‘Do it Yourself’: PPE in the absence of institutional provision in Lancashire Cotton Manufacturing Industry

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


The health perils associated with working in the Lancashire cotton mills are well recorded. Dust and dirt filled the atmosphere causing respiratory problems including byssinosis. Operatives faced additional respiratory problems including tuberculosis, bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as industrial deafness. Into the 1950s and beyond, manufacturers remained reluctant to invest in new technologies, including those that could have alleviated some of the health risks without slowing production. Instead, workers had to manage the unhealthy working environment themselves. Consequently, they adopted numerous strategies to prevent or manage the hazards of the workplace. Starting with the peak years of the Lancashire cotton industry in the decades surrounding 1900, through the decades of industrial decline after the Great War, this paper traces some of the strategies, the DIY PPE, Lancashire workers’ utilized to manage the unhealthy working environment. It argues that workers’ individual and collective innovation and strategies enabled them to manage their health and ill health, but which also enabled many to remain working in the industry.
Period18 Nov 2022
Event titleHistorical Threads: New Perspectives on Textile History and Material Culture
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational