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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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enough ? — We tiiink if a day or two passes, as we have
known it, that many things can be re-arranged, and we
think that the inspector should see it immediately it
takes place.

33086. You have some suspicions of the management in
those oases, although it is clear that the scene of the acci-
dent ought to be left exactly as it was until the inspector
comes down. You think that is not always the case ? —
It is beyond thinking.

33087. You know it is not always the case ? — Yes, I
have seen timber sent down.

33088. After an accident ?— Yes.

33089. How would you deal with that ?— We think
that these people may do it for certain purposes but if
found out uiere is the word '* prosecution."

33090. How would you make the inquiry more immediate.
How would you insist on the mines inspector commg down
within two days if he could not get there in less time ? —
It is suggested by a better system of inspection.

33091. You would make the districts very much smaller
so that the inspector might be much nearer his district T
— Yes.

33092. At the same time you have told me you would
not allow the working miner in the third class to investi-
gate an accident. Would you allow them to go down and
perhaps remain in the pit for some time until Uie assistant
inspector or the chief inspector came to see fair play ?
Would you suggest that 7 — Yes.

33093. With regard to the coroner's jury, juries you
say should consist so far as possible of practical miners.
" In our district miners are studiously avoided — get shop-
keepers, etc., who have no knowledge of mining or mining
terms.'* How is that 7 I understand juries are generally
got together by a policeman 7 — Yes.

33094. Do you think the policeman has instructions,
from the mine-owners that he is to carefully avoid anybody
who knows anything about mining 7 — I have been asked
to serve on a good many inquiries myself, but in the long
years I have been in our district nobody has asked me to
serve on a coroner's jury.

33095. You are very much obliged to the constable 7 —

33096. You think it would be your duty to serve on a
coroner's jury 7 — It is not my opinion, but the common
opinion of the pitmen that because they know too much,
or may make too many inquiries, they are studiously

33097. Do you think it results in these inquests being
scamped in many cases 7 The coroner's jury not being
practical miners results, you think, in the inquiry not
getting out the full facts of the case 7 — I could not express
that determined opinion, but from my knowledge of what
has taklen place, the people concerned have not had a
thorough knowledge of what they are inquiring into, say
farmers, or that class of people.

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33098. How would you proceed to remedy that state of
things ? "^^^t do you suggest should be done ? — We
rather suggest that they should get miners there so far as

33099. How are jrou going to ensure that miners should
be asked to be on the jury ? Who should be the person
to get the jury together, for instance T Who should go
round and ask the persons to serve on the jury ? Ought
it to be the constable, or some other person, say a fireman,
or somebody in that position ? — A fireman.

33100. A minor official of the mine, like a fireman, who
is responsible. — It is very probable that he would be even
worse than a constable.

33101. (Mr, Smillie,) He would not call a miner ?— No. ;

33102. {ChairmatL) Of course not, if his conduct was
impugned. Who would you have to select the jury ? —
Have you thought about it at all T — No, I should not care
for my part to select the jury.

33103. It is a difficulty ?— -We think that if all the
facts of the case had been brought out it might have led
to greater care being taken in the future.

33104. Do you suggest that a provision should be put in
the Act of Parliament to say that in case of a fatal accident
underground in a coal mine that the coroner's jury should
be composed exclusively of practical miners ? — Not ex-

33105. Only some proportion, say a half. Would you
say that half the coroner's jury ^ould be miners, and have
that put into the Act of Parliament ? — We tiiink that
flometning should be done in this respect, because it is
studiously avoided not only in our dishict, but in others,
I believe, and we call attention to it.

33106. You have not thought the matter out as to what
should be done, but you say that something should be done 7

33107. With regard to the examination for managers'
certificates of competency, you say that a man having
failed in his own district to get a certificate ought not to
be allowed to sit for examination in another district Does
that not seem hard, because there may be another district
where he might pass. In the first place a man may fail
in his examination in a particular district because in that
particular district certain special qualifications are wanted
which are not wanted in another district, so that he may
be perfectly fit to be a manager in one district and not in
another. It has been suggested to us by the witnesses ? —
It is suggested that there should be a uniform system.

33108. Some people say that a manager ought not to
be allowed to go from one district to another without
passing a fresh examination, and that his certificate should
be only good for the particular district in which he gets
it ? — Our observation has been that there is a very much
harder theoretical examination in some districts than
others, and that the people concerned soon find out and
will not enter.

33109. Supposing a man works hard and just fails to
pass his examination, perhaps only fails in one subject.
If he gets up that subject in three months, is it not hard
that he should not be allowed to go in in another part of
the countiy, although he could not pass three months
before ? — It would not be long to wait for his own district.

33110. He^ould always wait six months in his district,
you think ? — If there was a possible uniform system.

33111. He would have to wait a year, I am told. Your
suggestion is that he should always wait a year if he does
not pass an examination ? — We suggest that there should
l)e a \miform system and if he failed in one place he could
not possibly pass in another.

33112. Would you suggest that the manager's certificate
as at present should continue to be a certificate all over
the United Kingdom, and that a man who had a certificate
in one district should be allowed without any further
examination to go into any other district. That is so at
present. Do you think that is a good state of things T
Apparently you do 7 — I think if he can pass in one district
■and is a qualified certificated manager and can get a position
in anoUier district, he ought to be able to get it. I would
not insist on an exclusive county and keep a man, but if
you had a uniform system he could go anywhere. We
think an open market should be maintained.

33113. You would insist on a man passing an examina-
tion that would fit him to be a manager anywhere. You
think whether they were fiery mines or not in the district,
that he ought to know about fiery mines and that the
certificate should be a certificate which would show that

a man was competent to deal with any other class of mines Mr. W.
whatever in the whole United Kmgdom 7 — I do not Latham.

think a man who could not deal with a fiery mine, whether

he was in a non-fieiy mine or not, should be made a 5 Dec., 1907.
manager. —

33114. We are told in some districts that a man need
not quaUfy in all the papers, but only get a certain aggre-
gate of marics. A man may do well in every other subject
except subjects connected with a fiery mine. He may
know nothing theoretical or practical about fieiy mines
and yet get a manager s certificate which would take him
all over tiie kingdom. You do not suggest that is a good
thing 7 — ^No, b^ause I think that any man who sits for
an examination must know all about gases, whether a
fiery district or a non-fieiy district, and that forms the
greatest portin of his merit. No one would get a certifi-
cate who could not say something as to gases in fiery

33115. As to ankylostomiasis, you say men should be
warned against polluting airways. Have you had any
scare of ankylostomiasis in your mines 7 — We had it witn
other people. We have not had it as a district, but we
were alarmed as other miners were and made every in-
vestigation by calling the attention of the medical officer
of health for the country who made sundry inspections,
and so on. We came together as a body of workmen
from one firm in particular, and arranged amoni^st other
things that men should be warned against polluting Uie
airways and so on.

33116. Do you
veniences underground ]
question and read i ~
fined to the goaf i

33117. With regard to ventilation in mines when a
working is full of gas the men are withdrawn but from
foul air there seems no protection if lights will bum.

{Mr. F. L. Davis.) Foul air apart from gas, I suppose
he means 7

(Witness.) Yes.

33118. (Chairman.) Do you think the ventilation is
insufficiently attended to at present 7 — Yes.

33119. Do you think that Rule 1 as to ventilation
ought to be amended 7 — It is rather indefinite. It says :
" An adequate amount of ventilation shall be constantly
produced in every mine to dilute and render harmless
noxious gases." Do you think that should be amended 7
— Our experience is mat places are worked so very hot.
You see men stripped to the waist and men cannot even
work in their ordmary moleskin trousers, but they simply
take calico and so on, and we know where there is a lot
of blasting obnoxious fumes come from the high explosives,
now, worse th€m with the old gunpowder, and you see,
the fireman is not responsible so long as a man will work.
A man has to determine himself and come out of it. A
fireman would withdraw him if there was gas, but there it
is, hot and injurious, as we know. We see men come out
of the pit in a bad state. There is no gas and there is no
law broken.

33120. If they come from shot-firing 7 — ^Yes.

(Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Under General Rule 1 there must
be an adequate amount of ventilation to render harmless
noxious Rases. General Rule 7, which is the provision
for withdrawing the men, says this : I do not think it is
confined to gases — " If at any time it is found by the
person for the time being in charge of the mine, or any
part thereof, that by reason of inflammable gases pre-
vailing in the mine, or that part thereof, or of any cause

33121. (Chaimuin.) Your point is it is not dangerous,
only disagreeable 7 — And injurious.

33122. Injurious to health 7— Yes.

33123. It is not likely to cause an explosion or an
accident 7 — Not an explosion, but wo have seen men
made ill when there has been severe blasting. We have
seen the fumes, but if there had been sufficient ventilation
it would not act on them. They have been carried home

33124. That would be noxious gases, gases from

(Mr. JRatdiffe Ellis.) I should think it is dangerous if
a man worked in that and he is rendered helpless.

(Dr. Haldane.) That would clearly come under the Act.

(Mr. SmiUie.) The Witness's point is that it is not so
understood. It is only explosive gas, ^^

4,7 ▲

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Mr, FT* (Witness,) The fireman fires the shotA and there is no

Laihaw^ gas. He has made his examination and if it is too hot

he has no remedy. There is no gas ; he could not with-

5 Dee., 1907. draw the men.

(Chairman,) Too hot to be comfortable ; not necessarily
to be dangerous to health, but too hot to be comfortable.

33125. (Mr, SmiUie,) By ** too hot " you mean more
than too hot in temperature. You mean that it might
be full of smoke ? — Yes, breathing and re-breathing it.

33126. (Chairman,) That would be dangerous, I should
think. Too much smoke might induce disease ? — But
people in the colliery have no remedy. Of course if there
is gas the officials withdraw the men instantly.

33127. (Mr, F, L, Davis.) Do you consider that there
is not sufficient ventilation at these times ? — ^Yes.

33128. Not a sufficient current of air moving to move
these fumes and gases ? — Yes. We think that the firemen
should at least be responsible if the place was above or
below such a temperature, and that there should be some
more determining factor for withdrawing the men than the
question of gas. '

33129. If there were gas there, there is no doubt the
men would be removed ? — Yes.

33130. As there is no gas, you still think the amount of
ventilation passing is not sufficient to clear ? — Yes.

33131. (Mr, Cunynghame,) With regard to temperature,
the mines are getting deeper, and as the coal gets exhausted
the mines will have to be deeper and deeper in the future ?
— Yes.

33132. If so, the temperature will probably go on
increasing ? — Naturally so.

33133. You could not very well have a rule that when
the temperature was exceeding a certain amount the men
would he withdrawn. Would not that put out of work
a great deal of deep mining ? — No, I do not think it would
put out of work these people, but I think they would
find better methods of ventilating the pit.

33134. With these deep mines they could be ventilated
and made cooler ? — Yes.

33135. Have you formed any estimate as to the tempera-
ture ? Perhaps you are not aole to answer that question ;
it is a difficult one. What is the maximum temperature
do you think a man ought to work in ? — I am not sufficiently
up in that.

33136. It is a very difficult point. Dr. Haldane w HI know
about it better than you. Now with regard to coroners'
juries, what do you think is the primary reason a coroner's
jury is ever got together for. What is its chief business
in the case of a fatS accident ? — To inquire as to whether
the man has met with his death in a legitimate way, or say
it has been an accident, or neglect.

33137. It is chiefly to inquire into the neglect of certain
persons ? — Yes.

33138. If it is found they have been guilty of gross
neglect, to put them on their trial for manslaughter ? —

33139. If veiy difficult questions of engineering arise
connected with an accident, would you agree those would
be better inquired into, not with the object of finding
this or that man guilty, but with the object of finding
out the scientific defects at the bottom of it, by an inquiry
under an expert under Section 45 of the Coal Mines Act ?
— That is in the second instance, after the first inquiiy.

33140. It would be generally after the second inquiry.
Would you not rather rely on a regular inquiry by an
expert who would have full power of examining everybody,
ra&er than a coroner's juiy at all if it came to a question
of the scientific aspects of it, to find out whether some
practice had been done which was generally dangerous 7
— Yes.

33141. If you agree that the chief object of a coroner's
jury is to fix blame to someone, would it not be better to
have that jury composed of the generality of citizens
rather than a jury of a particular class of men ? Perhaps
you will allow me, before you answer it, to put it in another
way. Might not the doctors say, when there is a doctor
killed, that we ought to have half the jury of doctors,
and might not a cabman say, when a cabman is kiUed,
** We ought to have half the jury of cabmen," and might
not a seaman say, when a seaman is killed, " We ought
to have half the jury of seamen " ; in other words, misht
it not go on to such an extent as to be impracticabfe ?
On the whole, when you put a man on trial for his life
is it not better, after all, to leave it to the generality of
the citizens always remembering you have Section 45

i n the background, to inquire afterwards, supposing that-
section to be properly worked ? Do you follow the view
I am putting before you ?— Yes.

33142. It is one view of it, and I should like to have
your opinion upon that ? — You are rather leaving it
that the Independent composition of the jury now would
be preferable to having miners who may be so one-sided.

33143. I am not giving an opinion : I am rather putting-
the other side before you. There is something to be said
on the general ground of leaving coroners' juries in th&
case of deaths in mines much as they are in the case of
general inquiries in the country.

(Mr, SmiUie,) The Witness's complaint was that they
were being kept out altogether.

(Mr, Cunynghame,) Assuming a fair proportion of
miners in the ordinary course, on the whole you would
agree with me ?

(Witness,) If we had not made our observations that
for a series of years miners had been kept out, we should
not have presented this.

33144. (Chairman,) Do you mean miners are entirely
kept out of it ? Is there a jury which does not contain
one practical miner ? — I think I can remember one jury
where they selected two miners.

(Mr, SmiUie,) He only remembers one in which there^
were two.

33145. (Mr, Cunynghame,) It would be wrong if they^
regularly went round and purposely left them out ? — I
u^esitatingly say that is so.

(Chairman,) You have known coroners' juries on whichi
there has not been sometimes one practical miner ?

(Mr. SmiUie.) He says on one occasion he knew there^
were two practical miners, but that is the only occasion
he knows.

33146. (Chairman,) In all your experience of coroners'
juries you have only known two practical miners called
on to serve ? — Yes.

33147. (Mr, Cunynghame,) Where are coroners' inquesta
generally held in the district you speak of ? — Our present
coroner objects to holding them in public -houses, but-
they are held nearest to the place to where the person is
lying dead, say in a school-room, or something of that

33148. From what place are the jury summonedr
generally ? — From that place.

33149. That may be or may not be near a mine ? —
It could not possibly be where there are no miners living.

33150. Your point is that for some reason or other
the proper proportion of miners has not been called together
in coroners' juries ? — And if there had been special features
that the accident brought out, it would not only have^
been a warning to the men at the colliery, but to the
management sitting there listening to the thing.

33151. On the whole I gather it is vour opinion that it*,
is hardly worth while disturbing the law on general
principles throughout the country. In your opinion when
any particular case is being tried affecting a trade, a man
in that trade must necessarily be on that jury, or six
of them 7 — We suggest, in what we have put forward
that as far as practicable some miners should be selected.

(Mr. SmiUie,) Sub-section 7 of Clause 48 prohibits the
selection of any miner employed in the coUiery.

33152. (Mr, Cunynghame,) Mr. Smillie calls attention
to this important provision of the Act Section 48, Sub-
section 7 : ** Any person having a personal interest in
or employed in or in the management of the mine in
which the explosion or accident occurred shall not be^
qualified to serve on the jury empannelled on the inquest"
You would agree with that ? — I should not agree any
man who worked in the colliery where that man was killed
because he worked in that colliery should be exempted
from sitting at the inquest.

33153. Or that it should disqualify him ?— Should
disqualify him. That has been put in operation in our

(Mr, Smillie.) That is the law.

33154. (Mr. Cunynghame.) Would you let the ooat
owner, the man who owned the colliery, serve on the jury ?

(Mr, Ratdiffe EUis,) Or his manager.
(WUness.) No.

33155. (Mr. Cunynghame.) I agree with you. That is-
the present law. Would you allow a person who had a
personal interest in the matter to serve on the jury ? —
Not if he was a relative.

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33156. Anybody who had a personal interest in the
colliery ? — If I am working at a colliery and I am away
from anywhere where that man was killed, why should I
not serve on the jury ?

33157. If you would not allow the owner to serve on the
jury is it not better not to allow the men either, and have
an impartial jury ? It says, **" in that particular colliery."
Do you not think it is better in fairness to have no one
connected with it when a man's life possibly is at stake ?
It is not merely to inquire into the cause of death, but
possibly to put a man on his trial for his life, miner or
manager. You appreciate he may be a miner or a manager ?
— If he is a miner at that colliery and is not in that stall,
but away at another extreme end of the pit, and has nothing
to do with it, and could put some question or phase of it
that these people know nothing about, I should think it
was a good thing for him to be present.

33158. He could ask questions : that is another point.
I am speaking of serving on the jury. — We think that that
should not exempt a man from serving on the jury because
he works for the colliery company under which this said
accident is concerned.

33159. I can imagine also a case in which the proprietor
of the colliery knows nothing about it: he may be far
away from Uie accident and know nothing about the
accident, and yet you think it fair not to let him serve, as
to which I agree with you. — I seem to have no case. The
position is summed up in that. We have no district where
the miners are intermingled. They are all one firm. One
spot there, that is all one firm. You could have no miners
serving on that inquiry or inquest beside a man out of that

33160. It says no one shall serve who is in the manage-
ment of the mine in which the accident occurred. It is
only the mine in which the accident occurs : they do not
let the man be chosen from that. — Here is a colliery com-
pany which has 10 pits, (only once in my lifetime have I
known, as I have said, two men) and because they worked
for that colliery company (they worked at other collieries,
but of course that is in uie same district, in which we may
term a nest) they have not been allowed to serve.

33161. Do you not think if it is fair and proper to exclude
the owner of the mine in which the accident occurred, the
better plan is to take the thing generally and exclude
everybody working therein T If one is likely to be unfair
is it not possible the other would be unfair ? — Then we
shall never have miners serving.

33162. A man can be got from another mine ? — He would
have to come, in one or two cases. 12 or 14 miles.

33163. Possibly. — And in other cases 5 to 10 miles.
{Mr, Cunynghame.) Possibly.

33164. (Mr. SmiUie.) Are those 10 pits in that locality
one mine ? They may belong to one owner, but they are
not one mine ? — No, 10 mines.

33165. This only means the particular mine at which
the accident takes place ? — The particular shaft.

33166. (Mr. Cunynghame.) The law is you may have
a man from the other mine, but not from the particular
mine in which the accident occurred. — I am saying that
does not operate.

33167. You are telling us as if it has not been satis-
factorily carried out, but I am asking as to the law. You
would be satisfied with the law as it exists if it was carried
out, would you not ? — I have made reference to this. I
should be satisfied when the police are forming the junr,
if it is understood from that particular pit they could
not have that man, but from the next pit, perhaps a quarter
of a mile away, they could have a man.

33168. Taking the jury impartially from the neighbour-
hood round. l%ere would be a butcher or two, a miner or
two, one or the other ? — Yes : that is what we are asking.

33169. According to that, if the jury was properly
assembled, the law at present is sufficient ? — We say that
the people who have been carrying it out have not carried
it out properly.

33170. I see. If they cany it out properly the law
seems sufficient, does it not ? — Yes, but that has not been
the construction put upon it.

33171. I only wanted to get to your point whether it
was a point of law that required alteration, or practice.
Accordmg to you it is the practice that requires altera-
tion ? — Yes. In my opinion it prevails not only in my
own particular district, but there is a complaint generally
throughout the country.

33172. That we will certainly remember and take notice Mr. W^

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 123 of 177)