HC Deb 06 March 1963 vol 673 cc440-6

No young person employed to work in premises to which this Act applies shall clean any machinery used as, or forming, part of the equipment of the premises if doing so exposes him to risk of injury from a moving part of that or any adjacent machinery.—[Mr. Hare.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Hare

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Again, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I wonder whether the House would find it convenient to discuss two consequential Amendments: In Clause 16, page 9, line 43, leave out subsection (3) and in Clause 77, page 52, line 33, at end insert: 'young person' means a person who has not attained the age of eighteen".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker


Mr. Hare

The two Amendments are consequential upon the new Clause, which deals with young persons. Young persons are mentioned also in Clause 16, and to save repeating the definition in both Clauses the Amendments delete the definition in Clause 16 and transfer it to Clause 77 with the other definitions.

We originally took the view that since machinery, particularly dangerous machinery, was not as frequently found in premises to which the Bill applies as compared with factories, we might leave the prohibition about the cleaning of machinery to be dealt with by special regulations under Clause 17. However, after listening to the arguments advanced in Committee, I agree that there is a case for putting this Clause into the Bill. It is based on Section 20 of the Factories Act with two differences. The first of the differences is that we do not specifically mention prime movers and transmission machinery because they are already covered by the word "machinery" in the new Clause. Secondly, the prohibition does not extend to women.

I know that some hon. Members may feel that we ought to go further and stop women cleaning moving machinery, but there may well be—I think we should ponder on this—establishments where there are no male employees, and I think it would be going too far to extend this prohibition to women simply on the analogy of the Factories Act where circumstances are, in fact, very often very different.

Mr. MacDermot

The Minister has come half-way to meet us and for that we are grateful. As he says, the new Clause is based on Section 20 of the Factories Act, but with the difference that whereas that Section protects both women and young persons from being exposed to the danger of injury from contact with moving parts when cleaning machinery this Clause only affords that protection to young persons.

In studying this new Clause it occurred to me—I confess, for the first time—that there appears to be an inherent contradiction between it and Clause 15 (4). It is a contradiction which exists also in the Factories Act. Clause 15 (4) provides that fencing, that is the fencing of all dangerous parts, shall be kept in position while the parts required to be fenced are in motion or use except in three cases, namely, when they are exposed for examination and for any lubrication or adjustment shown by the examination to be … necessary". None of this covers cleaning. It follows, therefore, to my mind, that if a person is exposed to the risk of injury from a moving part when cleaning, it must be a dangerous part within Clause 15, and therefore there would be a breach of Clause 15 (4), and consequently this new Clause is really, from that point of view, unnecessary. But, as I say, that is a contradiction which has only just occurred to me. I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer my point straight off, but he may like to consider it.

Leaving that aside and returning to the substantial point whether or not this Clause ought to apply to women, we should like to have seen it do so. We argued for that in Committee. The Minister brings forward the same argument today as he brought forward in Committee and seems to think it a conclusive argument. He says that there are some premises where there are machines which require to be cleaned but where there are only women employed.

That is not a conclusive answer, because there are very few such machines which require to be cleaned while they are in motion, or, if in motion, with the guard off. These sorts of machines are very rare, and if there are machines which have to be cleaned in motion with the guard off, then, in my submission, the cleaning ought not to be done by women, who are not trained in engineering work. That is a job for a trained engineer to do, and that kind of work ought to be done by periodically getting someone from outside to service the machine. This seems to me to be the right answer to that problem.

We had quoted against us in argument, as we did many times in Committee, the familiar example of the bacon-slicing machine, which is an extremely dangerous one. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) gave us enlightening statistics about the number of accidents which had occurred with bacon-slicing machines, and a very large proportion of those accidents are to women. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) has enlightened us further on this point, because there is no need for a bacon-slicing machine to be cleaned in motion with the guard off. It does, it happens, have to be cleaned while in motion; it is not practicable, apparently, to clean those machines properly while they are stationary, but there is a proper tool designed for this purpose which enables the grease to be scraped off the side of the blade but with the guard still on.

I should be grateful to hear from the Minister whether he is able to instance a single machine in current use which has to be cleaned in motion with the guard off and in circumstances in which it would be unreasonable to ask for somebody to come in from outside to service it, and where this has to be the daily task of a female employee. I find it hard to believe that there are such instances. If there are, I accept that the Minister has made out his case, but he has not given us an example yet. Till he does, I for one shall remain unconvinced. Perhaps it is a matter which the Minister may like to consider further, and for that reason, perhaps, my hon. Friends will not feel that they wish to divide on this new Clause—because this is one of the uses of the second Chamber, and there will be opportunity for the matter to be looked at further in the future.

But as the Minister has given us half of what we asked for, I should like to express to him, in conclusion, at least a moiety of gratitude.

Mr. Graham Page

I am a little concerned about the possible effect of this new Clause on office premises. Office premises are becoming more and more mechanised by the use of copying machines and such things. In considering dangerous machinery one has, perhaps, always thought of the sharp knife of some sort, the bacon slicer, for example, which has been mentioned, but danger can occur frequently from electrical contacts, and so on, and it seems to many of us that office machines now come within the definition of dangerous machines or at least ones which are likely to cause injury.

As I read this new Clause, it means that any person under 18 years of age must not clean one of these office machines if there is any risk from a moving part. Are we, perhaps, defining a young person by an age a little too old? Many of the youths between 16 and 18 are far more capable of dealing with mechanism than an older man, and certainly if they are trained to do it, but as I understand this new Clause it does not even allow a young person who is trained to clean a machine or to touch it if he is at the risk of injury.

If this came within Clause 15 (4), which allows a trained person in certain circumstances to deal with a machine, that would cover the point, would it not? But here we seem to be preventing even a trained young person from cleaning a machine if there is any risk of injury.

Mr. Hale

Unfortunately, the word "lubrication" is not included. I am not objecting to what the hon. Member is trying to tell us but I am seriously wanting to know what it is. He talked of the possibility of electric shocks, which one can get from switches, and there is no obligation to fence an ordinary light switch. I find it hard to visualise an office machine which can be cleaned while in motion, even if one wanted to. I cannot visualise the sort of office machine which, if cleaned in motion, would involve danger to life, limb or future happiness. I am hoping the hon. Member will tell me. There has been mention of a bacon slicer. That, I suppose, could be an eating facility, but even if it is an eating facility one would not use it for all meals. Would it be used for lunch? I am not suggesting that what the hon. Member is saying is not reasonable, but I think it rather strange, and I am merely trying to follow his reasoning to see how what he says applies.

Mr. Graham Page

Since the hon. Gentleman asks me, there are cutting machines for paper. They are similar to bacon slicers. They can slice paper.

Mr. Winterbottom

On the question of offices, in my experience the greatest danger is where there is the use of a guillotine. It can be a very dangerous instrument, and I think that young people up to the age of 18 and women ought to be prohibited from using machines of that kind.

I regret that the Minister has not gone all the way over the Clause, because there are some machines in the distributive world which are dangerous for women. My wife worked in the shop—it still exists—of a confectionery and bread-baking establishment. In the days when she worked there a four-year-old child lost a finger through putting it into a machine, although it was guarded. The same machine is there today. There are many types of machine like that, especially in some of the baking establishments, which ought to be prohibited for use by women.

The bacon-slicing machine is not very dangerous. Three weeks ago I went into the shop of a friend of mine—he used to work for me—so that I might see two kinds of bacon-slicing machine, one electrically operated and one hand operated. I found that the new machines were just as safe as the old ones if from the very beginning one took the precautions that one was instructed to take. It must be clearly understood that one cannot effectively clean a bacon-slicing machine blade with the blade in motion.

There are some instruments in grocers' and butchers' shops which are even more dangerous than a bacon-slicing machine. My hand is pitted with scars through the use of an ordinary knife, which is a most dangerous instrument. I sometimes think I would prohibit women from working in fleshing establishments, because they sometimes ruin the beauty of their hands through the steeling of the blade.

I welcome the Clause in so far as the Minister has gone part of the way, but I wish he had gone to the length of including women because of the existence of certain types of establishment, of which small bakery establishments are an example. It has to be remembered that in some bakery establishments tremendous dangers arise from the use of the ovens. I would impose restrictions upon women going direct to some of the ovens.

If only we had included women, we should have done a tremendous job in the distribution world, and perhaps done more for safety and welfare in that sphere than any other single thing which has taken place during my lifetime's association with distribution. I am sorry that the Minister has not included women but I am glad that he has gone to the age of 18 for young people.

Mr. Prentice

I am surprised at the remarks of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I should have thought that every hon. Member on both sides of the House would have welcomed the Clause.

When we discuss these matters we do so against the background that in recent years the number of accidents in all places of work has been rising lamentably. The statistics under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act and from the Factory Inspectorate, and so on, indicate this, and they also indicate that accidents among young workers under 18 have been rising in a larger proportion than those among workers as a whole. I should have thought that every one would have wanted the most stringent rules that we can have to safeguard young workers against injury. On the whole, the House ought to welcome the Clause.

I reinforce what has been said about our regret that the Clause does not apply to women workers. Similar provisions of the Factories Act prohibit women and young people from cleaning machinery with the guard off. If the Minister is to provide in the Bill something which is less than the provisions of the Factories Act, a particularly heavy onus of proof is on him, and I do not think he has discharged it.

We urge the right hon. Gentleman to think about this. Unless the Government move an Amendment in another place, it is likely that some of our noble Friends there will move one of their own. We shall debate this matter again with regard to lubrication and inspection of machinery on a later Amendment, and perhaps we can deploy the argument in more detail then. I welcome the Clause as far as it goes, but I urge the Minister to think again about applying it to women workers.

Mr. Hare

I will think over the points which have been made, but I have given the reasons why I have limited the Clause to young persons.

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) raised the question of the relevance of the new Clause and Clause 15 (4). He was right in what he said. The answer is that the new Clause gives additional protection to young persons if there has not been full compliance with Clause 15 (4). I think that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.