Consolidating fire departments
The narrative that follows has been based largely on Inspectors’ reports, in particular the Annual Report of HM Chief Inspector of Factories for the year 1932 which commemorated the first 100 years of the work of HM Inspectors, and information available on the web site of the Health and Safety Executive and other sources (listed), including the author’s and colleagues’ memories of their years in the Inspectorate.
The seeds of state intervention to correct social ills were sown during the reign of Elizabeth 1 by the Poor Laws, which originated in attempts to alleviate hardship arising from widespread poverty.
Responding to calls for remedial action from philanthropists and some of the more enlightened employers, in 1802 Sir Robert Peel, himself a mill owner, introduced a Bill to Parliament with the worthy aim of improving their conditions.Amid widespread unrest, demands were being made for Parliamentary reform and fairer representation of the people.Aside from that, shocking evidence was emerging of serious physical and moral harm suffered by children and young persons in the cotton textile mills.It required employers to keep mill premises clean and healthy by twice yearly washings with quicklime, to ensure there were sufficient windows to admit fresh air, and to supply ‘apprentices’ (the aforementioned paupers and orphans) with ‘sufficient and suitable’ clothing and accommodation for sleeping. Their work was to be limited to twelve hours per day and night work was forbidden.