Rules were many and punishments were given freely in the factories. Some people were employed as Overlookers. They wandered about the factory checking that everything was running smoothly and picking out workers that were lagging. If anyone was looking drowsy, ill or messy, if someone stopped the machine, if you were caught talking, if you didn't care for the machinery, if you were late coming to work, if you swore or used bad language, if you weren't working fast enough; the overlooker would deliver a punishment. Punishments were unjust and harsh. For drowsiness, young children were dipped head first into a tank of water, whilst an overlooker held their ankles to stop them falling in. If a child was suspected of running away, then they would be put in irons. If they were actually caught running away, they could be sent to prison! Other punishments included beating, having your hair cut off, being struck by a red-hot iron, being fined or ultimately, being sacked. Sometimes people could be fined as much as a whole day's pay! Sometimes it was not clear who had committed. If they didn't know who, say, had stopped a machine, they would punish the person who looked most guilty.
Beatings were particularly violent. It was not uncommon for the beater to draw blood. In the worst cases, the victim could be beaten until senseless or mad. Later, the beaten person sometimes died through internal bleeding or other reasons.
"There was a young woman, Sarah Goodling, who was poorly and so she stopped her machine. James Birch, the overlooker knocked her to the floor. She got up as well as she could. He knocked her down again. Then she was carried to the apprentice house. Her bed-fellow found her dead in bed."