§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Marshall
I beg to move, in page 18, line 24, at the end, to insert:(2) Where through any process carried on in any factory or otherwise the floor of any workroom is apt to become slippery effective steps shall be taken to prevent accidents.The Amendment is self-explanatory. In my opinion it deals with an important point. There are in industry many processes in which men work with acids and oils very close to dangerous wells and vats. I think it is necessary that they should be prevented from falling down on slippery floors and other obstacles which may be there. I should like the Clause to have been more widely drawn, and to have included all dangerous floors. In the great steel centres men have to carry molten steel in what are called shanks on their shoulders, and if the foundry floor is full of boxes and obstacles that floor is dangerous, although it may not he slippery. If the Under-Secretary will indicate that the Government agree with the principle, and will give the Clause a wider application in another place, we should be perfectly satisfied. But even as the Clause is drawn, with its limited application, there is an overwhelming case for the Amendment. Take a rolling mill. It is possible for men to slip on the floor, and when that happens there is a very distressing accident. In the steel industry very often dangerous acids 430 get on the floor and cause serious accidents.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
I beg to second the Amendment.
This Clause deals with preventable accidents of all sorts. It says that all floors shall be of sound construction and properly maintained with a view to avoiding accidents. In my own experience a number of accidents occur each year through persons slipping on floors which have got slippery by reason of the particular industry carried on in the factory. Take the confectionery industry, where jam and sugar get on the floor. I have known cases of girls carrying hot water and slipping on the floor and being scalded. I am certain that this is the most fruitful source of accidents in the confectionery industry. I hope the Under-Secretary will be sympathetic to the Amendment and introduce something in the Bill which will prevent what I regard as perfectly preventable accidents.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
The importance of the Amendment may not be apparent at first sight. Those who have had an experience of factory life, or who have visited factories for the purpose of ascertaining the cause of accidents, will know that there are a number of trades and industries the nature of which prevents the floors from being anything but safe. Quite frankly I do not know how the Amendment would be operated; I do not know how you are going to prevent a floor getting into a slippery state. I should like to make a suggestion. The confectionery trade has been mentioned. I have in mind an occasion at a jam-making factory where in the course of the work water was spilt on the floor, over which men were carrying huge vessels of boiling jam. One of the men slipped and the whole contents of some gallons of boiling jam went over his legs. He was injured for life.
I remember an accident quite recently in a laundry. The water from the boilers was allowed to escape along a. trough. The floors were wet and a girl passing slipped into the boiling water which had just been set free. In the comparatively new industry of cellulose-spraying it is impossible to avoid the cellulose getting on the floor, and the floor is made slippery. There is only one way by which 431 things can be improved—I do not know how they are going to be prevented—and that is by insisting that in this type of work the floor shall be corrugated or roughened so as to minimise the possibility of slipping. It is not a popular thing with many employers to have floors which are difficult to clean; hence the reason why many of them are not corrugated and chipped. It means that the cleaning of the floors takes up so much more time. But it is the duty of this House to have regard to the possibility of avoiding accidents and to take what steps are possible to minimise them, even if they cannot be entirely prevented.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I think all hon. Members svmpathise with the Amendment, but as it stands it is merely a pious resolution such as we get from our constituents on many political matters. If effective steps could be taken to prevent accidents, that is the ideal of all of us, but it would be better still if we could be told how this is to be done. The matter of dangerous floors and the examples we have been given can be dealt with under the wide powers which the Minister takes to himself under the Bill, but it is impossible, surely, to define what is a slippery floor. A floor may be slippery to a man wearing rubber boots and perfectly safe to a man wearing leather boots—and vice versa. I hope that such a slipshod, and to my mind quite ineffective, proposal will not be put into the Bill.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Everybody agrees with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that slipperiness is a very undesirable feature in connection with floors, although I agree with the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) that it rather depends upon the man as to how much he slips, and if I may say so, a man as powerfully built as the hon. Member for Sowerby is more likely to slip than some others. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there is already in Clause 25, Subsection (1), a general provision that all floors shall be properly maintained. I think hon. Members will agree that that provision goes a certain distance to meet the case. I was interested to notice that both the hon. Member for Sowerby and 432 the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) commented upon the phrase in the Amendment:effective steps shall be taken to prevent accidents.My right hon. Friend and I were criticised yesterday for the vagueness of a proposal that we brought forward, but that proposal did not begin to be vague when compared with the phrase to which I have referred. I am advised that it would be a most unwise step to insert in a Statute which creates criminal offences a requirement which gives the occupiers of the factories only the most vague indications as to what they are to do. Slipperiness is undoubtedly produced in some cases by the nature of the process employed. It arises from different causes and can be dealt with only by a variety of means. We consider that it would be better to leave the factory occupiers to deal with the matter as part of the ordinary safety-first arrangements in the factory.
The methods of dealing with slipperiness are very diverse. Sometimes sand is sprinkled on the floor. In another peculiar case, that of a dye printing works, of which I know, it is extraordinarily difficult to deal with the slipperiness. The firm, which is an up-to-date one, tried three or four methods, and have now had to resort to the wearing of special footwear. Sometimes the situation is met by providing handrails and so on. We feel that the best way of dealing with this question would not be to have a vague general requirement, which would not do very much good, but to leave it to the Secretary of State, under Clause 59, when making regulations for dangerous trades, to insert provisions dealing with slipperiness of floors. My right hon. Friend has these powers already and has used them. For example, in the Dock Regulations, regulation 36 (c) provides for the use of sand on slippery stages, and the Woodworking Machine Regulations require that chips and other material shall be cleaned away from the neighbourhood of machines and that some type of non-slippery flooring shall be used. There are in the Home Office Industrial Museum specimens of non-slippery tiles, of carborundum powder glued by a special process to the floor, and so on. It would be useless to lay down a general, vague and almost certainly ineffective provision, and I feel 433 that it would be better to deal with the matter, as my right hon. Friend can, under the regulations to be issued under Clause 59.
§ Mr. Silkin
If the hon. Gentleman informs me that he intends to look into this problem with a view to making regulations under the Bill to deal with it, I shall be happy to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Do I understand that the regulations are to be only for those trades that are regarded as dangerous? Slipperiness of floors is often one of the dangerous factors in trades that are otherwise not considered dangerous. Therefore, if the Under-Secretary restricts his promise to dangerous trades only, I think it will be rather unfortunate. Perhaps he will be good enough to give a further explanation.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I would not like any misunderstanding to exist as to the phrases which the hon. Gentleman is using; otherwise, when we look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, we may find that we have accepted assurances which we thought were much wider than they really were. The hon. Gentleman has used some limiting phrases such as "slipperiness in an extreme form," and he might say, for instance, that a chocolate factory was not covered by that assurance. May we understand definitely that the question of slipperiness will be looked into in the case of all trades and not only in extreme cases or in dangerous trades? It seems to me that many unnecessary slipping accidents would be avoided if some general provision were made with regard to slipperiness.
§ Mr. Lloyd
In reply to the hon. Lady, we have been examining Clause 59, and there is no doubt about my right hon. Friend's powers under it. The hon. Lady and the House will understand that we cannot give an undertaking with regard to particular trades without special examination. My right hon. Friend will make a special examination of certain trades from the point of view of this aspect of the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.