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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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20676. In the absence of a schedule the fines are inflicted
at the colliery office. Do they consult the man as to how
much the fine should be ? Who fiies ttie fine ? — The
manager says m his bpkiioB that the man should be fined,
and of course the man is toM tliat. If he thinks the fine
is unreasonable he says at once he thinks it is unreasonable,
and I have known the fine to be reduced by the man pro-
testing against it.

20677. I have not got there yet. I want to know who
is responsible for fixing this fine. Is your Union, or
organisation, or the checkweighman of the man, or anybody
ei^ consulted at all about it T — The manager always
suggests the fine except where they have a schedule.

20678. He would not delegate that to a deputy ? — ^No.

20679. The fireman would not fix the fine ?~No.

20680. Nor the under-manager ? — ^The under-manager

20681. Usually the manager would fix it ?— Usually the

20682. The oertificated {Responsible manager of die pit
would fix the fine 7 — ^Tes.

20683. The man is expected to pay it ? — Yes.

20684. The other alternative, I suppose, is to take his
tools ?— Yes.

20686. He can always do that ?— Yes.

00686. I understood you to suggest if a man had a good
place and was doing pretty weU, whatever the fine was,
even if it was raUier stiff, he would rather pay it than lose
his place ? — ^Yes.

20687>i If the man is told by the manager that the fine
for a certain offence will be lOs., they stop it off him if
necessary ? — Yes.

20688. He does not take it to the office ? — He consents
tA it being stopped.

20689. He does not take it to the office ?— No.

20600. He does not pay for it ?— In some cases it is paid,
and in others it is deducted, but he signs a written declara-
tion to the effect that he is wilting for it to be deducted.

20691. They collect these fines in the office ? — In some
cases. In some cases they pay the fine before they draw
the money on the Friday night. Supposing the offence is
committed on the Wednesday, the man would pay the fine
before he drew his money.

20692. {Mr. Ra^cUffe EUi3.) Have you ever known cases
in which it u^ put over two or three weeks ? — Yes.


20693. (Mr. Enoch Edvxtrda.) I understood Mr. EDis, in Mr, J. 0»
quoting the Tnick Act, said where the fine was excessive Hanoock,
that he could go to Court and get it baok 7 — Yes.

20694. You say you havt> known them, where the fine
has been too hea^, give it to them back. You have known
them return it ? — I have known them reduce it.

20695. You have known them reduce it where there is an
agreement ? — Not where there is a schedule of fines.

20696. Die colliery manager in his office fixes this fine ? —

20697. He does fix it at too much sometimes ? — Yes.
Well, at any rate he has fixed it and it has been reduced ;
the man has objected to it afterwards, and it has been further
considered, or re-considered, and the manager has reduced

20698. Does he not object at the time ? — He objects
when he is told what the fine that is proposed is.

20699. Is general discipline maintained by the manage-
ment in auy of the Nottingham collieries without resorting
to fines ? — 1 cannot say that there are any collieries where
fines are not, at times, inflicted.

20700- 1. Do many take the men to Court ? — We have not
many prosecutions ; I could not say how many, but I do
not think that there are many, comparatively speaking.

20702. You are clearly of opinion with regard to the
new Special Rules for a oollierv, before a rule is sent up to
the Home Office that it should be submitted to the men ? —

20703. You think by that means you would be able to
establish rules which would work more smoothly 7 — I do.

20704. You have no doubt in your mind that it would
interfere with the safety ? — I do not think it would. I
have no reason, whatever, to think that.

20706. Do you think men, generally, would realise that a
rule, although many of the rules have a considerable bearing
upor their w:ages and contracts, has a bearing on the ques-
tion of safety ? Do you think the men are very keen with
resrard to the question of safety ?— They would not object
to any reasonable and fair rule.

20706. It has been suggested that there was that possible
advantage that it might not be possible to get rules which
would throw some onus on the workmen and which would
be desirable in their interests if the men were consulted ?

{Mr, BcOcUfft EUis.) Not possible to get beyond the first

20707. {Mr. Enoch Edtoards.) You thhik it would not
hinder it by consulting the men 7 — I am well convinced, in
my own mind, that we should never have the trouble that
Mr. EBis apparently anticipated.

20708. {Mr. Rakliffe EUis.) In Nottingham 7—1 do not
think we should anywhere in the country.

20709. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Your men feel tiiat
before the rules are sanctioned by the Home Office or any-
body else, they should be consulted in regard to them 7 —
We have been consulted by colliery companies, here and
there, when they have wanted an alteration in ^e Special
Rules, and it has worked well, and it is that experience
which makes me think it would be admirable if generally*

20710. {Chairman.) What I understood you wanted waa
not that the rule should be submitted to the men betore
being sanctioned by the Home Office, but submitted before
they were even sent up to the Home Office 7 — Yes.

207 1 1 . That the mine owners should not have committed
themselves in any way to the sanctioning of any rules before
the men had been consulted 7 — That is so.

{Mr. Raidifft EUis.) That they shoakL not be aUowed to
propose them 7

20712. {Chairman.) Yes, should not be lUlowed to pro- 1
pose them to the Home Office until the men have been (
ocmsultedt sJthough, if the negotiations between the men )
and the masteie broke down« the masters would be at liberty < /
to produce these rules to the Home Office as their rules. ^^
What you say is before the masters have committed them-
selves to these rules to tlie extent of submitting them to the
Home Office, that the men should have some voice in the
matter 7— Yes, that is it, exactly. J

20713. {Mr. SmiUie.) In speakins with regaand to fines, I
take it yon speak £or Nottingham omy 7 — That is so.

20714. Upon all the other questions do you speak for
Nottmgham or on behalf of the Miners' Federation, which
is wider 7 — Well, I was appointed by the Federation.

Digitized by




Mr, J, O, 20715. You confine your evidenoe largely to your othi
Hancock. county ? — I can speak more confidently of my own county.

30May,l907. 20716. May I take it that you have Special Rules applic-

able to your county, and that the majority of them are

dealing with the safety of the workmen ? — Yes.

20717. May I take it from you that the workmen have as
much at stake in the mines of this country as the
employer ? — I think so.

20718. Upon that ground you are of opinion that they
have an equal right to a voice in the establishment of Special
Rules which are supposed to be for the safety of life and
limb underground ? — Yes.

20710. They have not generally, up to the present time,
been taken into consideration in the establishment of Rules?

20720. In the initial establishment of rules ? — No, they
have not.

20721. If it were agreed that the employers were en-
titled to initiate, in the first place. Special Rules which are
supposed to be for the safety of the workmen, without the
workmen having any voice in them, would not the work-
men be as well entitled to initiate and send to the Home
Oflfice Special Rules thoy wish to have established ?—
Morally speaking, I thmk they would.

20722. The better way, you think, would be that they
should be jointly, as far as they could agree, drawn up and
sent to the Home Oflfice ? — I do.

20723. I think it is admitted that the timbering rules,
initiated by the Home Oflfice in the hope of improving the
safety of life and limb underground, have not met with the
success which was expected. That, I think, is the general
opinion ? — Yes.

20724. So far as accidents are concerned. Do you know
whether that is so from your own experience ; has there
been any change ? — I do not know that it is so from my own

20725. Is it your opinion that any rule of such a nature
would be more likely to be observed by the workmen if
the workmen by their representatives were consulted
in their establishment ? — I think it would have a value
then that it cannot possibly have if the workmen have
not been consulted.

20726. Now. with regard to fines, one point has not been
made clear to me. Do you know whether or not the
workmen in other counties outside your own county are
satisfied that there should be fines established in the
collieries ? — I cannot say.

20727. You do not know ? — ^I do not know.

20728. Could you give us any idea of the seriousness of
the breach of disciplme or breach of a Special Rule which
would be satisfied and met by a fine ? Would ^ou say a
case of taking matches into a mine where naked lights were
prohibited would be met by a fine ? — I am not prepared
to say it is.

20729. Or the opening of a safety lamp ? — No.

20730. That would be too serious a matter to deal with
by a fine T — I think so.

20731. Or any other breach of the Mines Act or Special
Rules which seriously endangers the lives of the people
generally underground ? — I think there should be prosecu-

20732. In a case of that kind T^Yes.

20733. No provision was made in the Mines Act for
local fining by the employer for any breach of a Special
Rule or of the Mines Act ? — No, I think not.

20734. Was it not the intention of the Act that all
breaches of rules should be punished by prosecution 7 —
I cannot say that it is.

20735. There is no provision for any other kind of
punishment T — ^No.

20736. If you are satisfied that a mere technical breach
of a Special Rule or of the Mines Act should be dealt with
by a fine mutually agreed upon, would you say the same
thing with regard to a breach of the Mines Act by a
certScated manager, that the mines inspector and he
shall enter into an arrangement of fines rather than go into
court ? — 1 could not say that. That is a point that
has never suggested itself to me.

20737. Would not the one be quite as just as the other ?
If it satisfies in the case of a miner would it not be quite
as satisfactory in the case of a mine manager and a mines
xDSpeotor 7

(Mr. Baidiffe EUis,) A good deal more satisfactory to
him than being brought ^fore the magistrate.

20738-9. {Mr. SmiUie.) 1 want to know whether you are
prepared to admit such a dangerous thing as the inspectors ^
dealing with the manager in that way ? — I am not prepared
to admit that. I can hardly put the manag3r in the
position of the worker. I cannot understand* a manager
doing a thing that would, comparatively speaking, be of
such small seriousness.

20740. Supposing you could imagine the inspector
being entitled to fine a mine manager £1 rather than take
him to court, do you think that would be as effective in
securing the carrying out of the Mines Act as a prosecution
would be ? — I do not think it would be so eflfective. Pro-
secutions are more effective than fines in every case.

20741. In the case of managers and in the case of
workmen too ? — Yes.

20742. If you admit that it is more effective, why set up
any other system which is less effective ? — I cannot for the
moment say that a man should be pulled before a bench
of magistrates if he haa improperly filled a tram. He may
never have been into a court before in his life, and I will not
say that man should be prosecuted if a fine of 28. 6d would
meet the case.

20743. That is hardly a breach of a Special Rule, or of
the Mines Act ? — ^The line should be drawn somewhere,
I think.

20744. It is a very important question as to the extent
of a fireman's duties. Do you agree that a fireman is
the most important person, so far as the safety of the
mine is concerned, who is engaged in the mines of this
country ? — A fireman may have 50 men under his control
and their safety is continuously in his hands. He is
one of the most important persons T — He is one of the
important persons.

20745. You would not admit that he is the most
important so far as safe^ is concerned 7 — I am not pre-
pared to say he is not : I would not say he is.

20746. At least he is of sufficient unportanoe to justify
us in endeavouring to have the best possible men that
can be got to occupy positions of that kind ? — Yes.

20747. Is it your opinion that his attention should be
directed entirely to looking after ventilation and the safety
of the mine under his charge ? — Yes, I do.

20748. Can he effectively carry out his duties in that
respect if he is engaged on other duties such as laying and
lifting of roadways or arranging for the getting out of the
trams 7 — ^No, I do not think he can.

20749. That interferes very seriously with his usefulness
so far as safety is concerned 7 — ^Yes.

20750. Is there any real difficulty in finding out whether
or not a fireman really examines all the roadways. His
statutory duties are to examine all the roadways leading
to and from the working faces 7 — Yes.

20751. All the working faces and all the roads which
may be traversed or travelled it is his duty to thoroughly
examine to find out whether they are safe. Is there any
real difficulty in a person going about mines knowing
whether or not he does thoroughly examine all those roads 7
—No, the difficulty is here so far as I can see: tlie fireman
cannot in many cases travel the allotted gates and faces
in the time allowdd him.

20752. In most cases is it not the fact that there are
night shifts. Fwly generally there are night shifts 7 — I
am speaking of the morning shift. I thought you were
speakiog of the morning sh'ft.

20753. I am speaking of the morning examination, but
very often there are men in the mominff even when a
fireman goes his round, is not that so 7 — ^Not generally in
our district. Veiy often they go down at six and cease at
two in the morning, in other cases they go down later and
cease work at 5 or 5.30 in the morning.

20754. I want your own experience. ,Is it not fairly
usual for firemen themselves to complain that it is im-
possible for them to go their rounds because of the extent
of their district 7 — I have heard them make the admission
that they could not travel the distance in the time allowed,
that is to go in and out.

20755. Is it an tmderstood fact in every mining district
in a longwall working that a fireman goes right along tiie
ooal faces from one end to the other 7 — Yes.

20756. That is not a thorough examination 7 — ^That is
not an examination aooording to the Aot^ in my opinion.

Digitized by




20757. It has been admitted that falls from sides and
roof, haulage accidents, are the chief source of fatal acci-
dents in mines ? — ^Yes.

20758. You were asked whether or not you would agree
to making it a Special Rule that there should be a chain
leading from one end of the train of tubs to the other in a
haulage road. You said you were not prepared to go that
length so far as the full tubs were concerned, but you
would so far as the men riding in trams were concerned ?

20759. That is for the safety of the men riding in the
trams ? — ^Yes.

20760. Has not there been a considerable number of
accidents by broken couplings and runaway trams, from
a train of trams going up full ? — ^There have been in other
districts, but I am not aware of any in ours. I cannot call
any to mind and I have not the inspector's reports.

20761. You have a system of haulage in your district
in which there is a large train of trams drawn by mechanical
haulage ? — Yes.

20762. Sometimes up a considerable gradient ? — ^Yes.

20763. Are you aware the chains are used at the present
time in your own county from one end to the otner ? —
Yes, and in other cases they are not used. Generally
speaking the men are not allowed to travel those roskds
while the road is going.

20764. There are men to attend to the travelling road ?

20765. Would it be any serious hardship to make it
compulsory upon the employer to have a chain over the
top of every train of trams ? — 1 do not think it would.

[Dr. Haldane.) Is that a chain fixed to the end wagons ?

20766. (Mr. Smillie.) It is fixed to the rope on each end
of a continuous haulage ? — In some cases they are under-
neath, in others they axe what we call overhead.

20767. It does not interfere with the effectiveness of
the haulage road ? — ^No.

20768. Would you be in favour of making it compulsory
to have runaway points on all single haulage heading roads ?
— ^The switches.

20769. Yes, runaway switchers so that if a breakaway
takes place it would run off instead of down ? — ^Yes.

20770. You do not think that would be a serious incon-
venience or danger ? — No ; in some cases they have
appliances fixed in the roof, and at certain points in the
road there is a handle, and from this handle to this piece
of timber is a wire, and if people where this handle is know
that a part of the train nas broken loose they pull the
handle and it drops a big piece of timber in the way.

M. J. O.



Tuesday, Wth June, 1907.
At Edinburgh,

Lord MoNKswBLL {Chairman),

Sir Lindsay Wood, Bart.

F. L. Davis, Esq.

Thomas Ratcutfe Ellis, Esq .

John Scott Haldanb, Esq., p.b.s.
Robert Smilue, Esq.

S. W. Habbis, Esq. (Secretan/).

Mr. John Weib, called and examined.


Statement of Witness.

20771. — (1) In my opinion the staff of Government In-
spectors is far from being adequate. There should
bo a sufficient number to overtake periodical inspection
of every mine in the country. At present it
appears that their time is mainly taken up in making
inspections after accidents and attending enquiries.
Inspections should be more directed with a view to the
safety of mines and the prevention of accidents than
is at present the case.

(2) Inspection by toorhmen under 'General Rule 38. —
This rule is practically inoperative. The men do not
take advantage of it, the chief cause of this being fear on
the part of the men to give offence to the employers.
Several of the miners* unions in Scotland encourage the
men to make these inspections and pay for them out of
their funds, but notwithstanding tins there has been a
reluctance on the part of the miners for years to take
advantage of the rule.

(3) Inspection by Offlddls under General Ride 4. — ^This
inspection \b very inefficiently carried out. Many men
who are appointed to make the inspection are not the
mcst capable men for the purpose. Some indeed of the
men appointed are incapable. In addition to this in
many mstances the area to be inspected can only be
done in the most perfunctory way in the time allotted.

Not only is this so, but generally it is only the working -^^ j j^^ij.
faces that are visited, the travelling loads being neglected ' _L_

altogether. Unless there is very apparent dagger, under 11 June 1907

such a system there is little chance of notice being taken

of it.

(4) Discipline and its Enforcement. — Discipline would
be better ensured were a bettex class of under officials
appointed under the management. I prefer prosecution
to fining, as a means of its enforcement, although I h
believe the men themselves would seriously object. *

(5) Special Rules, — ^The present system of establishing
Special Kules should be amended to give the workmen's
representatives an opportunity of putting forth their
views in some effective manner. Special Rules, when
once established in a district, should apply at once to all
new mines subsequently opened.

(6) FaUs of Roof and Side, — ^A systematic method of
timbering should be rigidly enforced, a system to be
adopted most suitaole to the seam worked. In view of
the failuie of the recent timbering rules I would suggest
that there be a reasonable body of men either for the
purpose of putting up the timbei, or a district allotted
to each of these men where each could almost contin-
ually supervise the men on their timbering operations.

(7) Haulage. — ^Haulage accidents in my view would be
greatly diminished were one side of the road sufficiently


Digitized by




Mr. J. Weir,


wide from the rails bo as to enable the men to stand dear
of the running hutches, in addition to the usual manholes.
In Fife there are a great many wheel bra^ not only
for sections of men being served taking away the output —
but there are single places which use wheels and also
what is known as cut chain braes. These arrangements
necessarily increase the chances of haulage accidents. In
many of these inclines there* should be specially con-
structed bogies to take m prop wood, especially if it is of
any length. At the foot of all wheel braes if ' * pointers "
were provided many accidents to ** hangers-on " would
be prevented. There should also be a specific height
for main haulage roads. In the case of incline planes
which are meant to be self-acting, it ought to be made
compulsory that the gradient should be so arranged,
that no assistance either from top or bottom by pushing
hutches, should be required, and mechanical means
employed to prevent runaways as far as possible.

(8) Shaft— WhUe men are riding in the shaft, the cages
should have either gates or bars. I have seen this in
operation in Belgium.

(9) Safety Lamps Safety lamps should be intro-
duced into all mines where a Government Inspector
thinks there is the slightest danger of an explosion.

(10) InvesHgation into Accidents.— Under ordinary
circumstances the present system of investigation
in Scotland, having been recently improved, is
fairly good. Where, however, a serious accident has
occurred and where there may be doubt as to the search-
ing character of the enquiry, it should be open to those
interested to claim and obtain a fresh enquiry.

(11) Ankylostomiasis. — Something should be done with
a view of enforcing great care as to the employment
of foreign workmen, or men who have been employed in
foreign countries, especially from countries where disease
is known to exist. Improved sanitation in mines is
absolutely necessary as a further precaution.

20771a. (Mr. SmiUie.) You are Secretary of the Fife and
Kinross Miners' Association ? — I am.

20772. Have you had considerable experience as a
working miner and an official of the miners ? — That is so.
I have been for nearly 27 years secretary to the Fife
Miners' Association, and I was actively engaged in the
mines for about 17 years prior to that.

20773. Have you taken an active interest in all mining
legislation during the past 25 or 30 years ? — I have.

20774. Have you attended all the principal conferences
which have been held to deal with questions of that kind ?
— I have.

20775. I suppose you are aware that for a considerable
time past there has been a desire on the part of the organised
miners of the country for improved legislation ? — That
is so.

20776. Is there a strong feeling that the safety of under-
ground workers is not so well looked after now as it might
be ? — ^That is the impression we have.

20777. You are aware that the proposed Coal Mines Bill
has been promoted by the Miners' Federation of Great
Britain ?— Yes.

20778. I want you to deal with one or two of the points
which the miners pro}>ose in the direction of legislation.
Are you weU aware of the present system of Government
inspection in mines ? — Yes.

20779. Are you aware that for East and West Scotland
we have two chief inspectors and four assistants ? — ^That
is so.

120780. Are you of opinion that the Government inspec-
tion, as it exists to-day, is effective ? — I consider it as being
far tiom efficient.

20781. Have you any opinion as to the methods pursued
at the present time ? Are inspections of the mines fre-
quently made ? — They are not, so far as my knowledge
goes. My understanding with reference to these inspec-
tions is that they are generally made after an accident, or
upon a complaint being made to the inspector.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 12 of 177)