What was the factory act of 1833?

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tpod eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the Industrial Revolution took hold, thousands of factories were built across the country.  Since there was no real precedent for these factories, there weren't any laws to regulate them or to protect the workers.  Therefore, there were many accidents and deaths that occurred because of the dangerous machinery, long work hours, and poor treatment of workers.  The workers often included very young children who often suffered under long hours, difficult work, harsh punishments for mistakes, and serious and often life threatening bodily harmed caused by the machines.

Once investigations uncovered the dangerous conditions these children were working in, there was a movement to regulate the industry.  This movement was known as the "10 hour movement" since they were pushing for a reduced work day for children under the age of 16.  Of course, there was push back by factory owners who charged that regulation would cost them time and money. There were also some families who didn't want regulations because they needed their children to work to help support the family.  However, the reformers prevailed and The Factory Act of 1833 was passed with the goal of improving working conditions for these children.  

The Factory Act included the following provisions: no children under 9 could work in the factories, children aged 9 to 13 could work no more than 48 hours a week, children aged 9-13 could only work 8 hours a day, children between the ages of 13 and 18 could only work 12 hours a day, and children under the age of 13 had to receive 2 hours of schooling a day.  Perhaps the most important characteristic of the Factory Act was that it created a "inspectorate of factories", a group charged with ensuring that the new regulations were being followed.  Sadly, the group was much to small (only having four members) to handle the task, so the Act was not widely followed, however it started the precedent for the government oversight that was needed to ensure the safety of the workers.