The Importance of Training

It could be argued that The Factory Act 1802 (Act for the preservation of the Health and Morals of Apprentices and others employed in Cotton and other Mills, and Cotton and other Factories 1802) which is the first Act of the Parliament in the UK intended to protect the welfare of people at work, also established training as an essential part of good health and safety at work. Towards the end of the 18th century the increasing pace of industrial revolution and its concentration of labour in factories and mills utilising powered technology had brought with it growing publicity about the conditions of those (in particular children) employed in such establishments.

Sir Robert Peel introduced the Bill in 1802, passed the same year with little or no opposition, largely in consequence of the revelations of the abuse of children in textile mills.

The Act was directed to the due cleansing of such premises by two washings with quicklime yearly, to the admission of fresh air by means of a sufficient number of windows, and to the yearly supply to every apprentice of sufficient and suitable clothing and sleeping accommodation (not more than two to a bed). The pauper apprentices were prohibited from night work, and their labour limited to 12 hours in a day.

Most importantly the Act provided that the apprentices should be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic and the principles of the Christian religion and that those who were members of the Church of England should be examined annually by a clergyman, and be prepared at the proper age for confirmation.

The Magistrates were to appoint two inspectors from amongst themselves (one being a clergyman) to visit factories and mills annually and such premises in the locality were to be registered with the Clerk to the Justices.

Various pieces of legislation followed (see the Timeline) and the first factory inspectors were appointed under the provisions of the Factories Act 1833. Initially their main duty was to prevent injury and overworking in child textile workers. The four inspectors were responsible for approximately 3,000 textile mills and had powers to enter mills and question workers. They were also able to formulate new regulations and laws to ensure the Factories Act could be suitably enforced. Despite serious opposition from contemporary politicians and employers, the factory inspectors were enthusiastic and were able to influence subsequent legislation relating to machinery guarding and accident reporting.

By 1868 there were 35 inspectors and sub-inspectors, each responsible for a distinct geographical area. Changes to legislation during the period 1860 to 1871 extended the Factories Act to practically all workplaces and the inspectors took on the role of technical advisers in addition to their enforcement duties. Major technological developments, world wars and the changing nature of employment have provided a constant challenge to factory inspectors over subsequent years.

Training has been an essential thread in health and safety throughout the last two hundred plus years – Robens highlighted the importance and this was made explicit in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Section 11(2) b where it shall be the duty of the Commission to make arrangements as it considers appropriate … and make provision of training and information….

Training for inspectors to enable them to be kept up-to-date has always been important. Andrew Hale’s thesis The Role of HM Inspectors of Factories with Particular Reference to their Training makes interesting reading of the requirements during the years 1833-1978.

The 1956 Industrial Accident Prevention – Report of the National Joint Advisory Council, Industrial Safety Sub Committee, chaired by Dame Mary Smieton, makes a number of recommendations regarding research, education in universities, colleges and schools, further training, information and advice that was available at the time.

Professor Peter Waterhouse’s paper Employment National Training Organisation (ENTO), states that some time in the mid 1980s there was a Government White Paper published which showed that one of the reasons why British “industry” was less competitive was that it was lagging behind the rest of Europe in respect of the skills in the work force. An obvious recommendation was to increase those skills. Of itself this was not new, the same message had been said many times in the past and had been responded to in a variety of ways. The White Paper, however, suggested that what was necessary was not simply a more skilled, i.e. a more competent work force, but that the competencies must be assessed in some way or other. To put it another way, merely to show that you had the knowledge to carry out a task was insufficient, equally so to say that you could carry out the task was insufficient, what was required was proof that the task had been carried out at an acceptable level. A competency based qualification as opposed to a knowledge or experience based qualification. The recommendations were accepted by the Government and a number of bodies were set up to devise the necessary competencies across a range of occupations. In Health and Safety the body was known as the Health and Safety Lead Body and it included representatives of HSE and of IOSH. In May 1995 this body published NVQ3 and NVQ4 competencies. Since that time there has been an estimated 250 people who have obtained one or other of these qualifications….


NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) was formed in 1979 as an independent examining board and awarding body with charitable status. NEBOSH offers a comprehensive range of globally-recognised, vocationally-related qualifications designed to meet the health, safety, environmental and risk management needs of all places of work in both the private and public sectors.

Courses leading to NEBOSH qualifications attract around 35,000 candidates annually and are offered by over 500 course providers, with exams taken in over 100 countries around the world. The qualifications are recognised by the relevant professional membership bodies including the UK based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM).

NEBOSH examinations and assessments are set by its professionally qualified staff assisted by external examiners; most of whom are Chartered Safety and Health Practitioners operating within industry, the public sector or in enforcement.

The technical standards are overseen by a Qualification and Technical Council with representatives drawn from national institutions.

NEBOSH is an awarding body approved by Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Accreditation, which has a UK-wide regulatory remit.

In addition, NEBOSH maintains Investors in People (IIP) status and is also an ISO 9001: 2008 registered organisation.

To find a course, course provider and examinations see:

For more information contact: NEBOSH, Dominus Way, Meridian Business Park, Leicester LE19 1QW, UK | Tel: +44 (0)116 263 4700 | Fax: +44 (0)116 282 4000 | Email: |

More information will be added to this section on Training.