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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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thing that would occur to disturb that accumulation
would inevitably bring the gas down upon these men —
it could not be helped. Mr. Evans in his report says that
he is far from being satisfied on that point.

34662. I think in South Wales you have some con-
fidence in Mr. S. T. Evans ?— Yes.

34663. He represented the Home Office ?— Yes,

34664. Do you think he allowed matters to pass that
should not have been allowed : do you think the jury
were allowed to come to conclusions without having the case
fairly put before them, Mr. Evans representing the Home
Office ?— What Mr. S. T. Evans says is that under the
circumstances he does not recommend a prosecution.
We do not want a prosecution, and you are very desirous
of pressing us to admit that. We do not want a prosecu-
tion ; that is not our object.

34665. I am desirous of ascertaining from you what more
could have been gained if a second inquiry had been ordered
in this particular case than was brought out by the coroner's
inquest and the information given to the Home Office.
What further information could have been obtained ? —
Another set of interpretations given by experts equal in
experience and knowledge to those gentlemen who have
given their interpretation at the coroner's inquiry.

34666. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) Is this the fact, that your
reason for wishing for a second inquiry was not that you
wished the manager to be prosecuted, but that you wished a
second inquiry for the purpose of drawing the attention of
the public again to all those facts as to the explosion so as
to be a warning to other managers not to allow their men
to work under such conditions ? — Yes.

34667. {Chairman.) And, as I understand, your further
object was to produce expert evidence which might have
convinced the public that it was dangerous to work when a
cap was shewn on a lamp ? — ^Yes. There are two prominent
facts in the case, and I think proper observation in the
future ought to prevent the same thing occurring again :
those facts are, putting men to work at the return end of an
accumulation of gas, and allowing men to work where a
cap appears on the flame.

33668. But then Mr. Evans himself had commented
against the setting of men to work in the return airways
under the circumstances, and all the questions with regard
to a cap of gas were questions which were perfectly well

known to Mr. Martin, and ^^ ^^^ an expert in the matter,
and he would not be guided by expert opinion that was
contrary to his own view. Therefore, as regards the view
which Mr. Martin took, you could not imagine that his
view would be for a moment altered in any particular by
holding another inquiry. — ^No, not at all : but may I be
allowed to say this. The reports of Mr. Martin and of Mr.
S. T. Evans, so far as the public is conoetned, are absolutely
out of sight — the public knows nothing at all about their

34669. Would it have known anything more about the
second inauiiy ? — ^Yes, certainly. The seccmd inquiry
would give local publicity to the whole concern.

34670. I understand, at all events, the view of the men
is that it is desirable to bring in public opinion in Uiese
cases in order to strengthen the hands of the inspectors
against the management, I suppose that is the view ? —
Well, the men themselves do not know anything at all about

34671. Well, not against the management but with a
view to strengthening the hands of inspectors in any
suggestions that they may make with regard to the safe
working of the mine. — ^Yes.

34672. You think the opinion of the public might very
well be an important factor in your view of the case ? —
What I meant by the public opinion was more especially the
opinion and the knowledge of the workmen themselves.
So far as the body of workmen in South Wales are con-
cerned, they are not acquainted with the contents of the
reports of Mr. S. T. Evans and Mr. Martin.

34673. But do you suggest that any amount of public
opinion expressed on the part of the miners would influence
Mr. Martin one way or the other ? Would he not as a mine
inspector have formed his own opinion, being an, expert
himself, and would he be influenced by the miners' opinion
or by the manager's opinion 7 — No, not at all, I think.

34674. {Mr. Smillie.) The full finding of this jury ap-
peared in the South Wales papers ? — ^Yes.

34675. And the evidence which led to that finding also
appeared ? — ^Yes.

34676. The miners would read it 7— Yes.

34677. And all the colliery managers would read it 7 —

34678. And in the face of the evidence given the jury
came to the conclusion that all persons interested believed
those places to be safe for working. That was the finding
of the jury 7 — ^Yes,

34679. And that the ventilation at the outlet, where we
believe the explosion took place, was satisfactory : that
was the finding of the jury 7 — Yes.

34680. Was it not your fear that this might be taken by
colliery managers, colliery owners and workmen to be the
normal state in which the ventilation might be, according to
this finding 7 — That is so.

34681. Then I suppose your view on behalf of the men is
this, that you should have a second inquiry, not only to

. ascertain the facts, but in order to show up any mistake that
may have been made by the coroner or by the jury in the
first inquiry.

{Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) Or the Home Office.

{Chairm/in.) Or the Home Office or anybody.

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) But that is the object of this jiart
of the law — that a different court should inquire.

{Chairman.) But the point, as I understand, is this : the
position of the Home Office, as I understand it, is " We
want to have all the facts out on which we think that an
opinion ought to be based with regard to the safety of the
working of a mine, but we do not consider it necessary to
review the finding of a jury if all the facts are brought out ;
we set aside the finding of the jury altogether and we base
our opinion upon the facts brought out before the coroner,
and if the whole of those facts are brought out we do not
consider that there is any necessity to have any further
inquiry." T^at, I understand, is the Home Office view.

{Mr. Cunynghame.) I hope what I am going to say now
will end this matter : I understand from Mr. Abraham, and
I believe also Mr. Smillie, that no attack is made upon the
Home Office as to their conduct taking this case. That is
clear. They did the best they could under the circum-
stances, and they had not only the coroner's inquiry but
they had a report from Mr. Evans and a report from Mr.
Martin. {To the Witness.) I understand the position of the
Federation iB this — and you will explain whether you agree
in this — that really what is wanted is greater and wider
publicity than a report of this kind can give, and it would
have been a good thing, as the Federation think, if Section

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45 had been put in force so as to give that greater publicity.
I If I may say so» on behalf of the Home Office, there is a
' great deal in that ; we have not perhaps fully appreciated
the wider publicity that would be given by means of an in-
quiry. So far, I am quite prepared to admit that, and I
understand that is really the whole point between us.
I should be prepared to join with anyone who
would say that reports and inquiries under Section 45
are very desirable in the case of important accidents.
Such inquiries have not usually been held beiore,
and, although I do not think they would have added to
our knowledge at all upon this particular case or in any
of the others, yet, looking to the strong feeling and wide-
spread feeling that there was on behaH of the miners, I
think it would be judicious now and then to hold them in
cases where there are very big explosions. That is the
position which I should take up in considering the matter
at the Home Office. As that question has been raised, I
think it is better to make that statement at once ; it may
be a better method, as it seems to be, in some oases
— ^I do not say in every case— than to turn a coroner's
court into a sort ot court of inquiry.

{Chairman,) I may perhaps mention that this letter
from the Home Office, part of which I have read, goes
on to say this, which I think meets some part of the
objection you raise to the action of the Home Office in
refusing an inquiry: "Mr. Akers-Douglas proposes,
however, to take the occasion to consult Mr. Martin as
to the possibility of any special action with regard to mines
working the Rhas Las seam, and further to refer to the
inspectors generally at their next meeting the question
whether it is possible to propose any fixed rule as to the
size of the ' cap * upon a lamp which should be considered
indicative of danger, and to detemxine the moment when
the withdrawal of workmen should be made compulsory.

(Mr. Cunynghame.) That was done.

(Mr. Wm. Ahraiham.) I find that one of the reasons
which were given to us at the deputation is not stated
there. One of the reasons was that the whole question
was coming before this Commission ; he had made up his
mind that there was to be a Commission, and the whole
of this question was coming up before it.

(Mr, Cunynghame.) I can say positively that that was
one of the reasons for not holding an inquiry in this
McLaren case.

34682. (Mr, SmUlie.) Was the general opinion held
that the fan was too small for the ventilation of those two
large collieries ?:-rYeB.

34683. Was it understood amongst the workmen that
for six months there had been talk of a new fan and a
larger fan being placed there ? — Yes ; and the manage-
ment stated at tiie coroner's inquiry that the fan had
been ordered six months before then.

346S4. Was it the general opinion amongst the work-
men that that fan was being kept back l^cause of the
expense ? — ^No doubt that would be the impression of the

34685. That was your impression, I think, which was
indicated at the time ? — ^Yes.

34686. And that is one fact which could have been
brought out, whether or not it waa the case that the question
of expense was keeping the larger fan from being erected
there to ventilate those collieries ? — ^Yes.

34687. (C?M%rman,) There are one or two general
questions which I should like to put to you : I think you
mentioned that something ought to be done towards

widening the haidage roads in some cases, and that there Mr, Evan
ought in every case to be a gangway at the side of the Thomas.

haulage road which would be broad enough for a man to

walk along in safety. Was that not one of your sugges- 13 Dec., 1907

tions ? — ^Yes. My expression was not " gangway " but

" a pathway."

34688. A side-walk or pathway ? — ^Yes — by the side
of the rails.

34689. But did you not further suggest that that ought
to be in some way screened rJR. from the rails — that there
ought to be something in the nature of a screen ? — No ;
my suggestion was this, that a gangway would involve
that and the haulers could not utili^ that

34690. But why should a gangway necessilAte any
separation between the gangway and the rails. Why
should you not have a gangway w^ide enought without
any separation at all, so that the haulier could jump off
if there was any danger ? — ^That would meet my views

34691. You suggest that there ought not to be a fence ?

34692. Some people suggest that there ought to be a
fence between the rails and the sides ; but I should have
thought it would be better not to have a fence, because
then the hauliers could jump off ? — Yes.

34693. With r^ard to the two examinations, you say
that in every shift there ought to be two examinations •
by the fireman in the course of a shift instead of one,
which is now the law. Would you have two examinations

in the case of a repairing shift, or woUld it not be sufficient
in the case of a repairing shift to have one examination
during the shift T — I think that if a three shift of firemen
could be instituted that might be done easily, whether
it was a repairing shift or a coal cutting shift.

34694. But would it be necessary to have two examina-
tions during the course of the repairing shift ? Of course
in the working shift the face is constantly being brought
further on and you may have a blower of gas, and all
kinds of things may happen during the working ; but in
the case of a repairing shift probably very little would
happen. Would it not be sufficient in the case of a re-
pairing shift to have one examination during the ^lift 7 —
So far as the faces are concerned, yes. There would be no
necessity for examining the coal working faces during the
repairing shift.

34695. But why should you have more than one
examination of any kind during the repairing shift ?
There is so little that can go on to alter the state of the
mine during the repairing shift that I should have thought
one examination would be sufficient during that shift ?—
I think that would be the best opportunity for the fireman
to examine the roads.

34696. That there might be two examinations, but
that the second examination might be with a view really
to finishing off the work which he perhaps haidly had
time to do during the working shifts ? — ^Yes. As I stated
before, the first examination in the morning is more
particularly confined to the faces, and under the longwall
system, and especially the Barry system, they can travel
along the faces without going out over the roads. Then
during the ^repairing shift, when no work is carried on at
the coal faces, it would be an opportunity for them to
examine the roads more minutely.

34697. So that you think on the whole that it would
be desirable that there should be two examinations held
in the course of the repairing shift 7 — ^Yes, I think so.

Mb. Jambs Winstonib, called cuid exammed.

34698. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) You have been present all
through Mr. Thomas's examination 7 — Yes.

34699. Generally speaking, do you agree with his
evidence 7 — With the exception that as to the McLaren
affair I do not know anything of the details, and I had
not the same experience of that case as Mr. Thomas.

34700. You understand we have had so much of this
evidence that if we can shorten the inquiry T^e should
like to do so 7 — ^Yes.

34701. Is there any point which you would like to
emphasise in your evidence. Will you kindly tell us what
you wish to say in addition to what Mr. Thomas has told
us aheady 7 — I should like to emphasise the necessity
of the coUiery examiners or firemen testing the top as
well as making the examination.

34702. That would mean that they would have a tool,
either a mandril or a drill, or something of that kind to
test the top 7 — ^That is so.

34703. We have had it called before " sounding the
top " ; that would be the same thing. By that method
a miner would understand whether there is a danger
lurking there which he cannot see 7 — Yes.

34704. Do you think that is of special importance 7~I

34705. That again would mean that the examinations
would be made leisurely so as to have more time if
necessary 7 — Yes.

34706. I notice that you are not satisfied with the
present mode of examinations 7 — That is so.

Mr. J.

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Mr, J, W 34707. Will you kindly suggest to us what improvement
WintUme, liyou think ia necessary ? — I think shorter hoiu:s for the

J I examiners and more time: they should not be engaged

13 Dec., 190'! I in any other work but examination.

34708. With regard to improved haulage roads what

do you suggest ? — ^I should like to suggest, as Mr. Thomas
has already suggested, that there should be a pathway
alongside of the haulage road, and that the signal wires
should be on the same side as the pathway, so that the
rider may know and have ^ opportunity of getting out
of the way of the trams, and into conmiunication with
the engine driver. They are now, I might say, generally
speaking, put alongside the hixulage road where the tail
rope is running — the sheave wheels are there. I have had
some little experience and have found great difficulty in
getting at them.

34709. It is a source of danger and accident that the
haulier should be walking or running, as he is sometimes,
before the horse ? — It is.

34710. And this pathway would do away with that
source of danger ?— -Yes.

34711. That is your point with regard to it ? — Yes.
We have had one or two cases recently where workmen
have been killed through the timber on the haulage road
being so close to the rail that they have actually been
knocked off the journeys.

34712-14. One instance of fact would be of more value
to this Commission than half a dozen hearsays. You know
that to be the case in your own district ? — ^Yes.

34715. With rega^rd to the examination of winding
ropes have you anything to suggest there ? — ^I think that
to be an important matter, and I think they should be
examined immediately before the men descend the shaft
and inoonediately before they ascend the shaft. I can give
you a reason if you desire it.

34716. If you please ? — We had a very serious accident
in 1902. There were eight men who lost their lives
at one of the collieries in my district, and I have no hesita-
tion in saying that had an examination been made it would
have been prevented.

34717. This is a very natural question to ask : have
you any reason to know if an examination had been made
in that case that that accident would have been prevented ?
— By inference.

34718. Very well : tell us what the case was ?— The
case was this. The men were ascending after the com-
pletion of their shift, and a piece of wood on top of what
was acting as a framing on the upcast shaft, the wires in
the rope caught in that piece of wood and carried it into
the sheave wheel, threw the rope off the sheave wheel,
and the men were sent down the pit, eight of them.

34719. (Chairman,) The rope was quite good. An
examination of the rope would not have prevented that
accident ? — My experience leads me to believe in this
case that there were certain wires in the rope broken,
and they caught in the piece of wood.

34720. (Mr, Wm, Abraham,) Was there an inquiry ?—

34721. (Mr, Ralcliffe Ellis,) There was a coroner's
inquest ? — ^Yes.

34722. Did that come out there ?— Not ais clear as we
should have liked it to come out. It was very difficult
to bring it out, because the rope was badly damaged,

34723. Where was it ?— We should like to refer to the
inspector's report on the subject ?— It was in October,
1902. and was at Tirpentwys Colliery, near Pontypool.

34724. (Mr, Wm. Abraham,) You agree with Mr.
Thomas with regard to systematic timbermg ?— Yes.

34725. You think that is desirable T— Yes.

34726. And it would be effective, in your opinion, to
reduce accidents on roads, and so forth ? — Y'es.

34727. Have you any special evidence you would like
to give upon that pomt ?— Yes, we have one or two cases.

34728. I think they will be important.— We have a
case where a man was killed a very short time after the
fireman had passed through. He had made an examination
ajid stated the top was all right, but a very short time after
the top came down and killed the man.

34729. You said " a very short time " : about what
length of time was it after the fireman passed that way T
—The fireman passed there five minutes before.

34730. He saw no danger ?— No.

34731 To what do you attribute that state of things ?
—A sudden squeeze may bring it on.

S4732. The examiner did 0Ot see that anything was
wrong. You think that he had no time, that he was
pressing on ? — ^Yes : there was not a satisfactory testing
of the top.

34733. Do you think that systematic timbering in oaaes
like tiiose would have prevented such accidents T — Cer-

34734. How far apart was the timbering in that particular
place ? — ^In width aoout 7 or 8 ft., but there was no timber
for a goodish length, because the top was supposed to be
very safe there : it was a strong top.

34735. In common with your colleagues you hold thei .
opinion that where the top is apparenttjir safe and good af/
great number of accidents happen ? — I think so. If

34736. It would reduce them considerably were timbering
placed at stated intervals 7 — Yes.

34737. Have you anything more to say on coroners'
inquests 7 — I think that we ought to have a right to be
represented there.

34738. Will you just explain what you mean 7 — ^The men
are allowed to be represented there at the present time, but
it seems to me that we are on sufferance. We are ^here at
the will and the dictation of the coroner. I think we ought
to be allowed to be there.

34739. You think that the workmen or the workmen's
representatives ought to be there as of right, by law 7 —
That is so.

34740. And they ought to be allowed to put questions
that are material to the inquiry 7 — ^Yes.

34741. Without having to ask the permission of the
coroner 7 — ^Yes, and without having to feel that we are
there on sufferance.

34742. Is there anything more you would like to say 7
Will you deal with shot-firing 7 — ^I agree in toto with
Mr. Thomas as to shot-firing, that one man should have
charge of the shot-firing : he should charge and fire the
holes and the company should supply the explosives free
of charge.

34743. With regard to " free of charge," let that bide.
You think that ihere should be another system, that the
explosive and the detonator should be under the care of an
official entirely 7 — ^Yee.

34744. And until the moment it is wanted to be used 7 —

34745. That the official and the man should be there
together when the hole is rammed 7 —Yes, and the man in
charge should connect the wire.

(Mr. Ratdiffe EUis,) Are you familiar with the Explo-
sives Order, which requires that until about to be used the
explosive and the detonator are to be kept in a securely
locked case 7

34746. (Mr, Wm, Abraham.) You were here, I thinV,
when that point was raised. Axe you cognisant of the fact
that it is a breach of the Explosives Order that the explosive
and the detonator should be in the hands of the miner at the
same time 7 — ^Yes, but I fancy

34747. (Mr, Ratcliffe Ellis.) Not the miner at all— In the
hands of the shot-firer — should not be given to the miner.
I am afraid there may be some misunderstanding. I think
the words are " about to be used."

34748. (Mr, Win. Abraham.) And because about to be
used, then the workman may have had the detonator in his
charge 10 or 15 minutes, or half-an-hour 7 — ^That is so. I
am afraid there is a misunderstanding about those words
" about to be used."

34749. "Detonators shall be under the control of the
owner, agent, or manager of the mine, or some person or
persons specially appointed in writing by the owner, agent,
or manager for the purpose, and shall be issued only to shot-
firers or other persons specially authorised by the agent,
owner, or manager, in writing. Shot-firers and other au-
thorised persons shall keep all detonators issued to them
until about to be used." The practice is that the men
have both in their charge for some time 7 — ^Yes, that is so.

34750. What would really meet your requirements
would be the enforcement of that Order 7 — Yes : but I
should like to add

34751. With the alteration of "about " 7—1 think it is
not unfair to say in some instances the men are given the
explosives in the morning, and that is hours before they
have to use them.

34752. (Mr. Batdiffe EUis,) But not the detonator 7—


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34753. That is ihe point. I am not a miner, but there is
^o harm in the man having the explosive if he has not the

detonator ? — I would not like to say that. I think it
would be better if the explosive was under the supervision
of a responsible person — a competent person. I think that
they are not able to ram the hole, or stem it before they
have the detonator.

{Mr, Smillie,) A detonator must be attached.

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis,) What length of time has the collier
possession of the detonator ?

34754. {Mr. SmiUie.) This may be widely interpreted to
give them one hour or two hours. — ^Yes. A shot-firer may
pass through the face, and, it may be, take one or two hours -
to go his round. He will give one man a detonator and go
his round, and come back in two hours' time.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 137 of 177)