Unsafe conditions in the textile industry

Written by allison mccalman
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Ever since it's inception during the Industrial Revolution, the textile industry has had a history of unsafe working conditions. Over the years, modern-day textile factories have replaced the cotton mills of the Industrial Revolution era with growing demands for cheap labour. Although some regulatory actions have been employed to address the hazardous working environment and unethical practices in the industry; many textile industry workers are still subject to slave-like working conditions.

Unhealthy Working Environment

The Industrial Revolution occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries and was an era that ushered in the textile industry. Working conditions during this period were abysmal and workers were subjected to long 13-hour shifts at the cotton mills in Europe. The air was very hot and humid with temperatures of up to 26.7 degrees C. Many workers became sick and suffered from lung and breathing problems due to the unhealthy mix of cotton dust with hot humidity in the air; which created a stifling breathing atmosphere.

Unsafe Machines & Long Hours

Unsafe working conditions were aggravated by unsafe machinery and extremely long hours of work. During the Industrial Revolution adult workers were required to work from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. while children had a somewhat shorter work day. Children ages 8 to 13 worked for 6.5 hours and children 13 to 18 worked for up to 10.5 hours daily. There was a breakfast break period at 8 a.m. that lasted for half an hour and a lunch break at 12 p.m. for an hour. The machinery was also very noisy and since workers were not required to protect their ears many of them became deaf. The machinery was bulky and safety was unregulated; consequently many accidents occurred and some were more fatal than others. Workers suffered from extreme tiredness, tuberculosis, deafness, eye inflammation, deafness, headaches, stomach ailments and cancer of the mouth.

Exploitation & Abuse

The modern-day textile industry thrives on exploiting textile workers in poor countries, such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Honduras, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Low pay, unsafe and an unsanitary working environments are all typical characteristics of a textile factories in these countries. Workers are often forced to work for extended overtime hours in addition to their already demanding work schedule. Additionally they are often uncompensated for all of their overtime work. Many workers earn less than 60p a day and are treated inhumanely in most factories where they are only given a half hour lunch break and not even allowed to take a bathroom break. Workers are constantly pressured, threatened or fired by their superiors if they fail to meet mandatory production goals.

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