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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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32402. But both the manager and an assistant manager
must have got a first or second-class certificate, must he
not. Is that not enough ? — I think the person who has
charge of the safety of &e mine and has to report whether
the mine is safe or not should at least show that he is
competent to make such a report.

32403. Do you mean the fireman ? — Yes.

32404. You think that there should be an examination
for the fireman ? — Yes.

32405. And you say that the examination papers should
be couched in terms which could be understood in the
district where the examination is held ? You would have
naturally different examinations for firemen in the different
districts ? — Yes.

32406. You say you cannot think of a better way to
ascertain whether firemen or other officials are competent
than by an examination. Would you insist that previous
to that examination being held they should have had
experience underground ? — Yes.

32407. How long experience would you suggest 7 —
At least 10 years.

32408. With regard to the standard of discipline and
enforcement, you say the highest standard should be
attained ? — Yes.

32409. You say you would not allow a colliery owner
or manager to impose fines for breaches of discipline.
Then how would you deal with breaches of discipline ?
Would you deal with them in all cases by prosecution ? —
Serious breaches.

32410. Or first of all, perhaps, by a reprimand or by
dismissing a man ? — First of all by reprimand.

32411. Th-^n if the man jiersisted you would deal with
the case by prosecution and perhaps by dismissal ? —
Yes.

32412. You say that the establishment of Special Rules
is dilatory and expensive. With regard to that you say
that the framing of Special Rules, instead of being the
duty, as it now is under the present Mines Act, of the
owner, agent or manager in every mine in a district who
have to submit them to an inspector, would be better, more
cheaply, more quickly and more effectively done if the
Joint Committees in force in almost every mining district,
^representing as they do the body of the owners and work-
men, were to undertake that duty, with the inspector
present at the inception and during the progress of the
miming of the rules, and the findings of the Joint Com-
mittee plus the inspector sent direct to the Secretary of
State. Who composes the Joint Committee which you
say is in force in almost every mining district ? — The
representatives of the workmen and owners who meet for
other purposes,

32413. Then you suggest that that Joint Committee
which meets for other purposes should first of aU have any
suggested rule by the owner submitted to them before
it is promulgated and before it goes any further ? — Yes.

32414. Then as to falls of roof and sides you say that
there should be a plentiful supply of , timber properly
and systematically set, and that to secure proper timbering
onlv skilled workmen should be employed in setting it,
and in working places. Then you would have special
men, as they have in Durham, who are appointed to look
after the timber of the mine ; you would not leave it to
the man who was working at tiie face to do his best for
himself ? — I would certainly insist that a man should do
his own timbering in the faoew

32415. But not behind T — Not behind — not in the roads.
Of course that all depends upon the system of Hie district ;
some districts find it best to do it one way and some

I another. I am in favour of the coal-getter doing his own
I timbering.

32416. You say that more frequent inspections should
be made by officials in places known to be requiring
special attention. Then 1 suppose if more inspections
have to be made by officials it would be necessary that
tiie fireman's district should be reduced in size ? — Yes.

32417. With regard to the ordinary work of a fireman,
as he understands it now, do you think he can get through
his work as a rule in the mines you are acquainted wiw.



MINUTE3 OF EVIDENCE I



or is his district too l^^ige !— I am afraid there are too
many firemen or examiners, as we call them, who have other
work than examination to do, and they cannot get through
their work.

32418. Supposing they had not other work besides
the examination to do, but supposing their work was
entirely confined to looldng after the safety of the miners,
do you think the districts would be too large ? — No, I do
not.

32419. Then you say the rules as to timbering should
be made to suit the special circumstances of the district
or colliery, and should be strictly enforced ? — Yes.

32420. You point out that General Rule 22 provides
that : ^* The distance between the sprags or holing props
where they are required shall not exceed 6 ft or such less
distance as may be ordered by the owner, agent or manager.* '
In the absence of an official it is left to the workmen to
decide whether they are required. In Rule 83 of the
Special Rules of the Bristol and Somerset districts it is
provided that certain persons shall see that : *' The roof
is safely secured and maintained in accordance with the
notice posted near the top of the shaft or entrance to the
mine, specifying the maximum distance at which the roof
shall be supported, and that it has such additional supports
as may be necessary to make the place safe." — That
is so.

32421. You go on to say here again the discretion
of the workmen comes in ; you do not say this ought not
to be, but you adduce it to support your suggestion that
only skilled and competent persons should l^ employed
and made responsible for their own and others safety.
Then you do not object to this General Rule, but what
you do object to is that persons are working at the face
in some of the mines you know who are really not competent
to set timber, and not competent to judge whether such
timber ought or ought not to be provided ? — Yes ; and
that the inspection is not frequent enough.

32422. Then as to accidents in haulage roads, you
suggest there should be separate travelling roads, that the I
best materials should be used, and that proper persons '
should be employed to manipulate the appliances used in
haulage roads. I suppose you would acknowledge that
in some mines separate travelling roads would be a matter
of so much expense as to be practically prohibitive, or do
you think that in your mines vou could always have
sepcurate travelling roads ? — It would certainly be expensive,
but I should not consider the question of expense in a
matter of safety.

32423. Then you think that however expensive it might
be it should be compulsory to provide travelling roads T
—Yes.

32424. And you would not be content with having
a gangway on one side — Well, that is a separate road,
is it not — if it is wide enough and properly secured.

32425. If the haulage roads were so wide that the men
had room to walk at the side that would be sufficient,
in your opinion T — And if there was a partition at the
side.

32426. Would you have a regular partition or would
you be content with props put up now and then ? — I
should want it fenced off like a railway.

32427. Then you suggest the employment of proper
persons to manipulate the appliances used in haulage
roads. Do you suggest that persons who are not suffi-
ciently skilled are employed in looking after the haulace 7
— Yes. It very frequently comes under my notice uiat
men who understand noti^iing about machinery are em-
ployed to let down inclines and use all sorts of appliances,
and they cans? accidents to themselves and others through
their want of knowledge.

32428. As regards safety lamps, you say you consider
it unsafe to use open lights in any mine where parts of the
mine contain or give off gas. You say you think safe
lights should be used wherever gas is given off, and that
it is open to question as to whether a safety lamp has
yet been discovered. You mean, I suppose, that the
present safety lamps are not perfect in construction ? —
I do not think they are.

32429. Are all your mines worked by naked lights T
— No, we have some safety-lamp pits in the south of the
district.

32430. Have you paid any attention to the various kinds
of safety lamps ? Is there anything you would like to
say to the Commission as to your experience of what classes
of safety lamps are best ? — I should not like to recommend
any of them ; I think they are all faulty.



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32431. [Dr. HcUdane.) Do you mean faulty as regards
safety ? — Yes.

32432. Not faulty as regards light-giving power ? —
No, as regards safety.

32433. (Chairman,) At all events, you have had some
exp.-rience with safety lamps T — I have worked with them.

32434. In your opinion every lamp that you have
worked with is more or less faulty ? — Yes.

32435. You think that they might be unproved T —
I do. I think it is for the management to decide which
class of lamp they will use at a colliery.

32436. Then we come to investigations into mine
accidents. You say that all or any of the persons
entitled under Sub-Section 8 of Section 48 of the Mines
Act to be present at an inquest and to examine witnesses
should have the right to appoint some practical person or
persons to inspect the scene of the accident as soon as
possible after the happening thereof. As a matter of
fact, the inspector always does hurry down after an
accident, does he not ? — Yes — a long time after ; especially
in districts with big areas it is a long time afterwar(k
that he comes.

32437. Do you think that a great many more people
besides the inspector should be allowed to immediately
go down a mine and see the scene of the accident ? —
I think the scene of the accident should be inspected as
soon as possible after it has happened ; and it occurred
to me that the workmen, the relatives of the deceased
and other persons who would be entitled to be repre-
sented at the inquest should also be entitled to make
inquiry immediately after the accident and appoint
somebody to inspect.

32438. That would mean, among others, an official of
the Union, if a workman who was killed belonged to the
Union ? — Not necessarily.

32439. Then someone who had a right to speak on his
behalf. It is usually, if he is a Union man, an official of
the Union, is it not ? — Yes.

32440. Then you say that the power to exclude these
persons, as well as the general public, should be taken
from the coroner — you mean to exclude them from the
inquest ? — Yes.

32441. You think the c<»:oner should be obliged to hold
the inquest in public and not to exclude anybody ? —
Yes. I do not think he ought to have power to keep
anybody out of the inquest as he has at present. All the
privileges in the Mines Act are subject to the orders of
the coroners, as you know, and I do not think they ought
to be.

32442. Then you say that the selection of the jury by
the local police is open to objection. I do not know how
coroners' juries are selected. Are they selected by the
police ? — I will tell you what happens in country districts.
The local policeman is the coroner's warrant officer, and
he gets the writ and warrant from the coroner and he
selects the persons to serve on the jury. That is open
to great objection.

32443. Then your complaint is that these coroners'
juries are frequently composed of men who are not practical
and not the best men for t?— No.

32517. You did not try ? — Yes, we did try ; we tried
our best.

32518. But none of the alterations were accepted ? —
That is so.

32519. (iff. Enoch Edioards.) Were there features in
those rules to which the men objected ? — Yes, strongly.

32520. What happened ? — We had a good many meet-
ings and lost our temper at some of them, and the rules
remained as they were. The owners and inspector would
not accept any suggestion.

32521. (Mr. Cunynghame.) In what year was this ? —
It was very recently. That was the codification of the
various rules.

32522. Can you say in about what year, or what month T
— It was about two years ago.

32523. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) It was in order to bring
a more general set of rules into use over a big area, I sup-
pose ? — ^^That is so.

32524. Were the parts upon which you differed as to
questions of safety ? — Safety and discipline.

32525. So that we may take it that so far as the prepara-
tion and the arrangement of those rules were concerned,
whatever representation your society and the men gen-
erally made with regard to them, it was unheeded ? — It
was unheeded.

32526. Nothing you could say had any effect upon
the rules ? — No.

32527. But still the men were all expected to obey those
rules ? — That is so.



I observe that with regard to falls of roof and

sides you suggest systematic timbering. By that do you
mean one system of timbering ? — I mean a system suitable
to the district in which it is in force. I do not think it is
possible to establish any system that will suit all districts.

32529. But it may be possible in a pit, or a number of
pits, to have one system of timbering ? — I think so.

32530. Bo the colliers do their own timbering in your
district ? — Yes.

32531. Is it part of their contract T — Yes.

32532. Are they responsible for any other part of the
roadway except the working face ? — Just to the brow of
the road.

32533. How many yards will that give the collier to
attend to ? — About two or three yards.

32534. He is responsible for the setting of timber ? —
Yes ;'^to the edge of the ripping,

32535. After that the company is responsible ? — Yes.

32536. Do you think that is a good system ?— I think
it suits Somerset.



32537. Have vou many accidents from falls of roof and Mr. S. H.
I ? — No. The number is very low indeed, compara- WhiUhouse.

tively.

32538. Of course they are very lean or thin seams ?— ^ ^®^» ^^''•
Yes.

32539. In Somerset you think there is not much fault
to be found with the present method of colliers setting
their own timber at the face ? — I do not think there is.

32540. Do they get fairly well supplied with timber T
— In most cases. There are complaints sometimes in
some coUieries.

32541. I think you said in answer to Mr. Ellis that you
used lamps partly in your district, and partly naked
lights ?— Yes.

32542. Have you much gas ? — In the collieries where
the gas is found it gives off very largely — they are very
fiery.

32543. Of course you have had two or three explo-
sions ? — We have ha!d two or three explosions, but not
in the gassy part of the coalfield.

32544. With regard to inspection by the firemen, would
you mind telling the Commission what is the condition of
things in Somerset ? Can a fireman discharge his duties
and make an inspection of the roof and sides of the work-
ing face over the area for which he is appointed ? — Gen-
eraUy, no.

32545. Does that mean because his area is too large for
him ? — It means because he is found other work, and
in many cases he is incompetent. He is appointed not
because he is a competent person, but for some other
reasons.

32546. Perhaps because he is a relation of someone ?
— Yes, perhaps — or because he goes to the same chapel,
or something of that sort.

32547. I am afraid the Commission will have a difficulty
in curing relationship ? — Yes.

32548. What do you mean he has to do ? Is it to see
that timber is got in and coal got out ? — That timber is
got in and coal got out, or to see that the roads are clean*
and if they are not so to fill the rubbish himself. It very
often occurs that he has to do manual labour between his
inspections.

32549. So that you think it is not possible for him to
make a thorough examination as an official under the
Act ?— I do.

32550. Because of other duties ?— That is so.

32551. And not so much because of the size of his dis-
trict ?— No.

32552. In discussing the question of the certificates
you suggested two examinations — one for a fiery district,
and one for a non-fiery district ? — Yes.

32553. Do you not think it is desirable that all candi-
dates should have a knowledge of fiery districts as weU as
non -fiery ? — My difficulty there is that if a man is in a
non-fiery district and he has to have knowledge of fiery
mines, he has to leave that district on purpose to get it.

32554. We will take your district. A portion of your
district is non-fiery, I understand, and a portion of it is
fiery ?— Yes.

32555. So that a man can get his experience in your own
district ? — A small number can. &ipposing there are
two firemen in a pit, well, you can only put two there. I
will say this for tne owners of the colliery I am thinking
of, that the colliery is always open to students in mining
classes to visit for the purpose of getting such knowledge,
and we do frequently visit that colliery for the purpose
of getting that knowledge.

32556. Could you suggest any big district anywhere
that is non-fiery ? — No, I am afraid I cannot. What
occurred to me was just the little district which I know
best, where there are non-fiery mines. But I should not
be strong upon the non-fiery mine certificate.

32557. It is necessary that a man who holds such a xxwi-
tion should have a fuU knowledge of fiery mines, gas being
one of the elements of danger ? — Yes. He should know
how to deal with it, and with regard to lamps, and every-
thing of that kind.

32558. With regard to the question of accidents in
mines and coroners' inquests, would you mind telling the
Commission how, in your opinion, we, as representing a
trade, are to get our position recognised before the coroner T
What is in the minds of the miners upon that question ?
In what direction would they like to have that law altered ?



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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



Mr, S, H, —I think they would like the power of the coroner to keep
WhiUhauae, them out and to generally order them as to which way they

are to put questions, and what they are to do, abolished ;

5 Dec., 1907. I think the miners want to be represented at coroner's
— — - courts as a matter of right, so that they should have a
right to be there and to appoint who they like to be there
as a matter of right.



In some way, of course, the coroner always will
have to direct his court ? — Exactly, but he can direct a
man to go outside now if he thinkis fit, and he does so
sometimes.

32560. You think he ought not to have such a power ? —
I do.

32561. I understand you to suggest that the person so
appointed should have the right of inspecting the place
of the accident ? — The same ckss of person.

32562. Of course he must be a practical pitman ? —
He must be a practical pitman.

32563. (J/r. Cunynghame,) If fines were abolished what
would take the place of them prosecution ? — Prose-
cution or dismissal.

32564. Do you not think it would be rather hard,
perhaps, on a young fellow who was careless, assuming
that he did something that endangered the safety of
people, but still only carelessness, to dismiss him right
away ? — I would warn him first and if he did it again I
would prosecute him.

32565. If dismis.ed his career would be at an end —
A good thing too, if h? is dangerous in the pit.

32566. You think it would be better to give him a
warning instead of a fine, and then dismiss him peremp-
torily ? — If a man did something that endangered the
safety of himself or his fellow men m re than once I would
not have him if I were a manager of a colliery. I would
either prosecute him or dismiss him.

32567. Do you not think if that rule were rigorously
carried out a quarter of the men in the mine might possibly
in the course of their lives be dismissed ? — There are two
things you missed in what I said. I said the colliery
owners had it very largely in their own hands themselves.
If they would cease to employ unskilled persons there
would be less need for fines or prosecution. I also said in
my judgment that fines conduced to laxity. If you fine
a young man Is. or half-a-croiwi he does the thing again
and risks the fine, but if you prosecute him he does not
do it again.

32568. I want to know what the effect of dismissal will
be. ,We understand a good many fines are levied in some
districts. If you had dismissal instead of a fine in every
case there would be a tremendous dismissal and the un-
employed ranks would be considerably added to ? — I think
one or two dismissals would have a salutary effect on the
others.

32569. Would you never take him on again for the rest
of his life ?— No, I do not say that.

32570. Your plan would be a kind of suspension ? — Yes.

32571. Is not the drawback of suspension this : I am
looking at the young men who are being graduaUy drilled
into becoming good miners ; if they w re suspended that
would mean perhaps a week of idleness, going about
outside to some entertainments on the surface and
loafing about, and that would not be very good for
them ? — What I want to convey to the Commission is
this

32572. Will you meet my objection. You have told us
your view, but I want to see the value of your evidence
when you come to meet objections. Will you fasten your
mind on the objection ? — If fines make men less careful
rather than mora careful they cannot be of any avail.
If a week's suspension makes a man more careful I say
it is better than fines.

32573. Your view is that a fine by an owner makes a
man less careful, and a fine by a magistrate makes a man
more careful ? — No, the publicity of the thing. It not
only affects the mAn before the magistrate but the whole
district, and people know that th y cannot do this kind
of thing.

32574. You think that a man who is fined 5s. by an owner
will become less careful, but if he is fined 5s. by a magis-
trate, with publicity, he will become more careful ? — And
make other men more careful.

32575. It seems to me an astonishing proposition ; I
should have thought that both would have the same
effect ? — Well, I only give you my experience.



32576. I am not doubting your word for a moment in
giving evidence. There is another point I want to put to
you. You have not answered the question as to sus-
pensions not being a good thing on account of a man
idling about. It is a drawback to suspension. If you
admit it is so much counting against you I have no more
to say about it, but if you say it is not, will you tell me
why ? — I do not think it is a drawback. I think it is the
best thing to do. j#^

32577. When a man has committed an offence give him
a couple of weeks with nothing to do ? — No, I do not say
that ; I would warn him first.

32578. Then if that fails, give him a couple of weeks
with nothing to do ? — No, some time ; I would not say
a couple of weeks.

32579. Well, give him four day^j with nothing to do ? —
Yes, that is better than a fortnight.

32580. You do not think he is likely to fall into bad
habits in four days ? — I think he is likely to go to the mine
and say : *' If you re-ioBtate me I will not do it again."

32581. If married, what will his wife do in the four days
without any earnings ? I am putting the other side to
you. There are drawbacks ? — What would she do if he
is careless and gets killed.

32582. We are on the question of what is the best
deterrent There are these points on the other side, are
there not, to be considered ? — I cannot do any more than
tell the Commission that in my judgment fines tend to
laxity rather than to carefulness.

32583. You are not able very well specifically to answer
the objections I have brought forward, but I do not say
they are fatal. — I say that is my experience.

32584. Now will you come to prosecutions. That you
think a good method of stopping offences of carelessness ?
— It is a matter of degree. It is better than fines.

32585. Dismissal you consider to be best of all. You
like susp.'nsion better than prosecution ? — Yes.

32586. Suspension is your first remedy and the best one ?
— I think so.

32587. Then prosecutions, and lastly fines which act the
other way, and make people more careless ? — I think so.

32588. Now I come to prosecutions. Is there not some
danger, if there were no fines and prosecution were adopted
as the method of enforcing rules that owners would be
lax in putting it in force, because of the inconvenience it
would give in the mine ? — Then the inspector would
prosecute them.

32589. It will come to this, whenever a sprag is not



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 118 of 177)