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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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4 Dec. 1907. think they would be more encouraged to be satisfied if

there was an examination made by a man who himself had

to undergo the same danger in case there was a danger 7 —
I do not think they would. All that men fear (and there
is a fear) is this : there are some cases one could name
where, when men have ventured to make a report, their
position has not been worth much at that pit after.

32168. Supposing we forget the fear of recriminations,
do you not thmk if they were free from that fear they would
really be the best men to make an examination into the
conditions under which they were going to work themselves?
— I am bound to take my own personal experience. I do
not think a man working at a pit to-day knows more than
I do by continually going in, and I have had 23 years
continuous work at the pit.

32169. You do not think the men would be more satisfied
with their examination ? — I do not.

32170. You said you objected to notice being given
that such an examination was going to be made ? — Yes.

32171. Why ? — For reasons and circumstances that have
happened. Perhaps you have had the report from a
certain district that for two or three days they have been
short of timber, and yon send a requisition to the manager
to say at 4 o'clock to-day that to-morrow you will inspect
that pit, and then there will be any amount of timber
sent down on the date he receives the note preparing for
the inspection.

32172. That is what you want, to get the material sent
down ? — Yes, but I want to point out this : if that notice
had not gone probably that timber would not have gone

32173. You want to secure the safety ? — Yes, but I
want to prevent that occurring again, and I can only do
it by showing these people when it happens.

32174. You mean by prosecuting them T — Certainly :
that is the only solution.

32175. With reference to the suggestion that the
districts for the firemen are too large, is that generally
the case in Yorkshire ? — Generally it is, but in some of
the pits it is not.

32176. Can you suggest any rule prescribing the size
that a district should be under one fireman ? — I do not
know that I could properly, but I could if I thought it
out. I will give you a rough idea. I think that no man
ought to be asked to supervise 100 men working at a face
in different places.

* 32177. Could you suggest to the Commission any rule

that could be made to secure that the districts were not
too large ? — I do not think that any man can pi*operly
examine 30 places — from 20 to 30 longwall faces in three
hours, and find out what he ought to try to find out.

32178. That is some guide : 20 or 30 longwall faces
are more than a man can examine in thi'ee hours 7 — Yes.

32179. Is that the nearest you can approach to a sugges-
tion ? — I think if a man had say 15 gates in a certain
district in addition to his air roads, that would be plenty
of work for him to give his whole time to.

32180. You think a rule might be made to say that a
man should not be equired to superintend and examine
more than a ceitain numb r of gates within a certain time,
including his airways and the other things he has to do,
and you think that 30 is too many ? — I think that 20 is
too many.

32181. How many do you say then ? — I think 15 are

32182. How many gat€43 as a rule do they have to
examine now T — I can give you three or four particular
pits straight off. In one pit we are doing about 2,500 tons
a day with four deputies.

32183. How many gates. I want to compare the state
of things now 7 — What you have down the pit on day shift
would be anywhere from 500 to 550 colliers.

32184. There would be more than one collier at a gate 7
— Four colliers as a rule.

32185. Would there be 100 gates there 7— More than
100 gates : four men and three men : four men in Fome
and three men in others.

32186. How many deputies are there 7 — Four deputies,
and in addition to that they have to do all the haulage

32187. You think some rule might be made of that
kind which would afford a guide as to the extent of the



deputies 7 — I do, and it WiU take him his eight hours to
examine 20 gates and the air roads. He cannot do it in
three hours : it will take his shift

32188. Do you find it general that the deputy has to do
more than examine 7 — Yes, I do, as a general rule in

32189. There are exceptions 7 — ^There are exceptions
to every rule.

32190. There are exceptions in Yorkshire, where the
duty is confined to the examination of the place 7 — Very
few, but there are a few.

32191. I want to ask you about timbering. Do you agree
that at the face the collier is the best man to do his timber-
ing from the point of view of safety, if he has time 7 —
I think there ought to be special men appointed for timber-
ing alone.

32192. Do you agree — we have had evidence about this
— that the collier is the best man to look after his safety I
at the face from the point of view of timbering 7 — I expect I
we shall differ in opinion. My opinion is that special men j
ought to be engaged for timbering. I think that is the best
thing that can happen.

32193. You think that the collier is not the best nian
to do the timbering 7 — ^The collier is working by results.

32194. We will not talk about wages or time 7 — ^That is
one of the main things, apart from safety.

32195. You have pressed on the Commission that
working at the coal face is the only place you can get this
practical experience. A collier having worked at uie face
knows most about timbering 7 — ^Yes.

32196. Then is he not the best person to look after his
own safety and to put up timber wnerever it is wanted 7 —
I should engage one of those men with experience at the
face to do nothing but devote his whole time to the place,
and setting and withdrawing timber.

32197. You do not agree that the collier can best look
after his own safety in regard to timbering, if he had time
to do it 7 — li he has practical experience he is ; but I think
the best thing is to engage special men to do the timbering.

32198. So far as the collier is concerned, if he has time,
can anybody look after his safety better than he can
hhnself in regard to timbering at the face 7 — I do not know ;
there are degrees in that.

32199. I mean if he had time to do it 7 — ^I should say the
collier who has worked at the face knows how to timber
the face. I say the best system to prevent accidents is to
have special men engaged to see to the timbering.

32200. Is that to give the collier more time to get coal,
and have his whole time to get coal 7 — ^It is not particu-
larly to give him his whole time to get coal, but to put
more liability on the company to see that there is a
sufficient supply through the special men they appoint.

32201. You do not agree with me that the collier is the
man who can do the timbering the best in the interests of
safety, but you think somebody can do it better 7 —
I think that special men is the best thing to be got for

32202. Your Rule 100 in Yorkshire is: "The miners
must build good pack walls, and set a sufficient quantity of
props and bars for safely securing the roof and sides of
their own working places, and add to them or renew them
when necessary, or when told by the manager, under-
manager or deputy." That was your rule before the new
timbcuring rule was established 7 — ^Yes.

32203. You had to put up what timbering was neoeBsary7

32204. However near the face it might be, it was the
colliers' duty to put it up 7 — Yes.

32205. The new Timbering Rule says you must put it up
within a certain distance of me face 7 — ^Yes.

32206. Now with regard to systematic timbering, your
objection was because more timber had to be put up than
you had been in the habit of putting up 7 — ^Yes.

32207. Was it necessary for safety 7 — 1 do not object
to the amount of timber that is put in.

32208. Do you think that the Timbering Rule was
necessary for safety 7 — ^I do not object to the new Timber-
ing Rule, but it put more work on our men without any
counterbalance ox earning power.

32209. From the point of view of safety, you think
that the rule was desirable 7 — ^I think it can be better
discussed at a round-table oonferenoe.

1 ^

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32210. t>o you not tliink it desirable in the interests of
safety T It is better than it was before ? — ^I should not
say it was worse. I think it would be better discussed
between the two contending parties.

32211. It was better than it was before ; it is safer 7 -
I do not know whether it is safer or not.

32212. If it is not safer than before, it is not better ? —
I do not know whether it is or not.

32213. Supposing you had been invited to discuss that
rule, you would have agreed to it 7 — ^It is not a question of
whether I should or not

32214. You would have said no 7 — ^I do not know. I
probably should have said yes. I am prepared to do
anything for safety, only we work by results under con-
tract condition, and now we are going to alter it I should
say that it was necessary to have a re-arrangement of

32215. The objection you would make if you had been
called in to discuss it would have nothing to do with
safety. You would say it may be safer, but we must be
paid more money if that rule is to be carried out. That
would be your objection 7 — I do not think that would be
altogether my objection. I am always prepared to agree
to an3rthing for safety.

32216. Then what would have been your objection 7 —
I think that rule could have been improved considerably
had some practical experience been brought to bear upon it.

32217. In what direction could it have been improved 7
— ^We have men now at collieries where they order them
to set timber every 2 ft.

32218. In what respect can that rule be improved 7 —
I think considerably.

32219 How 7 — By appointing special men to do the

32220. Your objection would not have been to the rule,
but because you want more wages, or somebody else would
have had to have done it. That would have been the
objection 7 — Not particularly.

32221. What particularly, then 7 — Practical experi-
ence taught me it ought to be so and so. I will give an
instance. In some places you are paid for setting bars,
especially on a face side.

32222. I know all about that 7 — I want to give you this,
which bears upon it.

32223. It does not answer my question 7 — Yes, it does.
I am tr3ring to show you. We are paid for bars under
special contract, 3d., and we have to set when ordered by
a deputy ; but where we have to set them under systematic
timbering, we cannot leave too many up. They knock
them down when they are paid for, and say they do not
need a bar there.

32224. I will not press you about it. It seems to me
clear, and I think it will appear so when we get it on the
notes. Your objection, if you had been invited, would not
have been to the rule itself, but that new conditions must
be made with the men involving wages before that rule
should be established 7 — I think if you started me to dig
a dyke a foot deep for a Is. per yard, and you wanted me
to make it twice that depth, I should want more than Is.

32225. What is your objection with regard to this small
coal that comes into the goaf. What do you say should
be done with it 7 — I do not think it ought to go into the
goaf. I should think the safest place would be at the top.

32226. The men would be paid for it 7 — Do not put that
argument to me, because it is not correct. They are paid
for throwing it into the goaf, so much per ton. When you
have a good trade they let it go out at some pits, but
when trade is bad they keep it in the pit.

32227. Would it be any advantage in point of wages
if brought up the pit 7 — I do not think so.

32228. You say by putting the stuff in the goaf there
might be a danger of spontaneous combustion, or a goaf
fire 7— Yes.

32229. That is the only objection to it being put there 7

32230. With regard to the investigation in coroners'
enquiries, what alteration do you suggest should be made
in the present law 7 — That a provision should be made
for any trade organisation to send representatives to an
enquiry to put questions and cross-examine witnesses ;
that it should be made law that we should have such
facilities granted, and that we should have reasonable
notice of any inquest.

32231. What would be your object in attending an in-
quest 7 — ^To see whether that man has been supplied with
suitable timber, or whether there had been an outburst
of gas, and whether that place was properly inspected.

32232. The relatives can attend now 7 — Yes.

32233. They can appoint persons to represent tliem 7
— Yes.

32234. They do, frequently 7— Yes.

32235. Would you extend that right to anybody to
attend the coroner's inquest 7 — I should extend it as far
as appointing people from trade organisations to attend.

32236. Your view is that representativeB from trade
organisations should attend 7 — Yes.

32237. The right to put questions would have to be
subject to the coroner's discretion, as to whether a ques-
tion was a proper question to put. The coroner now says,
*'I will put your question for you," and puts it. You
would not wish to have a right to put a question which
a solicitor would not be allowed to put 7 — I should want
the same right as a solicitor. I should not ask for much
more, because he gets his own way to a fair extent.

32238. (Mr, Smillie,) Are you aware that in every case
of a mining inquest, information must be sent to the
inspector of mines for the district 7 — Yes.

32239. No coroner is supposed to go on with an inquest
without first having intimated it to the inspector of mines 7
—That is so.

32240. The inspector of mines is entitled to be present
and watch the proceedings 7 — Yes.

32241. So far as your exi>erience goes, the inspector of
mines is entitled to put questions and cross-examine 7 —

32242. With a view to bringing out the facts 7— That
is so.

32243. You claim your fellow workmen, in the interests
of future safety, should be entitled to the same right
as the mines inspector 7 — I do.

32244. The vast majority of your mines in Yorkshire
are worked with safety liunps 7 — They are largely, not
many without.

32245. Yorkshire is known as a fiery district 7 — Yes.

32246. Is the use of coal-cutting machinery largely
on the increase in Yorkshire 7 — It is.

32247. You have two kinds of machines — electric
machines and compressed air machines 7 — We have.

32248. You undercut to the extent of 5 to 6 ft. 7—4 ft.
6 in. to 5 ft. 6 in.

32249. Is a compressed air machine with a disc in use 7

32260. It would make an underout at the outside of

5 or 6 in. 7 — It tapers down.

32251. It tapers down to 2 or 3 in. at the back of the
cut 7 — Yes.

32252. That will produce a veiy considerable amount
of small coal 7 — It does produce smaller dust than a pick

32253. There is a considerable quantity of dust pro-
duced in a cutting of that kind when you are undereutting
4 or 5 ft. an average of a 5-in. underout 7 — There is a large
percentage of dust.

32254. Is that dust so small which is given off in the
cutting as to practically fill the air, and be in suspension
in the air while the cutting is goin^ on 7 — It is. You
cannot see a lamp 7 yards off in some mstances.

32255. When the men undercutting with the pick there
is not so much dust in suspension in the air 7 — No.

32256. Not the same clouds of dust 7 — No.

32257. You mean the coal does not come down itself
when it is underout 7 — No, it has to be blown in many

32268. Blown down 7— Yes.

32269. In a machine wall you may have as many as

6 or 8 or 10 shots 7— Yes.

32260. Bight in the coal face to bring down the coal 7
— Yes, all in a row.

32261. Is it a safety explosive that is used in a case of
that kind 7 — Largely safety explosives are used.

32262. Who stems the holes 7 — In some casea the men.
The workmen 7 — Yes.

4 Dec. 1907.

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Mr. E. SmUh 3^^* Are they placed in poesession of the explosive
' — '. — and the detonator ? — Not the detonator, hut the explo-
4 Dec. 1907. bive.

32265. They must get possession of the detonator
hefore they stem the hole ? — Yes. The deputy comes and
sees they put the ammunition in.

32266. He gives them the detonator to put in ? — Yes.

32267. They stem the shot, and the shot-firer fires the
hole T — They are not always competent persons. We
had two serious accidents of recent oate.

32268. A person supposed to he a competent person
under the Act fires the shots T — They should be.

32269. Have you any reason to think that persons who
are not competent are sometimes appointed 7 — I have
two cases now before me which I can give you. One man
was killed, and the other is walking up and down totally
blind. It is at Allerton Silks tone. On November 16th,
1906, a man called William Tinker had both eyes blown
out. He was a miner ; and they appointed a snbt-lighter
who had been receiving compensation who had had no

Srevious experience snot- lighting, or with caps and
etonators, calling it light work, and this miner went to
his working place where the shot had miss-fired, and
aaiother hole had been put in about 15 inches away, and
this shot-lighter fired it, and made no report aa to the
miss-shot, and as soon as that poor man started to work
he had both eyes blown out. We have a more recent
case at the same pit, 11th September, 1907 : Heniy
Wilkinson was fatally injured. This man was a miner,
and this man they appointed to be shot-firer had
previously been engaged in other work at the pit, and
happened an accident for which he had been receiving
compensation, and they sent him to shot-fire as light
work, and to prove that he had no experience the jury
at the inquest told the coroner to reprimand the shot-
firer and mind in future that he usea more care. He
said " I never shall be a shot-lighter any more." Here
are two oases, one killed and one bunded, and the
accidents came about by employing men lacking ex-
perience as shot-firers. I do not think I should be
qualified to use a detonator with the 23 years' experience
I have got I have had no practice in it. He ought to
pass an examination before he is allowed to do it

I I 32370. When you say it should be necessary that a

I I shot-firer should hold a certificate of competency, vou
j J mean as to his knowledge of explosives ? — Yes, ana as
/ I to gases, too.

32271. He is supposed to make an examination of the
working place for gases and dust ? — Yes.

32272. You say all the small coal and dust taken out
of the holes is put back into the goaf 7 — Yes.

32273. You think one of the dangers is goaf fires,
which may break out in the future 7 — I do.

32274. Is there not a second danger of blown-out shots
going into the goaf and rising, and perhaps igniting coal
dust and causing an explosion ? — lliat h possible, and
that does happen ; and sometimes you get a little spark.
You can get a spark from the machine in cutting.

32275. Electrical machines and compressed air machines?

32276. On that ground also, in order to avoid the risk
of a coal dust explosion from blown-out shots, you think
it would be safer not to put the dust and the small coal
in the goaf 7 — I do. I think it is the wrong place to put

32277. You understand from what you have read, and
discussion at conferences, whether it arises from practical
knowledge or not, you believe that coal dust is largely
responsible for some very violent explosions 7 — Yes.

32278. Either by itself or in combination with an ex-
plosive mixture 7 — Yes. We thought that caused an
elplosion at Pope & Pearson's, Altof ts, Normanton.

32279. Special Rule 92, referring to miners, workmen and
others says, no persons where locked lamps are used shall
fire a shot without authority from a manager or an under-
ma&ager. That will apply to the coal as well as the stone 7

Do you think where coal-cutting machinery
is in use and seven -eighths of the shots may l^ bored, that
the under-manager or manager gives permi'^Bion to fire
the shots on all occasions 7 — 9f times out of 100 he does
not know until after they are fired.

32281. He gives permission 7 — He gives a wholesale

3. He does not tn^ke aiiy fieraonal ezaihinat|(>& of
the shots as to how they are placed or Hie nature of the
ston.' 7 — The manager or uhder-mahager 7

32283. Yes.— No, very seldom.

32284. If that is so this Special Rule 92 is not carried
out 7 — No.

32285. The shots are fired first 7 — The under-manager
or the general manager does not know they have been fired
until they are reported in the book.

32286. The shot-firer is supposed to report every night
the number of shots that he has fired in the book in order
to ascertain the total number of shots fired 7 — Yes.

32287. Your Special Rule with regard to the deputy's
examination in the morning provides that an examination
must be made within three hours of the men starting work 7

32288. Is i^ree hours not rather a long time from the
time a working place is excLmined until the men are entitled
to go into it 7 — It is too long in many mines.

32289. There might be a serious accumulation of gas
in three hours 7 — Yes, aiid a verjr serious accident

32290. In longwall workings there might be a serioi|8
alteration from the weight and bad stone which was all
right when he was in 7 — Yes.

32291. On that ground you think the time ought to be
shortened 7 — Yes.

32292. You think it is not possible at the present time
because of the extent of the deputy's district to do it in
less than that time 7 — He cannot do it in these cases
now in three hours.

32293. His examination at the present time in the
larger districts may be largely examinatioii of the working
faces only 7 — Yes.

32294. From your own experience of certain districts
you have seen underground, would it be possible for Uie
deputy to make the examination he is expected to make
by this Act and go in and out all of the roads and gates 7 —
Do you mean within three hours 7

32295. Yes. — No, it is impossible.

32296. In addition to making his examination in three
hours in the morning he is also supposed to make a seoond
examination during the course of his shift, which should
be as extensive as the firdt examination 7 — Yes.

32297. If it requires three hours of the morning and
cannot be done in that time, that would mean that six
houre of his time would be taken up with the two
examinations 7 — Yes.

32298. What are their hours, they are generally eight
per day, are they not 7 — Yes.

32299. In addition to that, under the rules he is entitled
to look after the general safety and the ventilation, the
pony drivers, and other things 7 — Yes.

32300. Is he supposed to do all that in his two hours'
additional time 7— Yes. He does not make two examina-
tions as a rule because he cannot do it in one shift

32301. Under Rule 13 he is supposed to do that 7 —
But he does not go to those places twice in one shift as a

32302. It is largely because of the extent of the district 7
— ^Yes, it is.

32303. As a class your deputies in Yorkshire are qtdte
as good as in any other part of the country 7 — ^They an
good as a rule.

32304. You have no fault to find with them 7 — ^No,
with the exception of the yoimg men who start deputying
when they know nothing about it

32305. You have in your mind some cases where, in
your opinion, persons have been started as deputies who
have not had the necessary theoretical qualificatioDB or
the practical knowledge to quahfy them for the position ?
— YeB.

32306. Is it your opinion that the position of deputy
about a colliery is the most important from the point of
view of safety of any official about a colliery 7 — ^Yee, it is.
I think he is in daily touch with workmen and the general
conditions much more than a mine manager or an under-
manager, and that a large responsibility devolves upon

32907. You are of opinion that he should hold a certi-
ficate of competency aCter an examinatioii 7 — 1 am.

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Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 116 of 177)