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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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34755. {Mr. Wm. Abraham.) To meet your case even this
Order will want to be altered ? — ^Yes.

34766. With regard to the word ** about." 1 am afraid

there is too wide an interpretation put on the words ** about
to be used."

34757. I s there anything else upon that point you wish to
say ? — ^Nothing else. ^

34768. Is there anything else in the evidence given yes-
teiday and to-day you would like to speak about T —

34769. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) You said it would be better
that the examiner should have shorter hours ? — Yes.

34760. What hours have they now ? — In some instancos
10, 11, 12 and 13.

34761. The men who go in to examine the places for the
safety of the men ? — Yes.

34762. {Chairman.) Would a man have 13 hours as. a
general rule, or would that only be once a week, or once a
fortnight ? — ^He has 13 hours as a general rule in many

34763. The firemen have 13 hours as a general rule 7

34764. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) You said you thought it
would be better to have a travelling way on one side of the
haulage roads 1 — Yes. ^

34765. You have not that now 7 — ^No.

34766. The men walk in the middle of the road 7— Yes.

34767. There is no space between the rail and the side
of the road for them to travel 7 — ^There is not sufficient

34768. What do you call sufficient 7—4 to 5 ft., I think,
from the rail.

34769. What width would that make the whole place 7 —
It might make it 9 or 10 ft.

34770. Would that be excessive for the safety of the
roof 7 — I think not.

34771. About 10 ft. 7— Yes.

34772. Depending upon the state of the roof 7 — In many

34773. In some cases it would be rather dangerous even
if the timber was close 7 — No, I think it could easily be
made 9 ft. at the top and 10, 12 or 13 ft. at the bottom.

34774. {Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Have you the same opinion
as Mr. ITiomas with regard to the return airway being used
as a place for workmen to come out 7 — It would be a great
advantage m more ways than one.

34775 It would create no unpleasantness for the men 7 —
I think not.

34776. Rather otherwise 7 — ^I think so.

34777. It would increase the ventilation as well 7 — It
ought to.

34778. It would improve the ventilation 7 — Yes.

34779. You are of the same opinion distinctly on that
point as Mr. Thomas was 7 — ^Yes.

34780. {Chairman.) That is to say, if the return airways
were used for men to travel along, it would be impossible
thit the air could be as foul as it is sometimes in the
return airways. When you speak about increased ventfla-
tion you mean it woula be unpleasant for the men to go
through the airways as they are now sometimes, and it
would lead to better ventilation of the mine 7 — Yes, it
would lead to better ventilation of the mine.

34781. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) You only suggest that
where there is not a separate travelling road or accom-
modation for travelling alongside the haulage free from
the motion 7 — ^The other would suit me.

34782. A separate travelling road is the best of all 7—
It all depends.

Mr. J.


34783. But what is the disadvantage of a separate iqhaa 1907
travelling road 7 — ^There is no particular disadvantage. *__

I should think it would be an advantage.

34784. I suggest in a new colUery if you can manage it
a separate travelling road might be the best of all 7 — ^For
that particular purpose.

34785. If you cannot get that you would like to have
room to travel safely along the haulage road. People
would like to pass in and out there 7 — ^I beg your pardon.

34786. If you cannot have a separate travelling road
you want room on the side of the motion so that people
may travel safely 7 — ^Yes, on the engine plane. Not only
that they may travel safely bacl^ards and forwards,
but that the rider

34787. Where you have the return airways made big
enough for the men to travel do you still want this ac-
commodation on the haulage road for the persons who
are working the haulage 7 — ^Yes. I have had two instances
recently where men were killed.

34788. Even supposing the return airways were big
enough for men to travel in, you still want them to be «
able to travel along the haulage roads without being in
danger of being damaged by tiie passing machinery 7 —

34789. With reference to this winding rope you know
^at the winding rope and the guides have to be examined

once at least in every 24 hours 7 — ^Yes.

34790. When in the collieries in your district, does th«
examination take place now 7-— Generally in the morning.

34791. What time in the morning 7 — Perhaps between
four and six o'clock.

34792. That is before the men go down 7— -Yes.

34793. That is all you want so far as that is concerned 7
—Well, yes.

34794. This accident you refer to was when the men
were coming out 7 — ^Yes.

34795. Do you want another examination before the
men go down, or is the examination in the morning
sufficient for the day 7 — ^I want another examination.

34796. You want, instead of it being provided in the
Act of Parliament to b#examined once in every 24 hours,
for it to be twice in every 24 hours 7 — Yes.

34797 Supposing two or three shifts are working, do
you want an examination before every time they ai«
used tor lowering or raising men 7 — ^I think that could be
obviated, because if they examined the ropes prior to
the men ascending the shaft that would also suit for the
men to descend ^e shaft on the night shift. One shift
comes up and the other goes down practically at the same

34798. At the collieries you are acquainted with do they
have an interval of any sort during the time of work for
a meal, 20 minutes or half an hour from the time they
begin to work up to the time the men come out of the
pit 7— No.

34799. There is no stoppage 7 — ^No.

34800. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) You mean no stoppage at
any particular time for all the men 7 — There is no stoppage
of winding.

34801. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Is there any stoppage of
winding 7 — ^No.

34802. Do you know that there are many places where,
during the stoppage from the winding, the examination,
is made oi the ropes and the guides 7 — ^I think that is so.

34803. You think that it is necessary for safety that
this examination should be immediately before the men
go down, and immediately before the men come up 7 —
Of course they have been winding coal the greater part
of the day — the whole of the day — and naturally the
ropes are affected thereby.

34804. What would you expect to find by an examina-
tion 7 What sort of defect would there ^ 7 — I should
expect to find the wires broken in some instances and
probably the strands in some instances. We should
expect to find the rope partially pulled out of the clasp.

34805. Do you think there would be a change between
the condition of things shown in the morning and the
afternoon when you examined it eight or nine hours
afterwards 7 — Yes.

Digitized by



Mr. J.

34806. In the inspeotor's report on the Tirpentwys
accident the inspector says, " The rope which broke had
been in use two years and four months and although it

13 Dec, 1907 showed wear on the outer wires there do not appear to
have been any broken wires observable.** Your suggestion
was that a broken wire caused this trouble ? — ^Yes.

34807. Then he goes on to say : " Directly after the
accident a length o? the rope, taken as near the place of
breakage as possible, was sent to Lloyds Bute proving
house at Cardiff, where the breaking strain was found to
be 36| tons, white as a result of testing each wire separately
the aggregate breaking strain was found to be 37^ tons.
The rope when out showed the inside wires to be in good
condition, bright and clean, without indications of rusting
or decay. It was, in fact, in a thoroughly satisfactory
condition, having a safety factor of nine times with the
working load and of eighteen times with men, which
seems very ample under ordinary conditions at the expira-
tion of 2J years work, and approaching the time limit
or use for this purpose.*' That is the inspector's report
as to this rope. You still think a broken wire caused the
mischief ? — ^Yes.

34808. If it was a broken wire an examination by
passing it through the man*s hand would discover it ?-^Yes.

34809. That is the way the ropes are examined, by the
rope being passed through a man*s hand 7 — ^I think in
some instances they have a tong, an iron implement for
the purpose.

34810. While on the question of ropes have you any
suggestion to make beyond that they should be examined
not merely before the men descend but before they come
up ? — Have you any other suggestions making for safety ?
— Not so tar as the rope is concerned, but I think the
bridle chains should be annealed every now and then and
examined, passed through a fire for the purpose of ex-

34811. You mean where the rope is attached to the
cage ? — ^The bridle chain, we call them. There are four or
six chains on each carriage.

34812. That is where the rope is attached 7 — Yes,
attached to the bridle chain.

34813. Those chains are examined from time to time 7

34814. You think they are not examined sufficiently
frequently 7 — ^Yes. "*

34815. You have no suggestion to make beyond that 7

(Mr. Wm. Abraham,) He said yesterday they should
be annealed.

34816. (Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Passed through the fire.
I gather from you tiie general condition provided in Greneral
Rule 5 that there must be this examination and that they
must be kept in good order, is not in sufficient detail to
satisfy you. You think it ought to be more in detail as to
what is to be done with the winding rope and the annealing
of these chains 7 — Yes.

34817. Is there anything else you would suggest 7 — ^Yes.
I do not want to reflect in any way upon the management
of this particular colliery where this accident occurred,
because I think it is one of the best ordered collieries in
the coalfield.

34818. Do you want to make any suggestion with
reference to this winding rope or the appliances for raising
and lowering men beyond what is required now. Have
you any other suggestions to make with regard to anything
which is not provided for now 7 — No, except the examina-
tion of the guide ropes.

34819. Going hsjck. for a moment to this inspector's
report, he says : " The indications clearly prove that
the rope was thrown off the pulley by a piece of timber
having been carried up by the rope, and it is evident that
there was no other wood except the 14 inch (so-called
floating) board which could have ffot there. In what
manner it was carried up, whether by a broken wire or
by its having been suspended by the rope through its
swaying or vibration and floated up in that way, as may
be demonstrated by a stick and a ring, or by its having
been canted and been thus drawn up, will never be known,
but either of the three would account for it, as the distance
is only 12 feet to where it would cateh." lliat is what you
found your view on, that it might be a broken wire 7 — I
had an opportunity of going to examine ; they gave us
eveiy facility, and that was my opinion. I have had a

• t^ood deal of experience of pit ropes and engine plane ropes.


34820. You heard the evi^^Oe I put to the last witness
upon the various matters ^^^Cting the special rules and «
inspection. Do you adopt hi^ Answers to my questions 7 —

34821. (Mr. SmiUie.) The inspector in that report says
no broken wires were apparent, but the outside wire
seemed to be worn. I suppose he means were apparent
when the examination was made in the morning, l^cause
you say the rope was badly damaged after the accident 7
— ^Yes; very badly damaged.

34822. He has in his mind, I suppose, '* apparent "
previous to the accident 7 — I really think it is after the

» accident.

34823. There were many broken wires after the acci-
dent. 7 — Yes. For yards and yards the rope was curled up
and broken off.

. 34824. Do the provisions of the Coal Mines Act with
regard to the employment of boys on the surface provide
an interval of at least half an hour for meals 7 Is that
carried out at your mines where the winding continues
for eight hours 7 — I am afraid not.

34825. You could not give a definite opinion as to
whether it is carried out at all your mines in your district 7
— ^From observation I think it is not carried out.

34826. If it is carried out, then the lads under 16, and
women, if there were any employed, would require, even
while the winding was going on, to get half an hour for
meals 7 — Yes.

34827. There are no women employed on the surface
in your mines 7 — Yes, at two of them.

34828. Are they employed more than eight hours
in 24 7— Yes.

34829. More than eight hours continuously 7 — ^Yes.

34830. Do you know whether or not they have one-and-
a-half hours off if employed ten hours 7 — ^No, I think not.

34831. You know that the Act provides that they
should have that 7 — ^Yes.

34832. You are aware that the Act does not provide for
any interval for lads who may be employed underground
and where there ft eight hours continuous winding. Is it

Cible that the lads may work the whole of those eight
"s without an interval 7 — Yes, it is possible, but I
think they do arrange to have a bit of food ; but still there
is no stipulated time.

34833. You have to arrange it in the wrong way. There
is no statutory provision made for them to have an
interval 7 — ^No.

34834. Do you not think it would be as well that there
should be an interval provided for 7 — ^I think so.

34835. What is your view of the position of a colliery
fireman 7 Is it a position of importance 7 — Very.

34836. Of considerable importance 7 — ^Yes, it is one of
the most important positions in the mining industry.

34837. Is it your opinion that so far as the safety of
the men is concerned that position is more important
even than the manager's 7 — I should say so.

34838. I suppose you have no fault to find in a general
way with the men who act at present as firemen : I mean
with their qualifications in a general way. I suppose
generally they are very efficient and competent men 7 —
Generally speaking.

34839. But there is a feeling that sometimes men may
be appointed who are not thoroughly competent 7 — ^Yes.

34840. Is that your own feeling 7 — ^Yes.

34841. Do you think it would be wise to have provisions
made that they should hold a certificate of competency
to prove, so far as a certificate could, at least, that they
were competent for that work 7 — ^I think that would be
useful, but I should lay emphasis upon their practical

34842. I was going to lead up to that. Thorough prac •
tical knowledp^e of undei^groimd working would be one of
the qualifications necessary in order to secure that certi-
ficate of competency 7 — Yes.

34843. There is, as yon are aware, nothing at the present
time to prove whether or not a person is a competent
person. The Coal Mines Act provides that the manager
must appoint a competent person 7 — ^Yee.

34844. But he has nothing to guide him but his own
knowledge or a statement made by a person to him 7 —
That is so — ^his own observation, of course.

Digitized by




34845. You think it would be wise if there was an
•examination and a certificate of competency ? — ^Yes.

34846. One of the qualifications necessary to gain that
leing practical knowledge ?— Certainly.

34847. Would the same thing apply to the competent
person who at present employs a shot-firer ? — ^Yee.

34848. You are aware that a manager may appoint
A person to be a shot-firer and handle explosives who had
really no previous knowledge ?— Yes ; I have had ex-
perience of that.

34849. He might appoint a person who had been
receiving compensation in order to give him what is called
a light job as a shot-firer, to handle explosives. There is
nothing to prevent that, so far as you know ? — ^No.

34850: You do not know any cases of that kind which
"have occurred in your own district ? — 'So.

34851. It would be wise to make sure that a person
is a competent person to handle explosives, and that could
only be proved by his holding a certificate of competency ?
— Undoubtedly.

34852. I suppose you are also in favour of engine-
winders holding certificates of competency ? — ^Yes.

34853. The same thing applies to them at the present
time. They may be appointed either through favour or for
«om9 other reason, ana may not be as competent as we
would hke them to be, holding, as they do, the lives of the
men in their hands ? — ^Yes, I agree,

34854. {Mr. F. L. Davis,) When is shot-firing in the
Toads done in your district generally ? — ^Where they are not

allowed to fire in the coal, or where it is unnecessary they
should fire in the coal, it is, generally speaking, done be-
tween the shifts.

34855. Practically that is universal ? — ^I am not able to
say it is universal in my district.

34856. In your district it is practically always done.
You have hardly ever known it done during the shift ? —
That is alL

34857. Are there any places in your district where they
fire shots in the coal ? — Yes, there are some.

34858. What proportion would that be ; places where it
is done ? — ^I should think perhaps one-third.

34859. As much as one-third ? — About one-third.

34880. When they fire shots they fire during the shift ?-—

34881. Do they fire shots in your district in the coal more
than other districts, so far as you know ? — I think they do,
as far as Monmouthshire is concerned.

34862. I do not know whether I am right, but it is really
in your district that is done. It is practically the only
place in South Wales where firing in the coal is done to any
extent ? — I think it is done more so in the western districts
— the anthracite districts.

34883. The western district and that portion of Mon-
mouthshire where you come from are really the only places
where firing is done to any extent in South Wales ? — As far
as I know, to any extent.

34884. (Chairman.) Is there anything you would like to
add now ? — Nothing else.

Mr. J.


13Deo,»1907 I

Mb. Wiluam Habbis, called and examined.


34865. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) You are in favour of re-
•ducing the size of the districts of the inspectors ? — Yes.

34866. Have you any special reason in your mind for that
opinion ? — ^Yes. The reason I suggest that the size of the
•districts should be reduced is because under the present
system of inspection there is not what I may call a proper
system of inspection being made. It is very rarely we see
an inspector at our collieries, and when they come it is about
•one district they take in the colliery as a sample of the
whole coUiery, which, in my opinion, is not an efficient way
of inspecting.

34887. You disapprove of inspection by samples ?— Yes.

34888. With regard to inspection under Rule 38, what do
you want to siiggeet ? — ^My experience is that there is not
really full advantage being taken for various reasons of in-
spection under Rule 38.

34869. The workmen dd not take advantage ?— The
workmen do not take advantage, and in fact I find that
there is fear on the part of soms workmen that if they make
a proper examination they will be punished if their report is
sent in. I have a case in mind where the examiner examin-
ing under Rule 38 condemned a whole return because of
the size of it. It had squeezed to such an extent that as far
as the return was concerned it was not in a proper condition;
pieces were in good condition, but the return was measured
l)y the size of the smallest part of it. The result was this
man was called upon to apologise by the manager because
he had condemned the whole of the return.

34870. Your opinion that there is that kind of fear
.am3ng the men is based upon certain facts you know of ? —

34871. Have you found in late years any difficulty in
-getting what we call the best of our men to make the
examination, and men that ought to be the proper men ?
— Yes. There is no doubt since the passing of the Workmen's
Compensation Act — I am expressing my own personal
opinion in this matter — ^that there is a difficulty for the
older men to obtain employment. Those older workmen
hesitate to accept positions of responsibility that would
bring them in conflict with the management, and it is
the older men who are the most experienced examiners,
especially on behalf of the workmen.

34872. There is a certain number of young, strong men
who are able and practical men ? — ^Yes.

34873. Do you find that there is a difficulty to get those
men to make these examinations ? — ^There is a difficulty
from the cause I stated with regard to that other instance
— the fear of having to suffer in some form or other.

34874-5. With regard to inspection by officials, what
suggestions have you to make ? You are in favour of
the examiners having a certificate ? — Yes.

34376. As a proof of their being qualified for the posi-
tion ? — ^Yes.

34877. Have you reason to believe that there are here
and there some m3n appointe4 to official positions that are
not qualified ? — ^Yes, there are instances which have come
under my notice very recently ; in fact, there has been an
agitation in one instance I know.

34878. Would you have any objection to naming that
place ? — ^I have not the least objection. It is the colliery
at which I am employed myself at the present time. It is
Messrs. John Lancaster & Co., where a man came to the
colliery from the tin-forge who had never worked on the
coal-face. He came as a labourer, and he became a timberer's
labourer, and then he became a timberman, and from
that he came to be fireman, and now he is overman, and he
has never worked a day on the coal in his IKe. For a man
to be an important official in a colliery I think he ought to
have some knowledge of working in the coal face.

34879. He m'^y be an exceptionally clever and able
man ? — ^Yes, but there are exceptionaUy clever and able
men there at the present time. We have two men on the
staff who are holding their second-class certificates. One
of them has had his certificate for the last 15 years and has
had considerable experience in steam coal collieries in
Glamorganshire as weU as Monmouthshire. Although
holding the certificate and having had considerable experi-
ence, he is overlooked in favour of a man who came seven
years ago from the tin forge.

34880. How long has he been underground ?~A matter
of about seven years from the commencement to the end, up
to now, from the time he started first of all as an ordinary

34881. Until he became an overman ? — ^Yes.

3488^. Then you say with regard to the districts it is
desirable that they should be made smaller ? — It is desir-
able that they should be made smaller, and that other
duties should be taken away which the officials now have
to perform.

34883. You agree with that view ?— Yes.

34884. With regard to discipline, as between fining and
prosecution, which, in your opinion, is the more effective as
a deterrent of negligence ? — ^Of course, I would differ with
regard to certain cases. There are cases in which I conceive
that thsre would ba certain individuals who, through entire
inadvertence, may commit a breach. They are tidy,


Mr. W.

Digitized by





Mr. W. respectable menwho have been in the neighbourhood 40 or 50

Hmrris, \ years, and the very thought of being taken to a Police Court

. hurts them so much, apart from the fact of a fine being put

13 Dec., 1907| on. In oases of that kind I should try to arrange without

prosecution, but in ordinary cases of gross negligence I

should say prosecution. In no case would I give the power

entirely into the hands of the manager of determining

whether there should be a fine or a prosecution.

34885. You are in favour of allowing fining in certain
cases ? — ^Yes.

34886. Supposing you have a case of a man tamperiilg
with his lamp T—Frosecution, at once.

34887. Supposing you had a man found with matches
in his pocket ? — Prosecution.

34888. What are the cases that you favour fining
instead of prosecution ? — In the case of a man who had

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 138 of 177)