The first industrial revolution: Accreditation in the age of steam
The first industrial revolution from 1700 to mid-1800s changed the world beyond recognition. Humankind learned to harness the power of coal and water, leading to innovations like the steam engine. The industrial revolution also sparked the transition to new manufacturing processes, the use of machines and the rise of the factory system.
Working conditions in this new factory systems were often very poor. Work places were badly ventilated, overcrowded and workers faced safety hazards such as dangerous equipment and flammable gases. Workers formed unions that went on strikes, eventually leading to legislation that required workplaces to provide for proper ventilation and safer work spaces.
The birth of technical inspections in Germany also came as a response to safety hazards shortly after the conception of the steam engine. A crack in the mantle of one of the city’s steam boilers resulted in a fatal explosion that left one dead and several injured. The accident was not an isolated case, but one of many boiler explosions that resulted in numerous deaths. It brought attention to the need for regular inspection and an association for inspections was formed, driving the development of standards to ensure increased safety. This association became the forerunner of TÜV SÜD.
The first industrial revolution, that propelled important technological developments in many industries, demonstrated that innovations can only bring about improvements to the society after we learn to manage the risks that come along with it. Conformity assessment bodies had to put parameters in place to manage these risks, but they were also subjected to oversight by an authoritative body to ensure impartiality and competence, also known as accreditation bodies today.