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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 125 of 177)
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a manager who had gained a first-class certificate and
had put in for the position, I should think he must have
been a man working at the coal face.

33303. Your first qualification would be a number of
years practical experience at the coal face ? — Yes.

33304. Secondly, you would not object to it being laid
down that he must hold a first-class certificate of oompe-
tency ? — No.

33305. He would require sometimes to consult with
and advise the colliery manager, who did hc^d the first-
class certificate 7 — Yes.

33306. Did you really intend to divide this district
into six parts, and then confine each of those six men to his
own particular district, or would you not be as well
pleased if the three practical inspectors, the lower grade
inspectors, were put under the charge of the chief inspec-
tor ? — I think that was rather there I was at sea, inas-
much as what I was aiming at was this. There are now
three, and to do the thing efficiently, we want three more.

33307. You want six altogether ? — I did not want
to confine myself to saying that they should be of the
same grade as the chief inspector.

33308. You would be content to put the two assistant
inspectors, and three of the third grade inspectors, under
the charge of the chief inspector, and he could station
them in whatever part of the county he thought fit ? —

33309. You were concerned to have a thorough exami-
nation of the mines ? — ^Yes. I complain when the inspector
comes in the mine he does not see the worst part of that

33310. I want to call your attention to the fact,
supposing you had three additional inspectors, you would
still have almost 10,000 miners for each inspector ? —
Yes, that is about the number.

333 1 1 . Do you think one inspector could make a thorough
examination of all the mines in which 10,000 men were
employed if the mines show an average of 200 men ? —

33312. I mean make the examination which you say
would be thorough ? — ^That is a quarterly examination.

33313. Could he once a quarter examine all the mines 7
— I think he could.

33314. Make the examination which you desire 7 —

33315. The examination which you require an inspector
should make is really the examination which all the
fireman make every morning ? — ^Yes.

33316. Of all the roadways, haulage roads and every
road you require to travel, and the working faces 7—1
have known when the inspector has been coming and
there have been bad airways and roadways for horses,
that lads have preceded him and the men and horses
have been withdrawn, and the places have been fenced
off, and when he has gone by he has believed there has
been no working, and as soon as he has gone up they have
been put back and the thing worked under the old condition
of things. I know that personally.

33317. Of your own personal knowledge you have
known when an inspector was about to visit a colliery that
information was conveyed either before he came, or when
he came information was sent down the pit and objcUon-
able portions of the pit were fenced off 7 — Yes.

33318. To that extent the inspector was deceived
really 7 — Yes. I should desire the inspector should have
the plan of the pit and should not be allowed to see only
the part that may be in good condition and want to get
back of course, but that a thorough inspection should be
made as to the whole part of the pit.

33319. You believe that would lead to greater safety
underground 7 — Yes.

33320. I suppose in an ordinary mine the manager
may be fairly well satisfied that unless there is an accident
he is not likely to have a visit from the inspector from
one year's end to the other 7 — That is so.

33321. That is the general feeling amongst managers 7
— ^Hiat he will not come for a long time unless there is an

33322. Or unless sent for by yourself 7 — If anyone has
sent an anonymous letter.

33323. You think six men for your own oounly, or,
roughly, you might put it about an inspector for each
10,^)0 persons employed, could make the inspection that
you want 7 — ^Yes.

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33324. I suppose after the visit of a mines inspector to
a colliery it tends to get things put in order for the time
heing ? — Yes.

33325. And everything brushed up, although it may
only last a few days ? — Yes ; after there has been an
accident that is the tendency and to get it ready for him.

33326. Or any time you may have him there to com-
plain ? — As soon as the accident is fatal everything is *
prepared, and everybody is sent right and left on all the
airways to get the thing in readiness.

33327. As a practical miner working underground up
to a very few weeks ago, that has been your experience ?
— Yes.

33328. The advent of an inspector was preceded by
everything being put into condition ? — Yes.

33329. In every part of the mine he was expected to go ?
— Yes.

33330. The ]aw with regard to a place remaining in the
state in which it was when an accident took place is
perfectly right if carried out ? — Yes.

33331. It is supposed that a place is not to be interfered
with after a fatal accident takes place until the visit of
the inspector. Most accidents take place at the working
face from falls ? — Yes.

33332. Is there any reason why the working face,
where a fatal accident has taken place, should not remain
exactly in that condition until the inspector came ?
Does it stop the working of the mine in any way ? — It
shuts off that particular working place.

33333. Unless it was likely to interfere with the venti-
lation there is no reason why it should be repaired imtil
the Wpector comes ? — No.

33334. Often even that particular place is in a different
state when the insjiector comes from what it had been
previously ? — If it has not come into the keeping of the
Mines Act in certain ways, that is if there has l^n any
adjusting required to make it up, the mines inspector
would not say, " This is not according to the Act " and
that there has been an attempt made to set it right.

33335. If there was anything with which fault might
be found with the officials of the colliery, that is likely to
be put right before the inspector comes ? — I am sure.

33336. There are a great many accidents taking place
through falls on the haulage roads also ? — Yes.

33337. Very often falls take place on haulage roads
and horse roads by which no injury to workmen or deaths
take place ? — Yes.

33338. Numerous falls take place ? — ^We say it is a good
job the lad had gone by or he was out when it came.

33339. Many falls have taken place which the workmen
in the pit anticipated vere going to take place, and they
have simply said it was a good diing the lad or man were
through before it took place ? — They say when going in,
" If there is not something done here there wiU be a crash
some day.''

33340. Under the Act it is the duty of the miners to
call the attention of officials to anjrthing of that kind ? —
He would get dismissed if he did.

33341. That is the provision, but men do not do it for
fear of being thought interfering ? — That is my experience.

33342. What you urge very strongly— I must admit I
can see the importance of it — is that where a fall lias taken
place, not only should the debris be taken away, but that
place thoroughly secured so that a pony driver or workman
can go under it ? — Yes.

33343. Is that the case at the present time ? — No.

33344. Is not the dirt or the stone from the f aU redd
away and the shift continued before the repairing is done ?
— Yes, if there is room between the roof and the rails,
the rails are generally lifted to bury the dirt and tbey go
on again.

33345. You have known cases where the rails were lifted
and put over the dirt and the place left unprotected ?—
"With the intention if all went well to set it right at

33346. Taking the risk of a second faU from persons
coming over P — Yes.

33347. You object very strongly to that ?— Yes.

Mr, W.

33348. Do you remember any accidents which have
arisen in your own experience from that being done.

Could you say from memory P — Yes, I have known of

lads with their hands on the tub, and so on, and their 5 Dec., 1907,

heads have got rapped just at that particular spot, and

that is why I suggest, l^efore lads go under again, it

should be set.

33349. That is a very strong point with you P — ^Yes.

33350. I think you stated that firemen should hold a
certificate of competency ? — Yes.

33351. You are very strong on that point ? — Yes.

33358. Do you agree with some witnesses in saying
that the safety of the workmen depends to a larger extent
on the competency of the firemen, than even upon the
competency of the manager ? — After my own personal
experience I say that is so.

33353. The workmen have to depend for their safety
to a greater extent upon the competency and skill and
ability of the fireman in the different sections, than even
on the manager himself ? — Yes.

33354. Because of that, it should not be left in a hap-
hazard way with the manager to say that a person is
competent without any proof of his competency ? —
Quite so.

33355. If made compulsory that a certificate must be
granted to a fireman, the manager would have some guaran-
tee, so far as passing an examination was concerned, that
this person was competent ? — He does not select, to my
knowledge, his firemen for competency.

33356. But if he were bound to select a person who
held a certificate of competency, there would be a guaran-
tee that the person had some knowledge and had passed
an examination ? — Yes.

33357. He would have that guarantee to begin with ?

33358. At the present time is it always the case that the
best and most skilled persons are appointed to the
position of firemen ? — No.

33359. On the whole, I suppose a large number, prob-
ablv the vast majority, of your men are good men ? —

33360. You have fault to find that sometimes the best
men are not appointed for that position ? — That is so.

33361. Is it the case that sometimes persons are ap-
pointed to that position from favouritism, for one thing ?

2. And perhaps sometimes persons are appointed
because they are willing to accept a lower wage than a
thoroughly competent person would accept ? — Our dis-
trict rate has fallen in that respect in previous years, and
the wage paid to these men is lower, consequently there
is a lower grade.

33363. The wages paid to firemen at the present time
are not sufficiently high to tempt the best men Into that
position ? — As were previously paid.

33364. It is not so high as previously ? — No, such has
been the competition. 1 am afraid the thing is worse as
far as practiacl men are concerned.

33365. It would be at least some guarantee that good
practical men were appointed if they required a certificate
of competency, whicn carried with it that he also had so
many years practical experience ? — Yes.

33366. Your district was at one time largely worked
on the butty system ? — Yes.

33367. As a matter of fact your Special Rules provide
certain guidance for contractors ? — Yes.

33368. 60 and 61 down to 67 deal with the duty of con-
tractors, stallmen, or driftmen ? — Yes.

33369. Those rules were made at a time when a butty
man or a contractor might take a section and employ a
number of men under him ? — Yes.

33370. At that time the contractor or butty man was
responsible for getting out the material ? — Yes.

33371. You say happily you are getting rid rapidly of
that system ? — Yes, if we do not get it in a worse form
— in the form of the fireman and the under-manager being
responsible for other things instead of looking after the
lives of the men.

33372. You are getting into a system, as far as the men
at the working face are concerned, that they are paid by
the colliery owner ? — Yes, direct.


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Mr. W, 33373. Not by the butty man or contractor ? When

Lmiham. the butty man or the contractor was there, he was respon-

sible fOT seeing the material conveyed out, and he usually

5 Dec., 1907. made himself very active in getting that out ? — Yes.

33374. Because it paid him to do so ? — Yes.

33376. The more material that went out, the higher
the wages ? — Yes.

33376. Since you have changed your system, that duty
falls largely on the fireman or under-manager ? — Yes.

33377. That leaves him less time to look after the safety
of the men employed at the coal face ? — That is so.

33378. The fireman has statutory duties by law — his
morning examination ? — Yes.

33379. Within 2^ hours of the men starting work ?—

33380. And he is also supposed to make a second ex-
amination of all the working places in his district ? — Yes.

33381. I suppose, as a matter of fact, the duty of seeing
the material out becomes of more importance than the duty
of making a second examination ? — Yes.

33382. Should a fall take place which is likely to inter-
fere with the haulage going on, that fall would be attended
to rather than his second examination ? — He would stop
to see it was cleared, or else he would soon have the under-
manager or manager on the spot.

33383. He woul I make sure the traffic was the first
thing to receive attention, or he would be foimd fault
with ? — Yes, that is my complaint^ and under the butty
he never did.

33384. The fireman, too ? — Yes, he was not imder the
oontrol of the butty, and was not allowed to interfere in
any part of his duty with the production. He was solely
confined to examination, and looking after the safety of
the men.

33385. You are aware that by far the largest number
of accidents arise from falls of roof and sides 7 — Yes.

33386. And, after that, haulage accidents ? — Yes.

33387. This Commission has been appointed to enquire
into the whole circumstances, and to endeavour to suggest
some method of saving life and limb imdergroimd or about
mines ? — Yes.

33388. You think it would tend greatly to the safety
of miners if the firemen were appointed to do no other
duties than look after ventilation and the state of the
roof, and generally the safety of the workmen ? — That
is my point.

33389. That is very useful, if that is so. With regard
to ventilation. General Rule 1, to which your attention
has been called, provides that an adequate amoimt of
ventilation shall be provided to render harmless noxious
gases. Your point is that it has become a pretty general
understanding, in your experience, if they cet rid of ex-
plosive gas, that they do not require to deal so much
with smoke or other gases, which may be of a bad nature,
blackdamp, or anything of that kind ? — Yes.

33390. And a fireman, if he finds the wortdng places
clear of firedamp in the mormng, tells the men the places
are all right, although their places may not be in a fit state
for them to work in ? — Yes.

33391. I sunpose you could not give us any words which
would strengthen General Rule 1 in the direction of pro-
viding for that yourself ? — No, I do not think I have any
set sentence, save what is in my mind, which is that the
fireman should be as responsible for obnoxious fumes
as he is for gas ; and that it might rest on him to say
whether that working place is fit to work in, which he
holds now is no part of his duty, if there is not gas, and
if it is as hot as .

33392. If a fireman found a roof in a working place
required timbering, and there was no timber to be had.
he should advise the workmen not to go in until he had
timber ? — Yes.

33393. If he foimd explosive gas there he would advise
the workmen he could not go in because it was not clear ?

33394. If he found smoke or blackdamp, or the place
in a foul condition for wont of ventilation, he should be
bound to advise the person he could not go into the place
because it was not si^e ? — ^Yes, that is my complaint.

33395. That is what you want to be done, if it could
be put in words ? — Yes.

6. {Mr, F. L, Davis,) I want to ask you a question

with regard to the unskilled labour. Will you tell me
whether I am right or not with regard to this. I under-
stood, in answering Mr. Ellis's question, you did not make
a point of there being very much unskilled labour em-
ployed, but that there were a few cases of men, such as
farm labourers. Is that so or not ? Your complaint
is not that there is a great quantity of unskilled labour
> at tiie present time in the district ? — We say there are
people coming into the mines now, of course owing to the
good trade and the ready demand for coal, who I do not
think would have been permitted, and there are ways of
getting them into work. Our system is the longwall
system, which I think everybody understands. In straight
work you could not make an agricultural labourer a miner,
but in longwall work there are possibilities of linkinff them
on with two or three, and one man a pretty good man.
That is why we say unskilled work is coming in.

33397. I understand you to object, and you say there
is danger. Your objection \a not that there is a great
quantity of it at the present time : is it, or is it not ? —
No, I could not say that there is a great quantity.

33398. You object to it, and say it is dangerous ? —
Yes, we say it is.

33399. You said the greatest proportion of accidents
happened at or about the face ? — Yes.

33400. If that is the case, and there is not a great
amount of unskilled labour employed, it is the men who
are skilled, who have been working all their lives in the
face, amongst whom the greatest number of accidents
occur ? — I think if I could put that in a tabulated form,
you would find there were least accidents occurring to
men who have worked in the pit, as I have done, from
when I was 10. You would find less accidents among
that class of people than these people we are talking about,
coming in at between the ages of 20 and 25.

33401. It is granted by all of us that the skilled men —
such as the fireman, the inspector or the manager — should
have experience at the face. You call him a skilled man.
They are the most skilled men in the pit working at the
face ? — Yes.

33402. And by far the largest proportion of accidents
happen to these men in or about the face ? — ^There is
nobody else working in the pit besides those at the face.

33403. There are a good many men employed in the
road, and repairing, and other work. Have you ever
heard it suggested that men from bemg accustomed so
many years to danger become more careless ? — Yes, that
is often suggested.

33404. I do not mean to say that every man is so, but
unfortunately a great number of accidents happen at the
fckce to men who have been working there all their lives,
and who have got accustomed to the danger, and once
too often they have neglected to do something they ought
to have done ? — Yes, I have found that with men worli^g
in a low seam coming to work in a thicker seam ; it is
as dangerous as though they were going to war. At the*
same time, men who have been at the work have simply
laughed at the danger there may be.

33405. With reference to inspectors, you say that you
have seen people after an accident send timber down,
and that the place is propped up by the timber when the
inspector comes. You do not tnink that deceives the in-
spectors, do you ? GThere may be a reason for it. The
manager mav say, '*If I do not do it I shall have a tre-
mendous fall; I must prop that up now." When the
inspector comes the first question he asks is, ' 'Is the place
in the same condition as it was," and the man says, "No,
I have put timber in." Do vou not agree with me that
the inspector would ask all those questions ? * 'How
much of this timber here was up when the fall occurred,"
and he would ask what exactly was the condition when
the fall occurred ? — I am to take it that they always
speak the truth ?

33406. I should suggest yes, certainly. It is a very
dangerous thing for a manager if he was not to speak the
truth to the inspector. The inspector has other means
of finding out than from the manager's own statement.
He can call anybody, and does. He questions the officials,
and he questions the men ? — And they generally tell one

33407. The managers are not the only people who do
not speak the truth alwa3rs ? — At the same time I have
heard men say at a miners' meetin^p, ' 'We have no timber

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n our pit, and if anybody is hurt or killed, I ahaU sit there
and you can bring my tea. I will never leave the plaoe.
I wiU stay night and day till he comes." We have often
heard expressions like that, because it is generally known
the plaoe is doctored up ready for the inspector.

33408. {Chairman.) Have you known they do it —
threaten to do it, and do it ? — No, not do it.

33409. You have not known them stay ni|^t and day,
and have their tea ? They only say so ? — That is when
we have come to a point of sending men down to inspect.
We have had bad ventilation and no timber.

33410. (Mr, F, L, Davis.) You have told us when men
come to the letst point they refuse to make an inspection.
The inspector comes down, and it is his business to find
out the condition of things before the accident ? — Yes.

33411. He asks these questions, and the manager says,
* * I have sent in timber, I was afraid that I should have
a bigger fall." He does not only question the manager^
It is his business to find out from everybody what was
the position before. Do you say that still being the case
these managers practically invariably tell untruths to the
inspector ? — If they say the timber has not gone down,
and the timberman has not been ordered to send it down,
I say they have told him absolute falsehoods, because I
have seen it myself.

33412. You are speaking for your district ? — Yes.

33413. I do not think our district must be tarred with
the same brush ? — I will make this admission — that
eveiything is pulling up to a beitter condition of things.
I have told you the abolition of the butty system, where
the butty had to pay for the timber, has remedied many
of the evils that existed, and the thing is becoming better
as the days go by.

33414. I think we all think that. Can you tell me what
was your great objection to the carrying of men in the
two decks ? I do not imderstand what was your objec-
tion. Is it that you object to two decks having men in
them, or the difficulty or danger at the loading point ?
— We say that there is a loading point and an unloading

33415. You do not object to it at the top of the pit ?
— For instance, they have to get to the first deck, and then
be pulled up for the next lot to get in.

33416. That is one objection. Where that has to be
done you object. Would you object where you have,
as in many cases, two stages — two decks and two places
for the men to get on at the same time ? The men get
a little underneath on the lower deck, while the men get
on the top deck. Do you object to tibat ? — What alarms
me is this : I am speaking for a district, as is said, in North
Staffordshire, where there are 64 men in a shaft — 32 men
going down, and 32 men coming up. I am thinking of
what would occur if an accident happened, and the shaft
was full of men.

33417. Your point is not very much the fuU decks, if
you have two stages ? — I do not want them all in the shaft.

33418. You do not want too many men in the shaft
at the same time ? — No*

(Chairman.) In the cages.

33419. (Mr. Ralcliffe EUis.) You would have more fre-
quent windings if you wound fewer men at a time ? — Not
if we had some of our ideals neared by great pits where
there are all these men, where there is simply a shaft set
apart for them.

33420. That is a long way off. Take things as they are
now. If you have fewer men in the cage you have more
windings ? — I could not deny that, but it is all a question
of danger.

33421. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) On the other point, you do
not want too many men in the cage at the same time ?

33422. Your objection to the two decks is only if they
have to load and move the cage from the same stage. If
they could load without moving the cage from two stages,
either top or bottom, your objection would not be so great
— I say there would not be so much chance of accident,

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 125 of 177)