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Later factory legislation

The 1833 Act was a pioneering piece of legislation, and set the pace for further reform. This did, however, prove a difficult process as many employers found ways to evade the new regulations.

Safety legislation

In 1844, Parliament passed a further Factories Act which in effect was the first health and safety act in Britain. All dangerous machinery was to be securely fenced off, and failure to do so regarded as a criminal offence. No child or young person was to clean mill machinery while it was in motion. The Act limited the hours worked by children to six and a half, with three hours' schooling, and set a maximum 12-hour day for young people between 13 and 18. The 12-hour rule also applied to women.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper continued his campaign for a ten-hour day for women and young people aged between 13 and 18, which finally achieved its objective in the 1847 Factory Act. However, it had to be followed up by further Acts to remove ambiguities regarding definition of the working day that were still being exploited by factory owners and employers.

Factories and Workshops

Another significant measure, the Factory Acts (Extension) Act of 1867, took the important step of applying existing legislation to all other factories where 50 or more people were employed. It also brought regulation to other specified industries regardless of numbers employed, namely, blast furnaces, iron and steel mills, glass, paper making, tobacco, printing and bookbinding.

The 1867 Act was therefore a further landmark measure in bringing some improvement, for the first time, to the working conditions of labouring people in factories and workshops throughout the country. But since the Act made so many more places of work liable to official inspection, it proved difficult to enforce.

In further Factory Acts, in 1878, 1891 and 1895, Parliament placed additional limits on the employment of women and children in factories, and considerably extended earlier safety regulations. The 1891 Act raised the minimum age for employment in factories to 11.

Did you know?

The Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 established for the first time the principle that persons injured at work should receive limited compensation without having to prove that the employer was at fault


You can access a biography of

Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th earl of Shaftesbury

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Related information

The House of Commons debates the Second Reading of the Factories Bill 1844