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Old 05-22-2022, 06:14 AM
Location: Glasgow Scotland
18,525 posts, read 18,732,187 times
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Whites chemical company Rutherglen.Whites Chemical Company is probably the most controversial business in Rutherglen's industrial past. That business was under the control of a single family for well over 100 years. That family grew enormously wealthy from the profits of the business, and they ended up as landed gentry with grand country estates. The family in question were the Whites, owners of Whites Chemical Company which was located in Shawfield.

Workers at the chemical plant came home covered in dust, marked by “chrome holes” from burns in the skin. They were known locally as ‘White’s Whistlers’ due to the caustic air that also damaged their eardrums and nasal passages.

Evidence was produced that shortening the hours of work and bringing in a three-shift pattern, lowered sickness rates amongst chemical workers. Lord Overtoun’s response to this was, that if the working hours were reduced his men “would simply spend more time in the pub.” His lordship, himself a total abstainer, was a strong advocate of the temperance cause.

A typical working week for the Shawfield workers remained: seven days a week, 12 hours a day with no set meal breaks, forcing workers to eat what food they had in areas contaminated by chrome dust.

However, not everyone agreed that the responsibility for the poor health of the workers

lay with Whites. The Rutherglen Reformer sided with Lord Overtoun, and wrote that “the workers should have taken more care of their personal cleanliness to reduce the levels of illness.”

Whites largely ignored the special rules and regulations which were introduced for the operation of bichromate works, laid down in the 1893 government report. Further attempts by the men to change their working patterns, including getting Sunday off, to reduce time spent in the toxic atmosphere of the Shawfield works, were refused. Whites maintained they couldn’t afford to agree to these changes. Although around this time, Lord Overtoun’s cousin and fellow boss at Whites, William James Chrystal bought Auchendennan, a country estate on Loch Lomond, costing £43,000.

The workers at Whites got nowhere with the owners in their attempts, including strike action, to improve their pay and working conditions. They turned to Keir Hardie of the Independent Labour Party, for support.

Hardie duly investigated, and was appalled by the working conditions which he discovered at the Shawfield works. He was extremely critical of Lord Overtoun, pointing out the hypocrisy in him campaigning for strict observance of the Sabbath, while insisting that his employees work a 7 day week including Sundays. The articles he published attacking Overtoun were sold as a pamphlet, the White Slave Series, and described in scathing terms the terrible working conditions, and the demands placed on the workforce at Shawfield. This is an extract from Hardie’s pamphlet:

Workers at the chemical plant came home covered in dust, marked by “chrome holes” from burns in the skin. They were known locally as ‘White’s Whistlers’ due to the caustic air that also damaged their eardrums and nasal passages.

Safety regulations introduced in 1893 had been ignored, and ineffective protective equipment in unventilated sheds left the employees exposed to the harmful chemical dust at all times. In the short term this led to widespread perforation of the septum in their noses and ‘chrome holes’ (ulcerations burnt into the flesh), as well as lung cancer, digestive disorders and skin diseases over longer periods.

The exact number of workers affected is unknown due to unreliable figures and reluctance among authorities of the time to acknowledge and document any direct link between the chrome dust and the health dangers. The exposure to the dust was such that the workers were referred to locally as ‘White’s Dead Men’ or ‘White’s Canaries’ due to their bleached faces and yellow chrome dust-covered clothing.

J & J White Chemicals, also referred to as Shawfield Chemical Works, was established in 1820 by brothers James and John White after a soap business on the same site, in which their father John White I of Shawfield was a partner from 1810, had failed. John White I had also purchased Shawfield estate and its policies including Shawfield House and Hayfield, and in the following years the business flourished, particularly in the manufacture of bichromate of potash, with their premises expanding over the previously rural estate.

I makes you wonder how many thousands if not more suffered in old factories run by the very rich who didnt give a toss about their workers or their health.............to this day a burn , a small river running off the River Clyde and land near the old factory is still polluted with toxins and is costing millions over time to try and clear up.. the land lies empty and not fit to build on... a park used by many families over the years Richmond Park is also heavily contaminated and no one knew until recent years..
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Old 05-25-2022, 04:12 AM
408 posts, read 168,460 times
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That is why Unions came about, who forced governments to legislate for Health and Safety laws. These factory owners knew what they were doing, and hopefully they rot in hell.
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