the Lungs from
    Mechanical Causes and Inquiries into the
    Condition of the Artisans exposed to the
    inhalation of dust (1843) (Sheffield physician)

Industrialisation - Optimists
  • Industrialisation allowed Britain to escape from
    population pressure on limited resources
  • First industrial nation prestige of Britain
  • Belief in continual progress socially,
    economically will raise the standards of living
    for all
  • Measurable by rising incomes, falling mortality.
    Ill effects have been exaggerated
  • Pessimists rely on impressionistic evidence of
    horror stories

Industrialisation Pessimists (e.g. E.P.
  • Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation caused a
    drastic deterioration in living and working
  • Economic growth did not justify this
    exploitation of working classes by ruling elite
  • Children and women in particular exploited by
    industrialisation, and people continued to work
    well into old age. Retirement a relatively new

The Factory System Discipline and Danger (Derek
Fraser, Welfare State, pp.12-13.)
  • Discipline For 12 mortal hours does the
    leviathan of machinery toil on with vigour
    undiminished and with pace unslackened and the
    human machines must keep pace with him. What
    signify languor, sickness, disease? The
    pulsations of the physical monster continue and
    his human agents must drag after him.
  • Danger Unfenced machinery took its toll of
    fingers hair and loose clothes which, often
    because of fatigue, were allowed to fall into
    what the novelist Francis Trollope called the
    ceaseless whirring of a million hissing wheels,
    and the long hours of standing and bending
    produced the characteristic weak legs and arched
    back of the former child operative.
  • Morality Factories and especially mines were
    corrupting influences upon young children, who
    soon adopted the licentious morals of their young
    adult colleagues.

Discourses of youth, morality, poverty,
industrialization and race all combine here...
  • Thousands of little children, both male and
    female, but principally female, from seven to
    fourteen years of age, are daily compelled to
    labour from six oclock in the morning to seven
    in the evening, with only - Britons, blush while
    you read it! - with only thirty minutes allowed
    for eating and recreation. Poor infants! Ye are
    indeed sacrificed at the shrine of avarice,
    without even the solace of the Negro slave ye
    are no more than he is, free agents ye are
    compelled to work as long as the necessity of
    your needy parents may require, or the
    cold-blooded avarice of your worse than barbarian
    masters may demand! Ye live in the boasted land
    of freedom, and fell and mourn that ye are
    slaves, and slaves without the only comfort which
    the Negro has.
  • Yorkshire Slavery, Richard Oastler to Leeds
    Mercury 16 Oct 1830
  • (From Fraser, Welfare State, pp.254-5)

Saltaire, West Yorkshire Titus Salts new
industrial community, c.1850
Robert Owen, New Lanark
  • 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act
  • maximum 12 hour day for pauper apprentices
  • 1819 Peels Act
  • Forbad children under 9 from working in cotton
  • children over 9 were limited to a 12 hour day
  • 1833 Factory Act (textile industry only)
  • Minimum age of 9 in cotton mills
  • 9-13 Maximum 8 hour day
  • 13-18 Maximum12 hour day
  • 1842 Mines Act
  • Excluded women and children under 10
  • 1844 Factory Act
  • Allowed children of 8 but only 6.5 hours
  • 1867 Factory Act Extension Act - (premises over
    50 people)
  • Minimum age of 10
  • 10-14 Half day working
  • 14-18 and women, maximum 10 hour day

Impact of Legislation?
  • The general rule - a rule not more beneficial to
    the capitalist than to the labourer - is that
    contracts shall be free and that the state shall
    not interfere between the master and the workman.
    (Although) This is the general rule there is an
    exception. Children cannot protect themselves and
    are therefore entitled to the protection of the
  • ( Derek Fraser, Welfare State, p.21)

Metal grinders of Sheffield (Thackrah pp.92-5.)
  • Life Expectancy It appears, that in 1822, out
    of 2,500 grinders, there were not 35 who had
    reached the age of 50, and perhaps not double
    that number who had reached the age of 45.
  • Industrial Diseases the symptoms of the
    grinders disease are difficulty of breathing...
    sonorous cough... spitting of blood...
    expectoration of mucus, containing often dust,
    and , in the latter stage, of fetid and purulent
    matter muddiness of complexion anxiety of
    countenance pulse quickened... sweats and
    diarrhoea emaciation - in a word the signs of
    slow but certainly fatal consumption.
  • Different conditions for different categories of
    worker? Remedies recommended by Dr Knight
    Dusting the machines... great reduction in the
    time of labour... use of wet stones as much as
    possible... large flues to be laid on the floor
    for ventilation... fork-grinding to be confined
    to criminals.

Matchmakers and phossy jaw
  • Phossy jaw, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw
    occupational disease caused by white phosphorus
    used in matchmaking industry C19thC/e.C20th
  • Symptoms toothache/swelling of gums followed by
    abscesses/death of bone/brain damage and death
  • White phosphorus active ingredient matches up
    to 1910.
  • London matchgirls strike 1888
  • William Booth (Salvation Army) opened matchmaking
    factory in 1891 using red phosphorus.
  • White phosphorus prohibited internationally 1906
    and legislation in individual nations followed.

Phossy jaw
More Legislation
  • 1878 Factory and Workshops Act
  • banned women and children from working with white
    lead and phosphorous dipping.
  • 1883 Preventing Lead Poisoning Act
  • set standards for ventilation, lavatories, meal
    rooms, baths, protective clothing and respirators
  • 1896 Dr Arthur Whitelegge
  • appointed Chief Inspector of Factories. Emphasis
    on industrial disease rather than sanitation
  • 1891 Factory Act
  • transferred sanitary control away from factory
    inspectors to local authorities.
  • 1895 Factory and Workshop Act
  • required notification of industrial diseases for
    first time
  • See Antony S. Wohl, Endangered Lives (1984) for
    more details on public health and occupational
    health legislation.

State Intervention
  • Idea from c.1870s that active management
    including of conditions and health necessary to
    manage productive labour (see Steve Sturdy)
  • Reform delivered unevenly and very localised
  • Resistance to state interference though gradually
    implemented reforms
  • Humanitarian concerns campaigns
  • Gender and protective model (motherhood) see
    Barbara Harrison
  • Limitations of intervention?
  • Supported capitalists - by protecting children
    and women- the adult male worker was left
  • Patriarchal system - by excluding women from
    areas of work it supported sexual segregation of
    the labour market and gender inequalities in wage
    rates and access to work
  • Some workers traded off earnings against health
    or were resistant themselves to employer or state
    intervention in health at work

Turn of 20th century women and work
  • Womens work opposed due to race issues damage
    of industrial labour/unfitted women for
  • - reduced physical capacity for childbearing
    breastfeeding more impractical detrimental to
    moral fibre of society if mothers not at home
    with young children
  • Womens work not necessarily damaging but worked
    long hours e.g. as chars, factories, shops,
    restaurants (home workers/sweated labour)
  • Yet extra money important to families. Textile
    districts of West Yorkshire infant death rate
    lower than e.g. South Wales and Durham where
    women less likely to work
  • Conflicting evidence Birmingham 1909-10, babies
    better chance of reaching first birthday if
    mothers worked in Glasgow same period high IMR
    related to mothers working up to delivery.

Early 20th century
  • Small children also continued to contribute to
    economy delivery boys, servants, domestic
  • Half-timers/little mothers/boy labour problem
  • 1909 Trades Boards Act minimum wage sweated
    trades, though condition remained notorious
  • 1901 Factory and Workshop Act women and children
    still permitted to work 60 hours a week, up to 12
    hours at a stretch. Many factories fell below
    conditions set for ventilation, drainage,
    heating, etc
  • 1840 Factory Inspectors appointed, 1893 first
    female inspectors slowly expanding
  • Workmens compensation response to work-related
    ill-health, prompted by organised labour
    (accidents and ill health not responsibility of
    worker but employer)

1st World War
  • By end of C19th cluster of legislation to project
    men and women in the workplace, though much
    ignored or not properly implemented smaller
    workshops harder to supervise
  • Impact of 1st WW War emergency. Factory Acts
    relaxed, labour shortage, new machinery meant
    safety compromised
  • Highlighted womens health issues, due to
    drafting in of large numbers of women into
  • Munitions highlighted specific dangers. Health
    of Munition Workers Committee concern with
    hazards, fatigue, etc.
  • Role of welfare supervisors - moral as well as
    health imperatives
  • Later stages of war recognised good health of
    workers crucial welfare provision extended e.g.

Munitions work
Interwar years
  • Standards still low, worsened in Depression
    filthy conditions, health hazards, noise, risk of
  • 1937 Factory Act raised standards of safety,
    health and welfare
  • Large, well-organised and successful firms
    increasingly improved welfare services, including
    health provisions
  • Industrial medicine emerges as part of industrial
    welfare factory potentially a site of health
    (see Vicky Long). Interest in relationship health
    and productivity.
  • Those in work liable to poor conditions and
    health risks but also those out of work
    poverty, poor diet and demoralisation (Pilgrim
    Trust Men Without Work 1938).
  • See also Londons Pulse (MOH reports, Wellcome

Bournville village and factory
2nd World War
  • Safety, health and welfare at work a priority
  • Ernest Bevin (General Secretary Transport Workers
    Union) appointed Minister of Labour and National
    Service 1940
  • Factories (Medical and Welfare Services) Order
    July 1940 extended medical supervision, welfare
    supervision, nursing and first aid.
  • Workplace becomes place of health promotion
    posters, films, leaflets on food safety, hygiene,
    spitting and TB.
  • Provision of workers canteens extended
  • Research into absenteeism highlighted strain of
    war, lowering of physical fitness, stress

Employment, unemployment and health
  • Working class suffered disproportionately from
    unhealthy working conditions and unemployment
  • Workplace itself increasingly vigilant and also a
    site of good health practices
  • Intensification of work and new forms of
    organisation lead to fatigue and stress (replaced
    risk to physical health/accidents/poor
    environmental conditions)
  • Relationship between depression, recession and
    health anxiety, poor standard of living, risky
    jobs. Unemployed appear to have worse health,
    higher risk of suicide and death
  • Strong relationship between mental health and
    employment work actually good for health

Modern Records Centre
  • If this topic interests you, then you should
    visit the Modern Records Centre on campus, which
    houses the largest collection of Trade Union
    material in the UK occupational health, women
    and health at work, maternity, material on
    individual trades etc.