- (1) A person shall not be employed to lift, carry or move any load so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to him.
- (2) Subsection (1) of section fifty-six of the Factories Act, 1937, is hereby repealed.—[Mr. Piratin.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Piratin
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause, incidentally, would not be applicable unless one had been to a good canteen of the type which we have been discussing. The purpose of the Clause is to extend to all persons the provisions of 774 Section 56 of the principal Act, which forbids any young person from lifting, carrying or moving any load so heavy that it is likely to cause him injury. There is no general provision in the Act protecting workers in general from excessive weight lifting; yet it is a well-known fact—confirmed by the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories—that many industrial accidents, such as hernia and similar illnesses are the result of strain in weight lifting.
Subsection (2) gives the Minister power to make regulations, but these powers are seldom used. The Act was passed in 1937. Under Section 56—a very important Section—the Minister has for 11 years had power to introduce regulations relating to weight lifting for different industries and works. So far as I can ascertain, only three sets of regulations have been introduced to date—for the potteries, the woollen industries and flour mills. It is important for the Committee to know some of the features of these regulations. In the woollen industry, a man is permitted to lift a weight of 150 lbs.; that is to say, should he incur an accident in lifting a weight of 150 lbs., the employer or organiser of the factory incurs no liability within the terms of the Act, because he is entitled to ask the man to lift such a weight. A girl under 18 years of age may lift a weight of 50 lbs., and a boy under 16 may lift a similar weight.
We ought to be clear on these figures. A woman may lift a weight of 65 lbs. in a flour mill, but we know that sacks of flour are dead weights and are not easy to lift. Two women may jointly lift 140 lbs. An ordinary man could quite comfortably lift 150 lbs., but he could not go on hour after hour lifting such weights. The regulation does not limit the time during which that is to go on. If an employer asks a man to continue lifting those heavy weights and he refuses, the employer is entitled by law to dismiss him, and if the man goes to the labour exchange he can get no redress, as he would not be carrying out the job he was told to do. Many a lad of 15 can lift 50 lbs. but he cannot go on doing so for two hours in succession without incurring serious injury. Yet many a lad is likely to receive such orders. The rebels would say "No," and would end up in Parliament on the Labour Benches—I have read some of the biographies.
775 We ask that there shall be a review of weights to be lifted by adults and young people. The Minister should encourage the wider use of modern machinery, hoists and cranes. In discussing Clause 13, the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said that it was time there was a differentiation between women and young persons. In this matter of weight lifting there is no differentiation and the weight lifting maxima are laid down to cover young persons and women, who may be married, or unmarried, or about to have a child. The Minister should give the matter careful scrutiny. It is a case where modern science and equipment should be used so that these people are not used as coolies. I think this matter calls for review, and therefore we have put down this new Clause under the very inviting title of "Weight lifting." The main purpose is to prevent unnecessary strain of workers and to stimulate the use of modern machinery and equipment to do this work.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I would draw attention to the fact that this Clause is very vague and that the speech of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) was against certain regulations, and not against the terms of the Act itself. Regulations are in existence in one or two industries, for instance in the woollen worsted textiles, and they are under consideration for jute. Always in those circumstances consideration is given not only to the weight but to the bulk. A bag containing half a hundredweight of wool is different from a bag containing half a hundredweight of cement, or coal, and all these circumstances are taken into consideration. Under the existing Act, we have all the power which is being asked for here. In Section 56 (2)The Secretary of State may make special regulations prescribing the maximum weights which may be lifted, carried or moved by persons employed in factories"—persons, not young persons—and any such regulations may prescribe different weights in different circumstances and may relate either to persons generally or to any class of persons or to persons employed in any class or description of factory or in any process
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Piratin
Will the Minister explain why the word "young" is used in Subsection (1) of Section 56?
§ Mr. Isaacs
They are two different Subsections. The new Clause says:A person shall not be employed to lift, carry or move any load so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to him.While such a weight might be too heavy for one person, it may not be too heavy for another. The power in existing Acts covers all the points raised by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Piratin
My objection is twofold—first, to some of the regulations and details of them and, secondly, that although 11 years have passed since the Act was passed, regulations have only been introduced in three or four industries and regulations have not been introduced to back up Section 56.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I do not want to carry on a duologue with the hon. Member, but these things have been held up by the war. Regulations are made after consultation with employers and representatives of the workers in the industry concerned. The fact that only two regulations have been made does not mean that the Section is not effective, but it means that we have the power to make regulations and we will continue to make them. We are satisfied that we have more power and authority under existing legislation than we would have under the new Clause.
§ Mr. Piratin
What would be the effect of removing the word "young"? The Minister has said, in dealing with adult persons, that one person is stronger than another. That is true, of course, but the same applies to persons under 18 years of age, and it is a rather superficial argument in connection with people doing heavy work. It stands to reason that a non-muscular person would not do a day's work in the docks or in some other cartage job in which he has to load sack after sack of heavy materials. Therefore, I think that the provision proposed in this new Clause could well be adopted. If a workman is on the job with a man who is able to lift up to one cwt. quite easily and that workman says, "I do not think I can do that," there is nothing unreasonable in the employer saying, "Then you are no good for that particular job." That is fair and nothing can be done about it. Because there is this 777 differentiation in muscular power between one person and another, the law does not apply to persons other than young persons. I would be satisfied and prepared to withdraw the new Clause if the Minister would remove the word "young" from Section 56 (1).
§ Mr. Isaacs
Clause 56 (1) provides thata young person shall not be employed to lift, carry or move any loads so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to him.That is an over-riding authority. Under the next Subsection, the Secretary of State may prescribethe maximum weights which may be lifted, carried or moved by persons …The point is that we can say "That is too heavy for these young persons and is likely to cause them injury." In the case of adults we can say that they can lift up to a certain weight. We feel that by leaving those powers as they are at present provided in the respective Subsections we are given more latitude to deal with the problems than would be the case if the words were altered as suggested by the hon. Member.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.