Skip to main content
Disability project

The Health of the Munition Worker

By September 1st, 2022No Comments
Front cover of a green book titled 'Health of the Munition Worker.'

As the Disability: Past and Present project progresses, we’ve been continuing with our research and making arrangements for our exhibition in November. 

We’ve recently had an exciting donation from the family of a former worker at HM Factory Gretna. William Haddon was declared unfit for war service due to spinal problems but came to Gretna to work as an assistant to the Paymaster at Dornock. Luckily for us, William kept many of his correspondence from his years at the factory, which have been kindly donated by his family. We’re very excited to share more of his story with you in our upcoming book and exhibition. 

Whilst researching for the project, we’ve been looking through a lot of historic documents to get a sense of the conditions that munitionettes were working in. One key source has been a report published by the Ministry of Munitions in 1917 titled Health of the Munition Worker. 

This document was produced by the Ministry of Munitions as a guide for factory owners that emphasised the importance of safeguarding workers and implementing safety regulations. In the report you’ll find advice on ventilation, protective clothing and how best to handle dangerous substances. 

Aside from this, the Ministry of Munitions takes time to acknowledge the dangers of munitions work and the disabling injuries and conditions that it can cause. The report is considerate of the overall health and wellbeing of workers, and reminds employers of the need to value and respect their staff: 

‘the wise employer considers the personal well-being of his work people. He can no longer look upon his employees as merely “hands”, merely instrument to yield him produce’ [1] 

Overall, this report is a great resource for the Disability: Past and Present project, as it gives an insight into attitudes towards munitions workers and shows what steps the Ministry of Munitions were taking to make factories safer. 

We have been accessing this report through the Wellcome Collection online, where it is available for anyone to read. The link to the online version of the report is below: 

Health of the munition worker / handbook prepared by the Health of munition workers committee. | Wellcome Collection 

[1] Health of the Munition Workers, prepared by the Health of Munition Workers Committee. Ministry of Munitions, 1917. p. 14. 

Translate »