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Factory Acts were introduced to protect working people from employers who permitted dangerous practices and environments in workplaces. The first Acts of 1809 and 1823 failed to include adequate enforcement clauses. In 1833 Lord Ashley (later earl of Shaftesbury) introduced the first effective law. It established an inspectorate with powers to enter premises and to require evidence of compliance with restrictions on the employment of women and children. This Act applied only to large textile factories. Acts of 1844, 1847, and 1863 extended the laws to other manufactures and included small workshops. Conditions in mines and quarries, brickfields, railways, shipping, alkali works, aircraft, and shops and warehouses were regulated separately. Concern about workers and the safeguarding of the general public were the subject of many pieces of legislation during the 19th and 20th cents. A coherent law relating to safety at work was not achieved until 1969 when the Health and Safety Executive was set up.
Ian John Ernest Keil
Factory Acts (in the UK) a series of laws regulating the operation of factories, designed to improve the working conditions of employees, especially women and children. The most important was that of 1833, which set a minimum age of 9 years and a maximum of eight hours a day for child employees and which also instituted inspectors to ensure compliance with these regulations.
factory acts: see labor law.