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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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empowered to inquire into accidents at all, but whose only
duty would be to go down the mine — you would have
three districts, consequently where apparently the in-
spectors would have vc ry much less to do than in the other
three districts ? — We are told now that the chief inspector's
time is taken up with clerical work and attention to
accidents, and that there is no time for them to make
these periodical inspections, say, more than once a year,
and that is why we suggest that there should be more
working-men inspectors wiio would go thoroughly through
the mine when it was inspected.

32991. You also said the whole of the district should
be divided into six. I do not understand how you manage
that. The three districts that were assigned to the chief
inspector and the two assistant inspectors would have to
be very muoh smaller than the other three districts,
because the chief inspector and the assistant inspectors
would have other work to do besides going down the mines
inspecting ? — Did we not rather set out that we should
have the present chief inspectors and the other staff to
work under them ?

32992. I thought you said you would have three classes —
the chief inspector, two assistant inspectors and the
working-men inspectors. I understood you to further
say that it should be the exclusive duty of the chief
inspector and the assistant inspectors to inquire into
accidents ? — Yes,

32993. That should be their primary duty, and if they
had time they might go down the mines also, but the
other three working-men inspectors should have absolutely
nothing to do but go down the mines and report to their
chief inspectors ? — Yes-

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Mr, TF. 32994. If the inspector and the two assistant inspectors

Latham, had work to do tiiat is not done by the other three

ipspectors, it is impossible to suppose fliat they can look

5 Dec., 1907. after such Ifirge districts as the working-men inspectors

in the way of going down the mines ? — 'fiiat part of their

work with additional inspectors would be helped materially.

32995. I do not understand your saying your district
ought to be divided into six water-tight compartments,
as I may call them, and that as regards inspection, each
inspector should have one-sixth of Sie district to inspect.
It seems to me that will not work, according to your
theory, because the chief inspector will have a great deal
of work to do, and his two assistant inspectors, which
you do not throw on the working-men inspectors, conse-
Quently it is impossible that they can have the same size
districts as the working-men inspectors ? — We. think
they would work in conjunction with the assistant
inspectors and thus give better supervision of the mines.

32996. I do not understand. You propose to divide
your district into six. If you do that and divide it into
six equal parts, it is impossible to suppose the parts looked
after by the chief inspector and the assistant insi)ector
can be as well inspected as regards underground inspections
as the other three divisions. I suggest if you throw
upon the working-class inspectors* less work than you put
on the other two classes, the other two classes cannot
inspect such a large district as the other thi'ee ? — We
think if they gave these periodical visits of once a quarter
that that would find them work to do that is not done at

32997. You do not see what I am driving at. I think
probably you have not thought it out. You tell me you
want to divide your district into six more or less equal
parts ?— Six districts.

32998. Are they equal in size ? — Yes.

32999. Then, as I understand it, each of these six
inspectors, whether working-men inspectors or a different
class of inspector, would be responsible for underground
inspection of aU the mines in that jMirticular one-sixth
part of the district ? — Yes.

33000. If that is so it seems to me that the districts
under the chief inspector and the two assistant inspectors
ought to be very much smaller than the three districts
under the working-men inspectors. Do you -follow that ?
— Because they would have to make more visits.

33001. Because the working-men inspectors have nothing
to do except visit the mine and report to their superiors,
whereas the other inspectors would have a- different clam
of work to do, very important work, which would take
up their time inquiring into accidents. Therefore, the
persons who have cast upon them not only the duty of
inspecting underground mines under ordinary circum-
stances, but of investigating the causes of accidents,
would have very much more to do if their district was
equally large th^in the working-men inspectors who have
only to inspect ?— We thought if the district was divided
and these men put to work, that an easy solution by
arrangement would be found, and we should have a much
better inspection than at present.

33002. You want to divide the district into small
portions so that no inspector shall have occasion, except
in the case of serious accident, when the chief inspector
would probably have to inspect not only his own district
but the other five districts wherever there was an accident
— except in that case you would divide the district into
six equal parts, so that no inspector should have far to
travel when he had to go down the mine ? — That has
been our thought.

33003. That is your idea ?— Yes.

33004. I still do not understand how you would work
six equal districts if you give the mines inspectors different
duties from the others — much more varied duties than
the others. The chief inspector and the assistant inspectors
would not only have to inspect the mines in their own
district, but for investigating accidents the whole district
would be thrown into one, and the chief inspector would
go over the whole district to inquire into a very serious
accident, so that the chief insp^tor of the district would
have an enormous amount of work cast upon him which
is not cast upon the other three working-men inspectors ?
— We do not take it that there are so many fatal accidents
to be inquired into at present.

33005. You think it would not make much difference
to the power of an inspector to inspect underground whether
he also had cast upon him the duty of inquiring into
accidents. You think that takes up so little time that it
need not be taken into account. Is that your idea ? —

I could not say that we belittle the question of inquiring,
but we think at present there is room for more visits at
the collieries than we have at this time.

33006. You think it is desirable that districts should
be divided up so that no man engaged. in the inspection
of mines should have far to travel to visit his mine ? —
That has been held as a real difficulty in taking the time
of the people who are to make these inspections.

33007. With regard to the inspection of mines by the

men, you say it has not yet taken place in your county ^
to your knowledge, but has been discussed many a time. j^
Has there been no inspection under Rule 38 in your mines T
— Ko. I have been acting secretary for something like
20 years and agent within a few months, but I have never
known an inspection made by the workmen, but many a
time when things have been in very bad form it has come
up at our meetings and we have discussed it. Things
have changed somewhat in that resp^ect. Our county
at one time was laregly worked by the butty system,
that is, you understana, by contractors. Then we had
very great difficulty, that is happily changed and very
much for the better. Now the companies work it them-
selves and are wholly responsible.

33008. Do you mean to say there is no mine in your
district where you are not afraid that the mine-owner
or manager would discharge a man who gave an unfavour-
able ana true account of the condition of the mine 7 —
When it has come up to freezing point many men have
found lots of ways of getting out of the difficulty, and have
been afraid.

33009. The men have almost agreed to go down under
Rule 38, and at the last moment hung back and said they
were afraid to do it because they might get into trouble
with the owner or manager ? — When a meeting has been
called and it has been discussed and the facts laid before
it, and we have selected our deputation of men, we
have found the men have not felt that they could take
their bread and cheese and pursue that course. In fact,
we have never had an examination.

33010. If you have never had an examination, what
makes you think that the men would be treated badly or
suffer for it in some manner if they gave an unfavourable
account of the mine T — I have luiown in several cases
where it has been supposed that anonymous letters have
been sent to the inspector of mines, and that whether right
or wrong some men have had to pay the penalty ; that is,
there has been suspicion laid.

33011. That they were the persons who wrote the
anonymous letters ? — Yes ; because they were making a
big noise at miners* meetings they have had to suffer.

33012. Perhaps they were sent away not because they
were supposed to write the anonymous letters, but because
of the noise they were making at the miners* meetings ? —
No. The inspector came after, say, what we would suppose
was the information given. Men have been very timid in
that respect, so that we have never had an examination
under that rule.

33013. They have been very timid, and the reason for

the timidity is that ? — Somebody would be spotted


33014. The reason they give is that they think they
have noticed that persons who are supposed by the manage-
ment to have written anonymous letters complaining of
the mine have had their Uvelihood taken away from
them ?— Yes.

33015. They have been dismissed ?— Yes.

33016. That is your view, at all events ? — Yes.

33017. With regard to inspection by officials, you say
that officials are too much engaged in looking after the . ^
output and not safety, and that they should not be V\
responsible for the output. You agree with most of the
other witnesses on behalf of the men who have come
before us, that the firemen's duties ought to be confined
entirely to looking after the safety of the men, and they
ought not to be concerned in looking after the output of

the mine ? — Simply on the ground I just stated, that when
the contractor had it the firemen and under-manager were
solely set aside for that purpose, but in the change these
men are rather pushed to increase the output and to
cheapen it. We think they should be responsible, and
that the safety of life and limb should be their sole business.

33018. Supposing it was their sole business, do you think
they have too large districts ? Supposing that other
duties were taken away and your suggestion acted upon,
do you think they would tiien be able to go through their
districts properly 7 — Of course it is already un&rstood
our district or county is not comi>OBed of very big collieries.

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33019. Tou oomplain that they have too far to travel.
How could that be avoided ? You mean the districtB are
in some cases so large they cannot get through the gates
and airways in the course of their inspection ? — The time
IS largely taken up in seeing to the moving of the coal to
the pit-bottom.

33020. If their time was not taken up in that way you
think they could get round ? — Yes.

33021. And visit the airways and do what they ought
to do T— Yes.

33022. With regard to the question of discipline, you
favour prosecution rather than nnes. Men, you say, do not
like police courts, but although the men themselves might be
in favour of the system of fines rather than being taken
always before the police court, your executive have come
to the conclusion in the interests of safety, whether the
men like it or not th^ ought to be taken before the police
oourt, and not have the option of agreeing to a fine ? — ^We
liave always supported that, and when we have had people
•come before us objecting to fines and wanting to get out
•of them, of course they have to agree to it themselves, and
then they think if they do not agree, there is the other
•course of dismissal. We rather think that the colliery
management should take them into the police court.

33023. Do you think the fear of bsing taken into the
police court would improve the discipline so that it would
not be necessary to have a great many prosecutions T —
I think so.

33024. That is your view, at all events ?— Yes.

33025. As regards Special Rules, men should have a
voice in establishing the rules. What do you mean by
'* establishing the rules " ? — ^When Special Rules are made,
and I am thinking now of our own Special Rules, we have
had no part in them, and have found some things which
have been studiously left outside. If I might express one,
we found at a colliery the mealtime of boys had never been
recognised underground. They had to take their food
whenever they could. The horses were never put in the
«tables and that kind of thing, and we appealed against it,
and took the Special Rules

33026. You suggested certain Special Rules to deal
with the point ? — ^When we took the Special Rules for the
county we found that while they applied under the Factory
Act to boys, it was not intended that it should apply to
boys underground. I only point that out as one thing;
there may be others.

33027. Mr. Ellis has pointed out to me in Subsection 7
of Section 7, the Coal Mmes Act of 1887, the principal Act,
there is a provision : '' No boy, girl, or woman shall be
employed continuously for more tiian five hours, without
an interval of at least half an hour for a meal, nor for more
than eight hours on any one day, without an interval or
intervals for meals amounting altogether to not less than
one hour and a half." Is that satisfactory, or would you
have a Special Rule making that stronger ? — I should have
the word inserted "underground."

33028. It is no man shall be employed ; that is above
ground and underground ? — It was pointed out to us
Siat it did not apply to underground.

{Mr. SmiUic) It is with regard to the employment
above ground.

{Chairman.) That seems extraordinary.

{Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) I was under the impression it was
about the mine.

33029. {Chairman.) That is your point; you wanted
Special Rules to deal with that objection to the Act of
Parliament ? — We thought if we had been there when
these Special Rules were made we should have had some
voice, and have thought the boys underground should
have the same treatment as boys on the surface.

33030. Did you point that out to the mine-owners T —
Yes, the mine-owners agreed, and the boys. In the last
oentury they did not have it.

33031. What do you mean by that ? — It has never been
in that colliery. The boys never had a mealtime under-
nound until 18 months ago, after this thing was established.
They have mealtime underground now.

33032. Eighteen months ago you got your way. For a
long time you tried to get the Special Rule altered so as to
•ensure the boys working underground getting the same
protection afforded them as when working above ground,
and you were not able to do it T — ^This was the colliery, and
they conceded our request and established a mealtime.

33033. What have you to complain of if they acceded Mr. W.
to your request ? — ^We were only pointing out that in Latham.
making Special Rules men should have a voice.

33034. {Mr. SmiUie.) Is it incorporated within the ^ ^^'' ^^^'
rules or is it a mutual agreement T — No.

33035. (Chairman.) Is it a special arrangement, or is
it incorporated in the Special Rules ?

{Mr. SmiUie.) It can be taken away at any time. It
in a mutual agreement.

{Witness.) Yes.

33036. {Chairman.) The Special Rules say nothing
about it ? — No.

33037. When did you first suggest that the Special
Rule should say something about it ? — ^When I found
it out.

33038. When was that ?— 2J years ago.

33039. About a year after that a special arrangement
was come to ? — Yes.

33040. The rules were not altered, but a special arrange-
ment was come to ? — Yes.

330'il. You want now that the rule should be altered ?
— We point out when Special Rules are made that the
men should have some voice in them.

33042. What do you mean by " have some voice ? "
Before they are printed and promulgated by the mine
owners, that there should be some preliminary coflference
between the mine owners and the men as to the kind of
rules that would be desirable T — ^That is so.

33043. Before the owners had pledged themselves to
a course of action, they should meet the men in conference.
That is your idea ? — Yes.

33044. With regard to accidents, you favour systematic
timbering. What do you understand by "systematic
timbering ? " — I do not know how it prevails in other
counties, but if it does not look dangerous, you see
winding going on.

33045. You mean to say there ought to be some definite
rule that timber should be placed on the ground a certain
distance apart even though the roof may not look dangerous.
That is your point ? — Yes.

33046. " After a fall, winding should be suspended
until properly set."

{Mr. SmiUie.) After a fall in a roadway no further work
should go on underneath that place until that is properly
set and arranged.

{Witness.) It is the custom to get out the debris or rock
or whatever it is, and make shift. We have known lads
travelling under them meet with very ugly accidents.

33047. The management have not thought it necessary
the instant a fall takes place to prop up the roof ? — ^That
is right.

33048. You think they ought to suspend the haulage
until the roof is propped. They put the stone on one side
and go on with the haulage and oo not prop up the roof at
once. That is it ? — Yes.

33049. For accidents of this kind unskilled workmen
are largely responsible for. Then the management some-
times put men to work at the face where they naturally
would have to set timbers to protect themselves, who do
not know their duties ? — ^We think in these later years
that men have been put in charge of stalls, and so on,
who have at least not had any experience, and we have
thou^t that this kind of thing has led to a good many
accidents, because we have taken the skilled men, as wej
call them, and with the skilled men the accidents ai
materially depreciated.

33050. {Chairman.) 1 should like to have some statistics
about that, if you have any, with regard to the men.
You divide the stallmen into two classes, in your opinion,
unskilled and skilled, and then take out the accidents
in staUs where skilled men are in charge, and the accidents
in staUs where unskilled men are in charge, and you find
the rate is higher when unskilled men are in charge ? —
We have not been able to get a definite arrangement
of selection.

33051. I thought you had divided them ? — No, we have
made observation of unskilled men laroely by our Friendly
Societies. Those on the accident fund come from a class
of people who have not had a proper training and are not
what we call skilled men.




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Mr. W.

6 Dec., 1907,

33052. You find in your provident societies men come
for money owing to accidents having happened, and your
experience is that the greater part of these men who come
upon your fund are men who are not skilled ? — Yes,
we think men who have served other trades and callings
and get into the colliery late in life should be excluded,
or that there should be some age limit as to when a man
should not come into the pit. Anyway, we think un-
skilled workmen largely add to the danger of themselves
and other people.

33053. You believe that the statistics of friendly
societies bear it out. When you inquire into the class
of men who come on the society in respect of accidents
underground your experience is that the greater part are
unskilled ? — Yes, and it is the same class of people from
time to time.

33054. With regard to the haulage it is not very much
in vogue in your mines ? — In hauling we take it with
mechanical apparatus.

33055. It is all horse haulage with you ? — Yes.

33056. Have you anything to say about the danger
of horse haulage ? — We do not know whether it may come
in with that question. You will soon teU us if it does not.
We have thought with the horses travelling, the boys,
the dust, and that kind of thing, that a better system of
watering in the mines may assist the haulage. That is
not a question of safety of life or limb so far as the roof
is concerned, but it is very necessary.

33057. Would you have the coal sprayed ? — Yes.

33058. As it goes along ? — Have the roads sprayed to
lay the dust as it goes along the haulage roads.

33059. You do that, not on account of the safety of
the miners, but merely because it is pleasanter not to have
dust in the mine ? — We think it is injurious to the men

83060. Injurious to health ?— Yes.

33061. You do not suggest that it is a cause of ex-
plosions ? — No.

33062. With regard to shaft accidents, you say that
men should not l:^ allowed to ride on two decks. Why
not, if there are two decks to the cage ? — I am speaking
now for our county, but we have had one or two aecidents.
In October, I think, we had this second deck business.
We have iJways come down on one deck and the men
always object to it.

33063. The men object to the two decks ?— Yes.

33064. Why do they object ?— I do not think anybody
likes it, only you get hardened to it.

33065. Is not one deck the same as the other ? — In
raising and lowering men to the pit bottom and top with
two decks we think it is susceptible to too many difficulties.

33066. What difficulties ? — I have been in the sump

33067. The cage is too heavy ?— No, you take it to the
pit bottom when one deck has got off and that has to go
down into the sump and the other to get off. I am speaking
from experience.

33068. You got a ducking on one occasion ? — Yes.

33069. Owing to there being two decks ? — ^Yee ; men
in our county have not been accustomed to it, and possibly
they must get hardened to it. I know they do have it in
other counties.

33070. (Mr. SmiUie,) Do they load both decks at the
same bottom ? — Yes.

33071. They have not two bottoms for loading the
decks ? — No.

33072. If men are on the top deck and both decks go
4own the lower deck is in the sump ? — Yes.

(Mr. SnUUie.) In some mines they load at different

33073. {Chairman.) With regard to the safety catches
and detaching hooks, do you approve of safety catches
and think that they ought to be in use ? — Yes.

33074. Have you had any experience with safety catches
m ybur mine. Are they used? — No. We have one or
two pits where, owing to certain regulations, we have
had detaching hooks.

33075. Safety catches is a different matter aJtogethei.
Do you know anything about safety catches ? Have you
seen any catches in action ? — Several, as an experiment.

33076. You have seen experiments ?— Ye&

33077. That has convinced you it would be a good
thing to have safety catches ? — Yes ; I am of opinion
that it is the, only place in mining where a man is not
under his own con^l. If he is down the pit he can
timber, but when solely on the end of the rope he is in
the hands of somebody else, and the very best thing
should be done.

33078. The safety catches do not act through the miner r
they are automatic T — He cannot put them into operation
himself. We say that, but if there is anything that can
add to the safety it should be provided.

33079. However, you have had no personal experience-
so that I will not ask you any more questions about them.
The detaching hooks are to prevent overwinding ? — Yes.

33080. You have detaching hooks in your mine ? —

33081. They work all right ?— Yes.

33082. You have nothing to complain of ? — No ; in
one or two instances it has saved the cage going over the

33083. Therefore, you think they ought to be made
compulsory ? — Where the men are raised and lowered
by mechanical means.

33084. You think they ought to be made compulsory T

33085. With regard to investigation into mining acci-
.dents, you ask for an immediate inquiry after accidents,
and you complain that the inspector does not come quickly

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 122 of 177)