Legislation regulating working conditions and safety standards for coalminers in Britain from 1842. After the nationalization of the coal industry in 1946, the National Coal Board was responsible for ensuring adequate safety standards and proper working conditions for miners. In the coal strikes of the 1970s and 1980s, the withdrawal of a certification of safety was often as crucial as the withdrawal of labour.
Conditions in the mines
In 1840 Lord Shaftesbury
persuaded Parliament to set up a Royal Commission to investigate conditions in the mines. Its report, published in 1842, found brutality, accidents, long hours, associated lung diseases, and horrific conditions of work for both hewers (the men who cut the coal) and hurriers (the girls and boys who pushed the tubs to the shaft). It was the first government report to use pictures, and it deeply shocked the public, who were particularly alarmed by the plight of the young trappers (who shut and opened the doors down the mine), the nakedness of males and females working together, and what was seen as the lack of religion or morality among the young workers.
The Mines Act of 1842 prohibited the employment of females and boys below the age of 10. It also appointed inspectors to see that the provisions of the act were enforced. Inspection of mines was strengthened in 1850 when inspectors were given permission to go underground to investigate conditions, and a Royal School of Mines was established the following year to train inspectors. In 1860 the lower limit for the age of boys working in the mines was raised to 12. Various safety measures were introduced in 1872, including a requirement that managers of mines be correctly trained and certified. The working day was limited to eight hours in 1908, and reduced further to seven and a half hours in 1930.
© RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.