Great Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on Mines.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 101 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 101 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thing — everybody in the mine knows for hours before
they see the inspector that there is an inspection to be
made under General Rule 38.

30602. That is one thing, and I understand that. Then
the next thing is this : besides that you say that if a man
makes an unfavourable report of the mine it is apt to go
against him. That is your experience ? — That is my

30603. Or, whether it is apt to go against him or not,
he is afraid of it doing so ? — That is so. I should like to
say this, in fairness to the manager and perhaps the owner
of the mine, that they would not be parties to this kind of
thing, and they do not know of it, but it is the under
officials who are the men upon whom the report will reflect,
and it is the under officials, the firemen and the overmen,
who continually deal with the workmen in their working
places, and it is such an easy matter to find something
objectionable in the conduct of the workman, and to
find an excuse to dismiss him.

30604. You say you do not find fault with the manage*
meat so much as with the under officials ? — That is so*
my Lord.

30605. Do you think it is the fact that the under officials
are apt to afterwards bear a grudge against the man who
has reported unfavourably as to their conduct, and that it is
rather a dangerous thing for a man to do ? — A very large
number of our best men have been dismissed for some
trivial offence or the other, and it is the best men whom
we often try to find to do this kind of work. The result
is that those best men now refuse to do the work at all,
and the inspection is simply a sham.

30606. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) I will put it straight to you:
you in that district have no chai^ to make against head
officials ? — ^None whatever.

30607. As a rule they court these examinations? —

30608. And notwithstanding that the report of the first
day is not the report written on the books, when an in-
quest occurs, these books of the second day's report are
brought up as evidence on the condition of the mine ? —
That has been the case in the past in several instances.
It is put as evidence of the good condition of the mine
from time to time as inspected by the workmen.

9. Let us be fair again now. How long have you

been a Miners' Agent ? — ^Nine years.

30610. During that time things have been improving 7
— ^That is so.

30611. And yet still we in our district fail to get our
best men to conduct these examination? ?~We have

Digitized by




raised the matter, as you know, continually at our montlily
meetings, and we have been trying to induce the workmen
by all manner of means to carry out these inspections.

30612. We offer to pay for them ?— We offer to pay
for them from our own funds, but still there is a great
reluctance on the part of the men to have anything at all
to do with it : indeed, we cannot get oui; best men to do
it at all, because they are not in that independent position
of being able to say what they think they ought to say.

30613. With regard to travelling roads, you have
recommended widening of the travelling roads ? — Yes,
for the people who have to use the roads in the transit
of coal — in bringing out of coal to the pit bottom.

30614. Would it not be practicable to get the return
airway done in such a way that it could be made into a
travelling road ? — Yes, we have been agitating for years
in our district that every return airway at least should
be kept so that a tram and horses could at all times travel
through it from end to end, and it was with a view of its
being kept as a travelling road for the people, especially
during the day and at the end of the shift if me machinery
IB working, so that by keeping the returns in that condition
Uiey would be serving two very useful purposes : first
of all it would be a way of return for the men from the
work and to go in, and in the second place it would be a
material advantage in the ventilation of the mine: it
would secure better ventilation at all times by that road
being kept in a travelling condition.

80615. These return airways as a rule are rumiing
parallel with the intakes ? — ^The return airways run
parallel with the intakes. : , j

30616. So that it is simply a question of cost to do that,
and to keep it in repair ? — Yes.

30617. You said something yesterday about boys being
allowed to carry lamps back to the bottom of the shaft
to be re-lit ? — ^Yes.

30618. Does that occur frequently : has a good deal of
it been done ? — Yes. During the whole of the shift,
according to the number in the colliery, there would be
a lot of work of this kind to be done ; I mean, if the coUiery
was emplo3ring 400 or 500 men, there would be at least four
or five of those boys continuaUy travelling back from the
face to the pit bottom in order to get their lamps re-lighted.

30619. What we call a " collier boy " ?— A collier boy.

30620. Supposing there is a man and a boy working
together, have they an extra lamp ? — No.

30621. Then how does the boy take the lamp back at
once to be re-lit ? — ^He borrows a lamp from someone
else who will be working close by, or perhaps, if there is
nothing for his partner to do, he takes his peurtner*s lamp»
and that partner has to be in the dark until he comes

30622. Could this kind of thing be put an end to : could
the distance be shortened by any appUance ? — Yes.

30623. Do you think that could be done with safety :
that is the point ? — ^Yes, I think it could be done with
safety, and even in a case in which that could not be done
I would suggest that an adult person, who is competent
to look after himself, should be employed to oarry the
lamps back from the parting to the pit bottom, and not
to allow this great risk to be run by the boys.

30624. (Chaimutn.) You think there might very well
be places where safe^ lamps were kept under lock and key
—in a cage, we will say ?— That is very difficult to do,
because bmaps kept in that way are not very satisfactory
to the worlanen.

30625. How do you mean ? There is a deputy or some-
body with a key who can go and open the case and take
out the lamp that is already Ht ? — Yes ; but if Uiere should
be a large number of lamps burning in the kind of place
you describe, they would get into such condition that they
would not be of much use to the collier.

80626. Still» that is a common thing to do, is it not —
to have lamps placed in cages or places where they cannot
be got at, being under lock and key, except by the officials T
— ^fliat is not 3ie case with us. We have no lighted lamps
kept anywhere uqderground to any extent.

30627. That is done in some parts of the country ? —

30628. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Have you anything to
suggest with regard to lamps being given to the men in
the morning, and every mim having his own lamp ? — I
think there should be a rule rigidly enforced with regard
to lamps. The reason why I advocate that is that there
is greater care then taken of the lamp by the man, and

the officials have an opportunity of seeing how that lamp Mr,

has been looked after when it comes back into the lamp- D, W^Mojrgtm

room. Unless a register is kept, and that same lamp is „ 'loat

given to the man each day, a lamp may be brought back ^^ WOT^lWIl

to the lamp-room damaged in a very serious way, and

there is no possibility of tracing the offence the next

morning. At a colUery where we have had some trouble

with regard to this, the management complained that

their lamps were being continually broken and so forth,

and we found that the reason for Uiat was that the lamps

were even left lying about by some of the workmen who

got careless in the matter, and the lamps were being
amaged in that way. We strongly advocate a register
being kept so that there should be that fear always hanging
over the head of a man that he must properly look after
his lamp and see that it is taken back to the lamp station.

30629. When the lamp is taken back it is known that it
is his lamp and no one else's ? — Yes, and if anything does
happen to it then he has to render an explanation as to
what has taken place.

30630. Then in the case of an explosion, or anything

of that kind happening, it is more satisfactory too, is it <

not, that it should be known what lamps are out and with
what men the lamps are ? — Yes, that Lb another reason.
It was of great advantage to us in the National explosion,
which you know took place two years ago.

30631. And the absence of such a system was a dis-
advantage somewhere else ? — Yes, such as the Albion
coUi^ry and the Cambrian colliery ; we had a great
deal of difficulty in the Cambrian coUiery in identifying
the man, because there was no regular lamp being given
out to each man each day. In those oases, of course,
we could only know the men by knowing that they were
put in a certain place to work.

30632. (Mr. Cunt/nghame.) Have you had in your mine,
o: in ajuy mine that you know of, any re-lighting arrange-
ments ? — Do you mean re-lighting batteries ?

30633. No, I was speaking first of an ^paratus which |
is largely used in Germany, called the Wolf re-lighting
arrangement : they have a little coU of paper with some
phosphorus on the paper inside the lamp, and then if
you pull a trigger the paper ignites and re-hghts the
lamp. You have not seen them> perhaps? — I do not
think they are in use in our district^ bftit I have seen them.

80634. I should Uke to know whether you have any
opinion as to them ? — ^No, I cannot offer any opinion
with regard to that.

30635. I want to get your impartial view upon this
point : it has been thought by some people that it is unwisa
to allow a miner to have any means of re-lighting the lamp,
even if it were quite a safe means of re-li^hting, without
having the lamp examined by a totalfy* independent
person. What is your view upon that ? — I quite agree with
that view : I think the lamp ought to be examined.

80636. From the mere fact that it goes out, it should
be put through a good examination by somebody other
than the miner. The question is, is the miner to be trusted
to examine it before he re-lights it ? — I think it would be
much more satisfactory to have that examination made by
a competent person appointed for the purpose.

30637. Then you would rather be inclined to think
that if these re-ughting arrangements were found after
experiment to be quite safe, as the Germans think they are,
it had better be done not by a mere button which anybody
could press, but by some form of key which only the antho*
rised person would have 7 — ^That is so.

30638. Have you discussed that matter with others ? —
Yes, I have paid some little attention to the sjmtem we
have in our district. The only objection which we offer
to the lighting machinery which we have is that the
owners sometimes leave that unattended, with nobody
in charge of it. You know we have got the eleotrio
batteries underground.

30639. Yes, so that anybody could use it ? — Yes.
We ^ink it ought to be placed in such a position and
also in charge of someone who would know exactly how to
use it.

30640. That may be stronger stiU, having regaia to
the fact that boys appear to be entrusted with lamps also ?

30641. With regard to the electric re-lighting, ha^o yon
got an electric arrangement for re-Ughting in your mine ? —
Yes, at several colUeries.

30642. In the ones that you are familiar with ? — Yes.

30643. Do they act well or not 7—1 think on the whole
they act very well, but the complaint we have, as I have


Digitized by




Mr» already indicated, ia that tliey are left unattended in those

A?f.JI«ryan places.

21 Not 1007 30644. If there was some such arrangement made that

1 they could not be used -without the use of a key which

would be in the possession of some authorised person,
would there be a way of meeting the objection? — I think so.

P^ 30645. I want you to deal with this question very much
from the Home Office point of view so as to get your
opinion. I put it to you that otherwise the apparatus is
on the whole safe, so far as you know ? — I think so. Of
course it is well known, since a recent explosion which
occurred in our district, that it is possible to have a light
from it — I mean outside the light to the lamp — and that
is why we say it ought to be in charge of somebody who
would understand it.

30646. You mean that has happened in a case in which
it was not properly used, and it was left unlocked ? — That
is so.

30647. But I suppose if it is really looked after and
used properly, on the whole it is safe as at a re -lighting-
station, if it is put in a safe place ? — I think so.

30648. Do you happen to know whether it is a high
tension or low tension re-lighting arrangement that you
have ? — I think it is low tension.

30649. With a battery ? - Yes.

30660-2. {Mr. Ratdiffe Mis). Who is your inspector ?~
Mr. Fred Gray.

30653. You say that the inspectors do their work satis-
factorily ? — ^So far as I know we have no complaint at aJl.
I think they do it exceedingly weU, if I may be allowed to
say so.

30654. Are they properly qualified to do the work they
have to do ?^Ye8.

30655. Have Uiey worked at the face before they
inspected, do you know ? — ^I could not say. I do not
think so.

30656. At all events, whatever their training has been,
they are thoroughly qualified men for their work, but they
have too much work to do, that is your complaint 7 —
That is our complaint.

30657. As to these gentlemen, whatever their training
has been you have no complaint to make with regard to
their qualifications ? — I think they do their work remark-
ably well.

30658. With regard to the third class of inspector that
vou suggest should be appointed, what would his duties
be ? — He would practically do what is being done by the
workmen now, except perhaps he would do it more
thoroughly, and he would be in an independent position
to make a report. He would examine the mine— not a
part of it, but the whole of the mine in its turn.

30659. You agree, I suppose, that a man who is to make
Uiat inspection ought to be in an independent position ? —

30660. With regard to the men who you suggest should
make the inspection (I am speaking now about the thjbxl
grade of inspectors) do you honesUy consider that they
would be absolutely froe from any influence on the
part of the men — any leaning towards the men? —
I did not quite foUow the first part of your qu^tion.

30661. I want you to carry your mind in this direction,
you agree that a man to be a proper inspector ought to be
independent both of employers and workmen ? — ^To a
certain extent, yes.

30662. Would the men whom you propose be men
who were free from any influence on the part of the
workmen : would they be independent of the work-
men ? They would be independent of the employer :
that is why you suggest them : but would they also be
independent of any influence from the men ? — Oh yes.
Of course they would have some leaning, certainly, but
they would be independent of any influence.

30663. They would have some leaning towards the
men ?— Yes, undoubtedly.

30664. You object to the inspector having a leaning
towards the employer ? — I do not know tha^ I do.

30665. I want to know whether you do or not. Do
you ? — Well, to a certain extont one would, I daresay.

30666. I ask you whether you object to it. You would
object to an inspector having a leaning towards the em-

►lover. Why do you not say that you do object to it ?—
should say yes, then, in this case.


30667. Is it not equally reasonable for an objection to
be made to an inspector who has a leaning towards the
men ? — ^Yea.

30668. You will agree with me that whatever he is,
he ought to be in a position independent to both ? — Yes*
I have already said so.

30669. A Government inspector, a man appointed by
the Government, we suppose would be independent of
both ? — Well, I do not know so much about that : I should
not like to guarantee that upon every occasion.

30670. But that is one of the qualifications you woul4
expect to find in a Government inspector ? — ^Tme.

30671. You do not find in the Government inspectors
with whom you are acquainted that they have any leaning
to either one side or the other ? — I do not know that
is not the case, because naturally they are selected as a
rule from amongst that class — from amongst the managerial
department — and they certainly have a leaning towards

30672. Then is your view this, that because a man ii
selected from a particular class he must necessarily have
a leaning towards that class, and he cannot exercise sn
independent judgment ? — ^Well, is it not natural for him.

30673. Is that the view which you take ?— Yes.

30674. You start off with that impression ? — Yes.

30675. I suppose the third grade inspector whom we
have been speaking about would be a Government in-
spector appomted by the Government ? — Yee.

30676. What would his duties be ?— To examine the
mine, the working places and roadways.

30677. What would he examine them for ?— To find
out what the condition of the roadways were, so far as
timber and their general safety were concerned, and to
examine the working places and to examine for gas.

30678. In fact he would do the same work as the chief
inspector would do if he had time to do it ? — ^Yes.

30679. Then why should he be less qualified ?— It ia
not a question perhaps of being less qualified.

30680. I want you to forget for the moment the question
of class altogether and wipe that out ? — Yes.

30681. Why should he be less qualified to do this work
than the the chief inspector ? — I do not know that he
would be less qualified to do this work which we ask that
he should do now.

30682. You think he ought to be similarly qualified ? —
No, that is not what I mean. What I say is that for the
work of inspecting the colliery, so far as its general safety
with regard to gases and so forth is concerned, I do not
know that the man I have in my mind would be lees
qualified for that particular work. If it came to a ques-
tion of deciding with regard to the machinery of the
colliery, say, such as the winding engine and the other
things, it is there that the theoretical part aad the quali-
fication of the chief inspector would come in.

30683. But is not the ffreat danger you wish to guard
against the danger m the mines down below? — Yes,
that is the one object that we have.

30684. That is the great danger you want to guard
against ? — Yes.

30685. Why should he be less qualified for that par-
ticular work than the chief inspector ? — Because we do
not regard the qualification required for that work as
being so high as in the case of the chief inspector.

30686. Why not ? That is what I cannot understand ?
— Because that qualification is not necessary.

30687. He is to have a knowledge of ventilation? —
Yes. A man who has been 10, 15 or 20 years in a mine
would know all that is required to be known in oounection
with the system of ventilation, the system of dealing with
gases, and whether roadways would be in proper condition
with regard to timber, and so forth.

30688. Would you even appoint a man who had not a
certificate at all of any competency T — Under certain
conditions I would.

30689. What conditions ?— Supposing we had two men
to select from> and one had a vast experience behind him
and the other had but only very little experience, but
held a certificate in mining, I would much prefer, if I
were asked to select which of those two men I would trust
and appoint, to select the man who had the vast and wide
experience behind him in preference to the other man.

30690. Then you do not think it necessary that firemen
should have certificates ; experience would be sufficient? —

Digitized by





Yes, I do not think a certificate is Deoeesary, but I think
an examination should be made.

30691. You do not agree with the necessity for engine -
winders haying certificates, but experience is what you
would rather go by ? — ^Well, I do not know exactly what
you mean by * 'certificates." Perhaps I am misunder-
standing you.

30692. Certificates alter examination ?— I am of the
opinion that an examination should be made of firemen
to test their eflSciency.

30693. But if the sub-inspector who has to have charge
of this place can be selected for his experience, why should
a fireman not be selected for his experience ? — ^The sub-
inspector, I daresay, would be examined.

30694. If you say that he must be examined, and that
he must pass an examination and have a certificate, we
agree ; but if you say, as I understand you to say, that
you would appoint men from experience in preference to
men who have passed an examination, that is a different
thing. I understood that that was your view ? — ^My view
is that it is not always a guarantee of a man's capability
that he has secured a certificate.

30695. Then you would apply that also to firemen and
to engine -winders with reference to the point of having a
certificate ? — Yes.

30696. Have you the Act of Parliament before you ? —

30697. Will you kindly refer to Section 39: **A Secretary
of State may from time to time appoint any fit persons to
be inspectors (under whatever title he may from time io
time fix) of mines, and assign them their duties, and may
award them such salaries as the Treasury may approve,
and may remove any such inspector. Ihrovided always^
that in the appointment of inspectors of mines in Wales
and Monmouthshire among candidates, otherwise equally

auaUfied, persons having a ^owledge of the Welsh language
[lall be preferred." What do you want beyond that ?
That gives the Secretary of State power to appoint as
many persons as he may think fit, if they are proper per-
sons, with the additional qualification that if they are to
go into the Principality they must speak Welsh. What
more do you want thwi that ? — If they are prepared to
appoint a sufficient number even of those, it would remove
to some extent our objection and remove our complaint.

30698. But what I am speaking about is that the power
exists now in the Home Office to do all you ask they snould
do, namely, appoint an additional number of inspectors.
There is no limit, you see. All they have to consider is
whether they are fit persons ? — Of course I do not know
what is the reason, but I daresay it is the question of cost
which prevents them appointing a larger number than
they do at the present time. At any rate, that is what
has been said.

d. As a matter of fact, there is at the present time
a power at the Home Office to do all that you ask should
be done ? — ^That may be.

30700. Then it is so, we agree ?— Yes, but they do not

30701. li YOU have a sufficient number of inspectors
appointed who are fit persons — it does not matter what
class they come from ii they are fit persons — to do such
inspection as yon think is necessary^ is it then worth while
having any inspection at all voder General Bole 38 ? —
As I said yesterday, I think if we had a sufficient number
of inspectors, so that the mine could be examined within
the time laid down in Uie Mines Regulation Act, within a
reasonable period, that General Rule could be done away
with — it could be repealed.

{Chairman.) You would not call a month a reasonable
period ? The period which is fixed for the men to m^ke
the examination under Rule 38 is, if they choose to do it,
once a month.

(Mr. Wm. Abraham.) At least once a month.

30702. {Chairman.) At least onoe a month. Would
you suggest that a sufficient number of sub-inspeotois
should be appointed to examine the mines thoroughly
onoe a month, or do you not think that would be necessary ?
— No, I think that would be perhaps askinff too much ;
but I think the mines ought to be examined thoroughly
at any rate within three or four months.

30703. That is to say not less than three or four times
a year ? — That is so.

30704. {Mr. Baidiffe Ellis.) You disapprove of fining
as a punishment for offences T — Yes.

30705. Of course you know that there cannot be a fine
inflicted without the man*s consent ? — ^That is so.

30706. But even safeguarded in that way you disapprove j^ - 4fj'

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 101 of 177)