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Online history of occupational safety and health

New website charts and preserves more than two centuries of UK industrial history

A LAW stipulating that women and children aged 13–18 could only work 63h per week in factories and another one setting out the first compensation structure for injured workers are listed on a new website that charts more than 200 years of industrial history.

These two laws, from 1847 and 1897 retrospectively, are among many mentioned on the website, which shows how the UK has become one of the safest places in the world to work.


Set to become an invaluable resource for students, academics, health and safety professionals and others with a general interest in industrial history, the History of Occupational Safety and Health website – at – sets out developments from the 1802 Factory Act to various regulation changes made by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) last year.

Launched on 28 April to coincide with the World Day of Health and Safety at Work, which is also Workers’ Memorial Day, the new site has taken shape over the past three years in a project led by the National Occupational Safety and Health Committee (NOSHC) of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s occupational safety and health policy adviser, said: ‘Contrary to what some might believe, the management of safety and health at work is not a 21st century phenomenon. With roots stretching all the way back to the turn of the 19th century, this is an area at the heart of the UK’s industrial history.

‘Numerous pieces of legislation have come on to the scene over more than 200 years, covering a wide array of different industries, but their shared aim has been to ensure that workers can go home to their families safe and healthy at the end of each day.

‘It is important to value the history of occupational safety and health, not just to honour its pioneers, but to develop a sense of perspective about what needs to be done today to continue to tackle preventable harms associated with work, not just in Britain but around the world.’

Latest figures from the HSE show that 148 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2012/13, excluding those who died from occupational disease and in work-related road accidents.

By way of contrast, in 1915, as production gathered pace at the start of World War I, more than 1,500 workers were killed in accidents in factories alone. This figure excluded accidents in construction, mines and agriculture.

The new website provides a wealth of information for those wishing to track the development of occupational safety and health. Covered on the site are: a brief history of health and safety law, written by David Eves CB, the HSE’s former deputy director general and chief inspector; a timeline; details of government reviews, legislation, standards, inspectorates and notable people/organisations; lectures; a reading list; training; and related museums.

The project has been made possible thanks to support from Sheila Pantry of Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd, the former head of the HSE’s Information Services, David Eves CB and Dr Peter Waterhouse, past president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Anyone with contributions to make to the new website should contact Sheila Pantry by email at: [email protected]


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