Stay Safe Victorian People

Here are four reasons that suggest health and safety actually ‘went mad’ some time ago:

(1) In 1897 two whole pages of a short guide to the diamond jubilee celebrations in London were given over to advice about ‘staying safe’ during the day (don’t smoke, don’t faint, don’t fall off tall buildings, don’t buy flimsy and flammable decorations manufactured abroad) under this dramatic sub-heading:

From 'All About the Diamond Jubilee' (1897).
From ‘All About the Diamond Jubilee’ (1897).

(2) In January 1894, the City Press reported that more than 40 Liverpool Street station staff had been successfully examined in the principles of first aid.

From London Collection Press Cuttings. Reproduced with permission of Bishopsgate Institute and Archive
From London Collection Press Cuttings. Reproduced with permission of Bishopsgate Institute and Archive

(3) In 1851,’ due care and attention’ was paid to the load-bearing capacity of the new gallery flooring ahead of the public opening of the Great Exhibition in a purpose-built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.

'Testing the Galleries of the Great Exhibition Building,' from the Illustrated London News, 1 March 1851. Reproduced with the kind permission of Bishopsgate Institute.
From the Illustrated London News, 1 March 1851. Reproduced with permission of Bishopsgate Institute and Archive.

(4) In 1893, the architect employed to design the new Bishopsgate Institute and Library implemented structural safety measures to facilitate prompt evacuation of large numbers of people from the lecture hall in the event of a fire.

Detail of Bishopsgate Institute ground floor plan (1893), showing that hall exit doors were positioned to enable direct access out to the street. Reproduced with permission of Bishopsgate Institute and Archive.

A more systematic overview of the history of health and safety legislation is available here.

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