Textile Industry & Safety

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The textile industry is known for having various safety and health issues. This lesson will cover these issues and the processes put in place to create a safer working environment.

The Textile Industry

Did you know that textiles have created hollow fibers that can be used to replace veins in the human body? They also have created synthetic arteries and livers for patients who need heart and liver transplants. The textile industry is a global market that encompasses industries from healthcare to high fashion to diapers and beyond. Whether the products are conventional textiles made for aesthetics or technical textiles made for use, all of them are created from fiber, thread, yarn, or filaments.

Back in the late 1700s and 1800s, textile mills were worked mostly by women, children, and African Americans. The kids and women could get their small hands and bodies around the jam-packed machines, making them perfect for the positions. However, the heat, pollution from the machines, and close quarters proved to be dangerous for all of the workers. Mill workers died or became ill frequently due to working conditions. Although these conditions have improved, there are still serious safety issues in the textile industry.

Cotton Mill
Cotton Mill

Safety Issues in the Textile Industry

There are various dangers and safety concerns regarding the textile industry, most of them centered around the textile mills and manufacturing. Textile mills are under the risk of:

  • Fires - These happen due to chemicals and flammable textiles, especially materials like cotton.
  • Explosions - Although textile machinery has come a long way, it can break down, have a short, or bust a circuit just like any other piece of technology.
  • Machine-related injuries - A lot of the equipment used in mills today is automated, but not all and not for every country. Many machines are still handled by skilled workers who can get their hands and fingers caught, causing a lot of damage.
  • Air pollution - The processing of cotton creates cotton dust due to natural and synthetic fiber breakdown in the air. This dust is a combination of cotton, chemical pesticides that were on the cotton, and soil. They all get into the air and then into the lungs of the workers if they are not properly masked. This can cause serious lung issues for employees.
  • Employee deafness - The mills usually have large rooms packed with all of the textile machinery working at once. The loud machines are damaging to the ear, especially with constant exposure.
  • Chemical exposure - Textiles go through several iterations of chemical dipping and dying for cleaning, finishing, and softening processes. This means that employees are exposed to these harsh chemicals constantly.

A problem with textile mills is that they have many factors that can combine to spell disaster, like highly volatile chemicals, flammable materials (some dipped in the chemicals), and electrical and gas-run machines. If something goes wrong, even if the mill is well taken care of, people can be hurt or killed.

In countries like Bangladesh, India, and South Africa, the textile mills are still very dangerous. In 2006, 54 people were killed in Bangladesh and twice that amount were hurt due to a boiler explosion that caught the textiles on fire and destroyed the mill. Unfortunately, buildings and equipment are often not well kept, making incidents like these somewhat common.

Safety Precautions

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