The Industrial Revolution was a time of great progress. Large factories emerged that could mass produce goods at a low price. People flocked from their farms in the country to the cities to work in factories, mills, and mines. Despite such progress, life was not easy as a worker during the Industrial Revolution. Working conditions were poor and sometimes dangerous.
Unlike today, workers during the Industrial Revolution were expected to work long hours or they would lose their jobs. Many workers had to work 12 hour days, six days a week. They didn't get time off or vacations. If they got sick or were injured on the job and missed work, they were often fired.
A lot of the jobs during the Industrial Revolution were dangerous. There weren't any government regulations to help protect workers. Workers sometimes had to work closely with powerful machines that had no safety features. It was not uncommon to lose a finger or a limb. Workers in mines were subject to tiny tunnels that could easily collapse and trap them underground.
A lot of the facilities where people worked were unsafe. Typically the lighting was bad making it difficult to see. Many factories and mines were filled with dust that not only made it difficult to breathe, but could cause diseases including cancer. Other places were unsafe fire hazards where they dealt with flammable chemicals or fireworks. The smallest spark could set off a blaze or explosion.
A lot of factories used child labor in unsafe conditions. Factories hired children because they worked for low wages. In some cases, they hired small children because they could get fit into places adults couldn't. Children were subjected to the same long work weeks and poor conditions as adults. Many children were killed or got sick working in factories.
The living conditions in crowded cities weren't any better than the working conditions. As more and more people moved into the cities, large slums formed. These places were dirty and unsanitary. Entire families sometimes lived in a single room apartment. With people living so close, diseases spread rapidly and there was little medical care to help them get well.
New Government Regulations
In the late stages of the Industrial Revolution, workers began to organize into unions in order to fight for better and safer working conditions. The government also became involved. New regulations were imposed to shorten the work week and to make factories safer. Today, the government keeps a close eye on businesses to make sure that workers are safe.
Interesting Facts about Working Conditions During the Industrial Revolution
In 1860, the five story Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts collapsed killing an estimated 145 workers. The poorly constructed building had been packed to the upper floors with heavy machinery.
Factories were often very hot during the summer and freezing during the winter.
One of the first labor laws passed was the Factory Act of 1819 passed in Britain. It made it illegal to employ children under 9 years old. It was seldom enforced, however.
As workers organized, they began to go on strike (not work) in order to demand better working conditions and hours.
Some early laws actually made it illegal for workers to unionize.