Industrial Revolution working conditions were extremely dangerous for many reasons, namely the underdeveloped technology that was prone to breaking and even fires, and the lack of safety protocol. But it was dangerous particularly for reasons of economics: owners were under no regulations and did not have a financial reason to protect their workers.
With the invention of steam-powered machinery came the Industrial Revolution, a period when there was a boom in mass production of products. It started around 1760 in England and was characterized by a shift in population from rural areas to urban centers. Skilled tradesmen were no longer needed – factory owners wanted cheap labor and operating the machines didn’t require much skill. For this reason, they would often hire women and children, who worked at half the wages of men. There were no regulations to make the workplace a more pleasant place and people were easily replaceable, which is why the factory owners didn’t care.
Examples of Industrial Revolution Working Conditions
- Due to a high unemployment rate, workers were very easily replaceable and had no bargaining power with employers. There was an increase in population and landowners enclosed common village lands, forcing people from the country to go find work.
- Wages were very low, women and children received less than half the wages of men and had to work the same amount of time.
- There were no unions that could represent workers and the Combination Acts outlawed unionizing or protesting for better Industrial Revolution working condition
- Most people worked between 12 and 16 hours per day, six days a week, without any paid holidays or vacation.
- Safety hazards were everywhere, machines didn’t have any safety covers or fences and children as young as 5 years old were operating them. Iron workers worked in temperatures of 130 degrees and higher every day. Accidents on the job happened regularly.
- People did not have many break times, there was usually only one hour-long break per day
- Factories were dusty, dirty and dark – the only light source was sunlight that came in through a few windows. Because the machines ran on steam from fires, there was smoke everywhere. Many people ended up with eye problems and lung diseases.
- Small children had to work in coal mines without candles (if the family was too poor to buy candles) and were beaten by miners if they fell asleep. Young girls had to pull sledges or carts with coal all day long, deforming their pelvic bones and causing a lot of deaths during childbirth.
- Children did not get any sunlight, physical activity (apart from work) or education, which led to deformities and a shorter than average length.
- Should someone get injured on the job and be unable to work, they would be abandoned, wages would be stopped immediately and no medical attendance would be given to them. Injured workers usually lost their jobs and did not get any compensation.
- Unlike the country life they were used to, work in a factory was fast-paced and focused on production. No chit chat was allowed and those who still had family in rural areas could not head home to help with the harvest if they wanted to keep their jobs.
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