+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


UPWARDS of two thousand accidents in
factoriesbeing the usual averageoccurred
in the half year, last reported upon by the
factory inspectors. Of this number, all but
about a hundred were not only preventible,
but such as millowners are bound by law to
prevent. The law compels these gentlemen to
fence their machinery; but, in an unfortunately
large number of instances, the obligation is
resisted. As a consequence of this resistance,
one and twenty persons have, in six
months, been drawn into machinery, and
slain by every variety of torture, from
breaking on the wheel to being torn limb
from limb. One hundred and fifty working
people have had torn away from them, during
the same six months, a part of the right hand
that earns their bread. A hundred and
thirty two have lost part of the left hand.
Eight and twenty have lost arms or legs; two
hundred and fifty have had their bones
cracked in their bodies: more than a hundred
have suffered fracture or other serious damage
to the head and face; and one thousand two
hundred and seventy two have been painfully,
but not dangerously, torn, cut, or bruised.
The price of life is twenty pounds; and lower
damage costs but a trifle to the person whose
neglect has inflicted it. What it costs to the
sufferer, all may judge who ever read London
police reports, and meet from time to time
with the sad stories of men, women and boys,
whohaving been mutilated in a factory and
rendered useless to the owner thereofare
pitilessly thrown upon the world.

It has been proved by the experience of
millowners who have obeyed the dictates of
humanity, that every part of the machinery
they use can be securely fenced without
producing a great fire of Manchester, or causing
the total ruin of Great Britain as a
manufacturing country. The Home Secretary
has, therefore, since we last called attention
to this subject,* rescinded every compromise
between right and convenience that was, a
year ago, admitted by authority; and orders
that henceforth the law shall be enforced to the
utmost. Unfenced machinery is not to be held
to be innocent until it has spilt "much more
blood;" but, shall be made innocent before it can
have had time to crack a bone, or crush a body.
Instantly a large number of millowners fly to
the platform, deliver and hear angry
orations, form deputations, and declare
themselves a slaughtered interest.

* In Volume IX., page 224.

At a great meeting held in Manchester,
when this increased care for the lives of work-
people was threatened, one speaker drew an
awful picture of the conflagration that would
follow. "Suppose," said he, "the mill-owners
were to go home and set to work to case all
their gearing; in many of the mills miles of
casing (wooden casing of course) would be
required, and the effect would be that, within
this casing, a large amount of cotton flake
and dust would find its way [hear, hear].
This would more or less interfere with the
oiling of the machinery, and a spark,
communicating to the fibres inside this casing,
would inevitably lead to the destruction of
the whole mill [hear, hear, hear]; the soft
fibre would ignite like gunpowder, the fire
would pass from shaft to shaft, and it would
be found that the moment the fire was put
out in one place it would break forth in
another and render extinction impossible.
The wood casing too, when ignited, would fall
in burning fragments and set fire to every
thing else." Upon this magnificent picture
of ruin, which Martin might have been
tempted to paint, Mr. Howell, one of the
Inspectors, comments by stating the result of
proper fencing in a large factory at Hyde,
near Manchester. "In that factory," he
says, "several hundred feet of horizontal
shafting, having been enclosed in hexagonal
wood casing under the supervision of Mr.
Robert Hall, the manager, a length of the
casing which had been fixed more than six
calendar months was, at my request, taken
down while I was in the factory, in order to
ascertain the fact whether any cotton flake
or dust had insinuated itself within the
casing; and it was satisfactory to find that
the inside of the casing was as free from the
insidious intrusion of cotton flake and dust
as it was when first put up."

Then it is said that victims have been
cautioned, and that they were heedless of
instructions. Assume this to be the case, though
it is not true that every accident results, or,
that one half of the accidents result, from
carelessness on the part of the sufferer. A