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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 112 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 112 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cases occurring from time to time.

31768. If you cannot give it now will you supply the
Commission with a case in which an accident has happened
through want of ability on the part of an engine-winder ?
— -I take it first of all

31769. Will you see if you can find a case of that? —
You get an engineman without a certificate. He winds
for a certain length of time and then has an accident.

31760. Will you supply it to the Commission if you can
find one ? Will you look it up, and if you cannot supply
it, of course you cannot, but if you can find where an
accident has happened in consequence of want of abiUty
on the part of the engine- winder, I should like to have it.
You will find cases where it is carelessness or a man for-
ffets for the moment, but I want a case where it is an acci-
dent caused from want of ability on the part of the engine-
winder. Perhaps you will think about that if you are
not prepared to answer that question now ? — I take it
that the accidents, so far as can be proved, are in many
C€tses proof of want of ability.

31761. If you can find such a case will you let us have
it ? — ^There is no qualification at the present time. There
is no certificate required.

31762. It is a question of whether it is wanted or not.
If you can find a case in which it was caused by the want
of ability, something which you would hftve ascertained
by examination, and an accident happened from that,
I should like to know of it ? — I am able to point to a case,
but I do not know that it is a case of direct accident.
At Hemsworth Collieries there was a dispute with reference
to firemen or something of that sort. Some of the eneine-
men, I beUeve, for the time being refused to wind, and the
manager appointed men who, in the opinion of the men
who were riding in the shaft, were not competent. Those
men had been riding in that shaft and there was no com-
plaint, but there was a change made in the enginemen,
and these men bumped the men about in the shaft and
caused considerable alarm.

31763. Was there an accident resulting from it ? —
I am not prepared to state at the present time that there
was any serious accident.

31764. That was at the Hemsworth CoUiery, in York-
shire ? — ^Yes.

31765. How long ago was that ? — A few years back.

31766. That was a case in which there was a dispute,
when the winders refused to wind, and the colliery was
stopped, and the colliery owner, to keep the place going,
got somebody else to wind and the men were alarmed,
but there was no accident so far as you know. What was
the end of the dispute ? — We had considerable difficulty
in keeping the men at work on account of the alarm
which was occasioned.

31767. I will see if there is any accident at this place ?
— ^We are to assume the man is to kill men before we can
prove incompetency.

31768. That is the only case you can give me ? — That
is the position. We have men who have ridden in that
shaft for years, who are members of our Society. The
change was made and they rode in the cage and found it
bumped up and down, and that it was not safe, in their
opinion, to ride in it.

31769. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) Supposing that man had a
certificate, he might bump them just the same ? — It would
be a proof that the man was in the eyes of the examining
authority a capable man. There was no option in this

31770. It would make the bumping more pleasant
because he had a certificate ? — Of course not. That is
not the point.

31771. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) You think that there should
be ambulance appliances in each fireman's district down
below, so as to be available in case of accident ? — Yes.

31772. And also that there should be an ambulance
carriage to take the men to the hospital ? — Yes.

31773. Is that not generally the case ? — Generally, no
doubt, but it is not in all cases. It is not compulsory.

31774. Never mind about it being compulsory. If
the man dees it you do not want to have a law to make
him do it ?— They do not all do it.

Digitized by





31775. Are there many cases in which that is not so ? —
There are oases.

31776. Are there many cases in Yorkshire ? You have
generally large collieries there ? — They are not all large.
They are large and small.

31777. At the larger collieries there is an ambulance ? —
Generally speaking there is.

31778. Are there many of the smaller collieries where
there is not an ambulance ? — Yes. In our opinion if it
was put in the rule it would end the question. There are
collieries where the men have subscribed to provide their

^ own ambulance, and where that ambulance is in existence
even at large collieries.

31779. You think they should not do that, but that
the employers should do it ? — I do.

31780. With reference to lamps, would you be in favour
if the lamps had been taken into a mine, of their being
brought out of that mine supposing there had been no gas
seen for 12 months, and work with naked lights again ? —
I stated that in my evidence.

31781. Do you agree with that T—Yes.

31782. Is there a disadvantage to the men in working
with lamps ? — Yes. There is no doubt that it is a dis-
advantage in working.

31783. You rather favour their being brought out in
the interests of the men, that they should come out if there
is no gas found within 12 months ? — I take it it is in the
interests of the men that lamps should go in where gas is
found, but if it is proved that the colliery has no gas for
12 months I should not object to their coming outL

31784. Why should they come out ? — Because the
danger is not there.

31785. If the lamps are already provided, and every-
body has the lamps, and the management has found the
lamps, why should they not go on using the lamps ? — You
asked me if it is a disadvantage to some extent.

31786. It is in the interests of the men who are working
to have more favourable conditions. You say that the
lamps might come out if no gas was found for 12 months.
It is to enable them to work under more favourable con-
ditions. That is your object ? — My idea with reference
to lamps is, first of all, that they should be in almost
general use. I do not believe in the system of working a
colliery until there is an explosion and then putting lamps
in. After gas is found in a mine lamps should go into
the mine and be kept so long as that gas remains. If there
is adequate proof for a period of 12 months that there is
no gas found within the mine, the conditions that prevailed
prior to their going in might obtain again, but I am not
prepared to say that I am disposed to favour their coming

31787. (Mr, Smillie,) The Yorkshire mines are what
are called fiery mines. It is a fiery district ? — Yes.

31788. Some of the mines are of considerable depth, I
think ?— Yes, over 600 yards.

31789. You have ventured the opinion that you
personally, and the Association to which you belong, con-
sider that the deputies' districts — the firemen's districts —
are too large ? — Yes, I do.

31790. In your Special Rules the provision is that the
examination must be made within three hours of the men
starting work ? — That is so.

31791. In fiery mines do you think it is safe for the
inspection of the places to be made three hours before the
workmen go into their places ? — I do not.

31792. I suppose that a considerable accumulation of
giis might take place in a period of three hours ? —

31793. In deep mines where there is a crush, the whole
position of the working face might be altered within three
hours ?— Yes.

31794. Do you think that the only reason that three
hours was put into the Special Rules was with a view of
giving the deputy three hours to cover his district ? If
you have no idea on the matter you need not give an
opinion, of course. The Scottish miners' Special Rules
provide for two hours before the starting of the work ? —

31795. Durham provides two hours as the time prior
to the workmen starting. South Wales for two and-a-
half hours, but in Yorkshire it is three hours ? — Yes.

(Mr. Ratdiffe EUis. ) 1 think you will find it is two hours
In Lancashire, too.

(Mr. Smillie.) I think the managers conflict in Lan-

(Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) Generally in practice it is two houiB.

31796. (Mr. SmiUie.) You think two hours is a safer
period after which the workmen shall start work ? — Yes.

31797. There is no reason why it should be three hours
other than that the extent of the district is so large that
it takes three hours to make the inspection ? — That is
the case.

31798. There is no other reason so far as you know ? —
No ; that is my opinion.

31799. The fax^t that three hours is allowed might be
reasonable proof that the districts were too large ? — Yes.

31800. Have you had personal experience of working
with naked lights in the shape of candles ? — Yes.

31801. Are candles used in your naked light collieries
in your county ? — Yes.

31802. Is the light from candles more suitable and more
effective to allow workmen to discover dangers from the
roof and sides ? Can they make a more thorough ex-
amination with a naked light than with a safety lamp ? —
Yes, in my opinion, they can.

31803. Other things being equal, in a non-fiery mine
where gas had not been discovered, naked lights would be
more safe so far as falls from sides and roof are concerned ?
— Yes, they would be more effective in that direction.

31804. You are aware that by far the largest number
of deaths takes place from accidents from falls of roof
and sides ? — Yes.

31805. A very considerable number of accidents take
place from accidents on the haulage roads ? — Yes.

31806. Some of those may occur through insufficient
light ?— Yes.

31807. Have you ever found any difficulty yourself in
examining the nature of the roof and sides with your own
safety lamp or close lamp ? — Yes, there is no doubt that
it is not so well adapted at the present time to examination
as a candle, so far as the roof is concerned.

31808. To some extent it may be guess work as to what
the condition of the roof is ? — 8o far as the sight is con-
cerned. You also take the sound.

31809. The sound might guide you ? — Yes.

31810. So far as seeing a fissure or a slit, there would be
considerable difficulty in seeing that with a covered light ?
— Yes, much larger difficulty than with a naked light.

31811. Is there very much shot-firing in Yorkshire in
the coal ? — ^Yes, in certain mines there is a great amount
of it.

31812. Are the shots usually fired at the present time
by a battery ? — Yes, by battery in the fiery mines. Of
course, in the shallow mines, naked-light mines, they do
not use the battery.

31813. They fire with a fuse or squibs ? — Yes.

31814. In fiery mines do the workmen stem their own
shots, or does the competent person appointed by the
manager as shot-firer stem the shots ? — So far as my
experience goes, the workmen usually stem the shot»
but, of course, in speaking in that connection it would not
extend to what you would term the extreme fiery mines.

31815. In the case which you now mention it is what
are called permitted explosives or high explosives ? — Yes.

31816. Are the workmen who stem their own shots put
in possession of the explosive and the detonator ? — Yes,
so far as I know.

31817. Do you consider that a safe course ? — No.

31818. Do you think in fiery mines, where high explo-
sives or permitted explosives are being used, that the shots
should be stemmed and fired by a competent person
appointed for that purpose ? — I do, decidedly.

31819. With regard to certificates for firemen, I suppose
your present class of firemen in Yorkshire, the vast majority
of them, are thoroughly competent men ? — I should not
say they are not.

31820. There is no guarantee so far as the certificate is
concerned at the present time that persons who are in-
competent will not be appointed to that position through
favour with the managers ? — No, there is no guarantee

31821. Have you known any cases in which persons
were appointed to that position whom you felt and your
Association felt were incompetent ? — Yes,


Mr. J. OuesL
4 De^907.



Digitized by



Mr, J. Guest
4 D^ri907


31822. You have known of individual cases ? — Yes, I

31823. The holding of a certificate of competency would
at least prevent anySiing of that kind being done ? — Yes.

31824. A fireman's is a veiy responsible position 7 —
Very responsible.

31825. Do you consider as a practical miner with long
experience that the safety of the workmen depends to a
far greater extent on the abiUty or the competency of the
fireman than it does on the general manager ? — I do.

31826. Have you cases in which the fireman may have
from 50 to 70 men under his charge ? — Yes, more than that
I should say.

31827. In some cases more than that ? — Yes, more than

31828. It depends on his experience and competency
as to whether the safety of those men will be properly
looked after ? — It does.

31829. The whole of those men ?— Decidedly.

31830. Every morning the men go down the mine they
place their lives unreservedly in the hands of the fireman
who has made an examination of those places ? — ^They do.

31831. Unless he is competent, a very serious accident,
involving the Uves of all the men employed in the pit, may
occur ? — ^That is so.

131832. Are you old enough to remember the conditions
of the mines prior to the compulsory certificates for
managers ? Were you working in the mines prior to the
passing of the Act in 1872 ?— No.

31833. Would you take it as a good argument against
compulsory certificates for colliery managers that the
staff of men employed prior to the passing of the Act were
fairly good ; supposing it had been proved that the
experience of the men employed previous to the passing of
that Act proved that they were capable men, would that
be any reason why they should not hold certificates ? —
Not at all, in my opinion.

31834. You admit the necessity of colliery managers
passing an examination and holding a certificate of com-
petency ? — Yes, decidedly.

31835. You think it is a very good thing ? — I thmk it is
a necessary thing.

31836. You only urge that the same thing should apply
to other responsible officials under the Act ? — Yes.

31837-8. That there should be an examination to prove
their competency ? — Yes, the men responsible for the
management and government* of the mine should pass an
examination to prove their competency.

31839. Is it your opinion that the death and accident
rates would be considerably greater were it not for inspec-
tion by Government inspectors ? — Yes, I am of that

31840. Are you of opinion that additional inspection
would lead to greater safety ? — I am, and that is the reason
why we are seeking it. We have no other object in view.

31841. Do you think there is any real inspection of mines
going on at the present time ? — So far as our district is
concerned, I am of opinion that there is no practical
inspection — ^that is what I should term surprise inspection.
The work is almost exclusively confined to examining
where accidents have occurred.

31842. Do you know personally of any thorough inspec-
tion by a Government inspector of any mine in Yorkshire ?
— I do not.

31843. In your whole experience as a working miner
you have never known of a thorough inspection, that is,
going in at one end of the mine, round the working places,
by a Government inspector ? — I have not — never.

31844. Is that what you mean by a thorough inspection
really ? — I take it that occasionally, at all events, a
thorough inspection of every part of the mine should be
made on behalf of the Govenunent.

31845. Do you think that would interfere in any way
with the management of the mine ? — ^Not at all.

31846. Do you think it would take any responsibility
off the present managers ? — Not at all ; I think it would
to some extent increase it.

31847. Do you to any great extent take advantage of
the rule which gives you the right to appoint two persons
to make an examination on ^half of the workmen ? —
Not to a great extent.


31848. Have you knowii ^here it has been done it has
led to improved conditionfl Underground ? — Yes.

31849. Notice must be given to the management of the
appointment of persons under that rule ? — ^Yes.

31850. Have you known whether preparations have
been made from the time the notice was ffiven up to
the time the examination was made ? — ^I mink it is a
customary thing almost.

31851. I want you to put it frankly. If there was a
large increase in the staff of Government inspectors and
the managers of collieries generally in Great Britain, do
you beUeve that the staff would be sufficiently large to bring
about surprise visits occasionally more often than they are
at the present time. Would it lead to increased safety T
— ^In mj opinion it would, decidedly : there is no hesitation
on my part in saying that.

31852. Do you know whether or not it is a common thing
when it becomes known that an insx)ector is about to visit
a colliery because of an accident, or because he has been
requested to do so, that preparation is made for his coming
there in the shape of additional timber, or brattice it may
be, beinff sent down the mine ? — ^Yes, that is the custom
BO far as I know it.

31853. Have you known that personally to take place
in your experience ? — Yes, I have.

31854. I want to ask you a question or two with regard
to inquiries. At the present time the Coroner's Inquest
is not at all satisfactory to the miners, because of tJie
power vested in the hands of the coroner to refuse to allow
a person to take part in the examination of the witnesses ?
— That is so.

31855. You have now, or have had, coroners in Yorkshire
who refuse absolutely to allow any person on behalf of the
workmen to put questions ? — Yes.

31856. And would only permit questions to be put
through him as coroner ? — Yes.

31857. What you claim is not that every person employed
at the colliery should be entitled to appoint a person to
cross-examine on their behalf, but that ti^e men or the
organisation — the Society to which the workman who is
killed belongs — should have the right as a Society to appoint
a person to look after their interests ? — ^That is wt^t we

31858. Under the inquiry which Mr. Edwards spoke
about, the second inquiry which the Secretary of State
has the right, if he cares, to order, do you claim that the
workmen through one of their own accredited representa-
tives should be entitled to take part ? — Yes, I think that
would be a necessary part of the inquiry from our point
of view.

31859. Is it your opinion that sometimes men who have
had many years experience of underground work are better
fitted to bring out the real facts of the case than a person
who has merely a theoretical knowledge, such as a skilled
lawyer: I mean a person who has no practical mining
knowledge ? — "My opinion is in favour of tne man who has
had practical experience.

31860. Have you ever known of any ambulance carriage
for use underground for bringing injured persons to the
pit bottom ? — I have not, except the ordinary streteher.
That is not an ambulance carriage.

31861. The ordinary streteher may be a very painful
method of bringing a person, if he is seriously injured ? —
Very much so.

31862. You would be favourable not only to proper
ambulance appliances being kept, but if such a thing was
perfected as an ambulance carriage which might be run
underground on the rails to bring an injured person or
persons to the pit bottom, you would also be favourable
to that ? — ^I should say that is very desirable.

31863. Is it desirable also that the various districts i .
of a mine underground should be in telephonic communica- | v
tion with the surface ? — Yes. |

31864. In order that as quickly as possible word of an
accident should be sent to the surface ? — Yes.

31865. Sometimes at present it takes a considerable time
for information about an accident to reach the surface ? —
Yes, it does.

31866. I think with regard to the Special Rules, you said
in answer to Mr. EUis that in the event of the coUiery
owners initiating rules and sending them to the Home
Office, vour Society would be entitled to object to them
when they were hung up for 14 days ? — ^Yes.

Digitized by




31867. Could your Society object to them ?— I do not
suppose they could object : they could enter a protest.

31S68. In what way ? Under the Act is it not only the
workmen who are employed who could object ? — I may
be wrong in that statement. I had an idea that we could

31869. If you were told that it is only the workmen
employed who could object, that only any single workman
could object, and that your Society could not object,
would that not make a considerable difference ? — ^It

31870. Do you think that if Special Rules — ^I am dealing
now especially with Special Rules with regard to the
safety of underground labour and above-ground labour —
were mutually adopted with a view to securing greater
safety by consultations and joint meetings between the
workmen and the employers — ^if rules were adopted in
that way would they not be more likely to be carried out
than rules adopted to a very great extent without con-
sultation with the workmen ? — ^That is exactly my point
in connection with the statement I have made. If there
was a joint consultation it would lead to a better carrying
out of the rule and more interest in the rule.

31871. It has been suggested that the coal masters,
because they are responsible, should have the right to
suggest Special Rules ? — Yes.

31872. Who do you think has the greatest responsibility,
the men who risK their hves underground or the coal
master who merely risks his capital in the concern ? —
Decidedly the man who risks his life is the most concerned.

31873. And would have the best right to draw up rules
for his own safety ? — Yes.

31874. At least, to have a voice in the drawing up of
the rules ? — Yes, to have a voice in drawing them up.

31875. You think it is not unreasonable to ask that the
workmen, through the representatives of their Society,
should be consulted on a question of this kind ? — ^I think
it is a matter of simple justice, if you care to put it in that

31876. {Mr. F, L, Davis.) Mr. Smillie asked you which
you thought had the most responsibility, the man who
works underground and risks ms life, or the owner who
risks his capital. I put it to you, does not the manager
risk his life, too, under the Act ? — ^Not to the same extent
as the workman : if he is in the mine he risks it to that

31877. He is responsible for the safety of the whole of
the men in his pit. If he does what is wrong he may lose
his life as well Is not his responsibility just as great ? —
His responsibility with reference to life is not so great,
because the man at work at the face is risking his life
during the whole of his employment. The manager will
risk his life when he is in the mine, and then only.

31878. If he does not do what he ought to do to carry
out tiie conditions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, is he
not in a very serious position himself ? — ^Decidedly.

31879. It is not a question of the workmen on the one
hand and capital on the other hand. The owner or the
manager may be responsible, and may be in a very awkward
position if he is found to have done what he ought not to
have done. Is tliat not so at present ? — Yes, but this
point was with reference to the drafting of Special Rules
as I understood it.

31880. It does not matter whether it is with regard to
the drafting of Special Rules or anything else. The
manager is the man who is responsible if any lives are lost,
and he has not done all that he ought to have done ? —
With reference to the drafting of Special Rules, that is
something that has to be suggested and drawn up, and
the point was as to the responsibility with reference to

31881. You think if the workmen and the owners were
to consult about any new Special Rule together it would
tend to better observance of the rules and a better under-

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 112 of 177)