This report into a coroner’s hearing on the death of a 16-year-old factory worker illustrates some of the most common dangers of industrial production in Britain in the mid-19th century. The deceased is described as having died of ‘lockjaw’ (tetanus poisoning) having got her hand trapped in the cogs of a cotton weaving machine. A doctor amputated her finger but could not stop the infection.
Industrial accidents of this sort were very common, particularly in textile factories, where machines tended to be packed very close together with no guardrails or protective enclosures. Even leaving aside industrial accidents, cottonworks in particular were a generally deleterious environment: the moist air and ambient dust causing lung damage after long exposure, with the noise of the weaving machines often causing occupational deafness.