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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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matches, for instance, by accident. We will say a man
does not smoke, and it is known that he does not smoke,
but by some inadvertence he may be wearing a waistcoat
in the garden in his spare time and have taken a match
to bum some garden refuse. We know oases of a man
who through accident has left matches in his pocket. In
that case I should certainly say not prosecution, but only
where you have clear evidence that there would be no
deliberate attempt on the part of the individual.

34889. In that case you think prosecuting a man would
be too extreme a punishment ? — I think in a case of that
kind it would be an extreme punishment.

34890. You do not agree that magistrates should fine
the men when you have reason to believe that the offence
is not purposely committed ? — I would not say that they
should be let off free. What I find is this, that the very
fact of taking these men before the magistrates is the
biggest punishment you can inflict — much greater
than the fine imposed.

34891. Hence, taking a man before the magistrates for
any offence, large or small, is more likely to stop him
committing breaches of the rules ? — Undoubtedly.

34892. With regard to timbering, are you in favour o^
systematic timbering ? — I certainly am.

34893. Had you a complaint of a similar character to
the one mentioned by Mr. Thomas, that • men are not
allowed to use their discretion to put up timber in certain
places when they think it is necessary ? — ^Yes, I am afraid
that the practice is getting rather too common. Where
timbering has to be paid for, then you have to have the
permission of an official, but where timbering has not to
be paid for you are given full discretion.

34894. {Chairman.) It is not a case of wishing to save
the timber itself ? — It is a question of saving the payment
for timbering.

34895. Where there is no payment for putting it up
he can always get sufficient timber ? — There is no question
arising of tnat kind in my experience.

34896. We were told that even where that was the
case managers were very chary in providing enough
timber ? — I have not had an experience of that kind.

34897. {Mr.Wm, Abraham,) Supposing that the man had
to put up a pair of timber or a road-post, or a cog, without
the permission of the manager, is there no greater evil in
consequence than that he would not be paid ? — That is
the evil, and that is what is being used with a view of
entirely preventing the use of timber — ^what they
call an indiscriminate use of timber — and wherever there
is a question of payment they refuse to pay for them.

34898. Supposing a man had put up a road-post where
he had been ordered to do so : do you know of cases where
they have been knocked out ? — I know of cases where
timber has been knocked out. Certainly I do.

34899. That is not a question of payment, it is a question
of using timber 7 — ^Yes, I certainly know cases. Tne only
cases I know where timber has been knocked out have
been where the question of payment has come in.

(Mr, Raidiffe ElUa,) It is knocked out because they
are not going to pay for it.

(Mr. Wm. Abraham.) The official knocks it out.

(Mr, Bakliffe Ellis,) It is knocked out to show it is not

34900. (Chairman,) That is the evidence given before
by the witnesses. They say that there is a dispute as to
the payment for the timber and the official sa3rs it is not
necessary and proves that by knocking it out 7 —

Yes, and I would like to go f^^^ber and say that in con-
sequence of having timber Ut^^kod out I have knowir
falls which have stopped the pWe for several days.

34901. (Chairman,) Can a man be had up for breach
of rules if he puts up timber the management considers
unnecessary. Do they knock out the timber and refuse-
to pay for it, or have him up for a breach of the rules 7 —
They knock the timber out and refuse to pay him.

34902. That is all. He does not get had up for a breach'
of rule 7— No.

34903. (Mr. Smillie.) You do not know of timber being
knocked out except where a manager had to pay a work-
man 7 — ^I have only known it in cases where payment has-
been in question.

34904. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) The man's discretion is
good enough where there is no payment, but if this must
be the view, he has no discretion when tJiere is a question
of payment 7 — That is what I object to. If a man has
discretion to use timber for his own safety where there is-
no question of payment a man ought to have the same
right where a question of pa3rment does come in.

34905. By law he is compelled to place timber on the
face at stipulated distances 7 — Yes.

34906. Whether it is necessary or not 7— Within eight
feet in the seam in the working, whether wanted or not,
you must have a stick.

34907. And that for the purpose of safety 7 — Yes, of
course that eight feet applies to the whole line of face,
as welL

34908. The reason for that is it is, thought necessary
for safety 7 — ^Yes.

34909. The application of the same rule to the roads,
in your opinion, is a question of safety also 7 — Certainly,
on the roadways I am certain they are required very
much closer than eight feet.

34910. In the face where there is no payment for timber
the man is allowed to put in an extra prop or an extra,
sprag if he thinks it is necessary 7 — Certainly.

34911. But in a road where he thinks there is equal
danger he is not allowed to have that discretion 7 — Ho nas^
to draw the attention of the fireman, and if he gives per-
mission he can put it up, but if not, he is not allowed to.

34912. You know of cases where a man has exercised
his discretion and put up timber and that timber has been
knocked out by the official, and a fall has taken place 7 —
I have a case in my mind where a fall took place and
it was two days before it was cleared.

34913. Where 7— At a colliery in the Western Valleys.

34914. What was the case 7 — It was a case of timber
being put up in the stall road and the official came round
and said : "Who ordered you to put this flat here 7" The
man said : " The top is bad."' The official said : " You
will not get paid for it. I do not think it is wanted there."'
The man said : " Will you give permission to take it out,'*
and he did. The man took it out and down came the top.
They were two days clearing the fall.

34915. You are also of the same opinion as other
witnesses with regard to the roads being made large enough
for men to walk by the side of them 7 — ^Yes.

34916. To obviate the necessity of hauliers walking
before the journeys 7 — ^Yes.

34917. Are you of opinion also that the return airways-
should be made travelling roads and kept large enough
for a horse and tram 7 — ^Yes, I am of the same opinion.

34918-21. Putting all the things together, those improve-
ments, in your opinion, would reduce the causes of acci-
dents and the number of accidents 7 — Those would very^
CDnsiderably reduce the causes of accidents, in my opinion.

34922. With regard to inexperienced men, have you some-
thing to recommend there 7 — ^I think greater care should ^
be taken, especially in the periods of what is known in
the coal trade as periods of boom, where possibly a large
number of the older collieries may be freshly developed.
I think there is too much indiscrimination in taking men
on from the farms and anywhere else. They are put on
indiscriminately, and in the worst paid collieries you find
that there is a large percentage of what you might term
unskilled labour being intrcxiuced. The better paid
collieries generally succeed in getting the better class
workmen, but in the lower rated collieries you find th 8&
men coming in from the agricultural districts, and ulti-
mately when the period of depression comes on they are

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■serious competitors. That is not so much the point, it is
the question of the serious danger which comes through
these men heing placed in dry and fiery mines.

34923. You suggest some improvement in testing
lamps ? — ^Yes, that to my mind is a point that is very
serious. 1 had an experience, and 1 should like to let the
Oommission know the experience I got some three years
ago. In the collieiy I am engaged at we struck a large
fault which was giving off a great quantity of gas. The
result was the air became so charged with gas that one
or two districts were stopped. I, in conjunction with some
others, was appointed to act as examiner. We were using
then as a collier's lamp a lamp which burnt a kind of spirit
oil called colza oil, and the remarkable thing was that the
-collier's lamp detected the gas quicker than the fireman's
testing lamp did. I made an examination on two or three
•occasions. I took my ordinary working lamp with me
and I also took the ordinary testing lamp as used by the
fireman at the colliery, and whereas I would get one-
€i^th of an inch of cap on the ordinary fireman's testing
lamp I would find half -an-inch on the ordinary working
lamp. I would also find a cap on the ordinary working
lamp when I would not find a trace on the fireman's
testing lamp.

34924. That would not be your experience very largely.
That is not common ? — No, but the point I wish to
emphasise is this — ^if it is possible to get one lamp to be
used in a colliery sufficiently sensitive to show the presence
of gas in the wav the lamp burning colza oil did, I think
«uch a lamp ougnt to be introduced, so that the examiners
Bhould obtain that lamp and have a more sensitive lamp
than they have now. That is the point I wish to make.
I may say in connection with this matter as well that we
had a difficult ^ with regard to the cap of gas. The
point was referred to the Home Office at that time,
and I mention this so that Mr. Ounynghame may
hear it. I think Sir Neve Foster was adviser
of that Department at that time. The point was
forwarded as to when a cap of gas became dangerous.
We held, and so did Mr. jMartin, the inspector, that the
cap of gas shown in that particular part of the working
was such as to render it imfit for the workman to work
in. The manager, on the other hand, held that the cap
of gas was not dangerous. The result was we took it to
our agent, Mr. Brace, who forwarded it, with a view to
having a decision as to when a cap of gas was dangerous
or to what extent. That point was raised at Abertysswg
and is still left undecided.

34925. {Mr. Wm. Abraham,) You are of opinion also
that the ropes and winding gear should be examined
oftener than they are ? — ^Putting it briefly, I should put
it in the same way as Mr. Winstone. I agree with his
evidence upon that point.

34926. With regard to the second inquiry, are you in
favour of that ? — ^Yes, I am in favour of that, 1>ecause
the first inquiry, or the coroner's inquiry is merely an
inquiry appointed to inquire into the cause of death, and
m the course of the evidence highly technical points may
arise upon which the case n^ay turn, and as the jury is
only empannelled to ascertain the cause of death, the
jury often are not of such a class of men as to be able to
arrive at a conclusion upon any conflict of evidence there
may be, as between the parties at the coroner's inquiry.
For instance, sometimes you have cobblers, shopkeepers,
and different classes of people at a coroner's inquiry, and
if a highly technical point is raised, such as was ra^ed at
Abertysswg, I think it should not be left to a body of men
of that sort to decide.

34927-29. {Mr. Cunynghame.) When you said in one
ease a man was taken on as a timber man's labourer, and
then became a timberman, and then a fireman, I think
you told us before a man became a fireman you desired
that he should work at the face ? — Certainly.

34930. May it not be that men who would make good fire-
men are not So physically strong as working at the face.
Would you not give them a chance ? Could a man
become a good fireman who was not in possession of the
strength required at the face ?-— I am afraid too many fire-
men have been made because they are not physically strong
I think that a man who takes on such an important posi-
tion as that of a fireman does not require to be a man suffer-
ing from ill-health. It requires the best of the men.

34931. I do not mean ill-health, but not such physical
health as would be required. You can imagine a small
man has not such physical strength. You know more of
mining than I do, but I should have thought a man might
make a good fireman who was not a particularly good man
at the face ? — You find small men who are particularly good
at the face.

34932. There is nothing in the duties of a firemen that
renders it imperative that a man should be a good hand at
holing coal ? — ^No ; it is necessary he should have had ex-
perience of the roof of the working place.

34933. It is perhaps from a feeling of fairness of
employment that you were putting that ? — No. If I was
a manager I would not appoint a man unless he had had
experience of working in the coal face.

34934. With regard to fines, I understand your chief
objection is you do not like the manager being the sole
determining man in the case? — I have a strong objection to

34935. The difficulty I see and which I should like your
opinion upon is this : if you had nothing but prosecution
you would either have considerable laxity, or you might
find a very large number of men being prosecuted and losing
a day's work by going before the magistrates. What have
you to say to that ? — In the exceptions I have mentioned
I say the representative of the working men with the
manager should deal with the case, subject to the approval
of the mines inspector.

34936. You would not object to fines so much in a case
where the man admitted he was wrong if there was some
authority which arranged the fine, independent of the
manager. Is that the point ? — In those particular in-
stances I have mentioned, that is so.

34937. With regard to the discretion of the men in setting
up timber you want more timber set up in certain cases than
is set at present ? — We think it is not fair nor right, nor does
it conduce to safety that men should be prevented from
putting up timber where their own judgment says it is

•34938. Would it not be too much to claim that men
should be allowed to put up timber and pay for it, without
any appeal to a third party to say whether it was reason-
able ? If you had no limited power to putting up timber,
and the men paid for it, is it not open to the remark that
men might go on being paid and put up an unnecessary
quantity of timber ? — ^My experience is not in that direc-
tion, and I have been working underground for some years.
You may have individual cases where men would rush to
do the lund of thing you mention, but my experience has
taught me at any rate that when complaint of that kind is
being made, that the workmen take due regard to that
complaint, I mean when the management complain and say
it is used indiscrimately and unnecessarily.

34939. You are not suggesting for a moment the putting
up of unnecessary quantities of timber, or anything that
would lead to that ? — Certainly not.

34940. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) You said you found men in
your district objected to make the examinations under
Rule 38 on account of the fear of being marked men ? — Yes.

34941. You gave an instance of one who had reported the
return airway being inefficient ? — ^Yes.

34942. You used the words '*He had been brought before
the managers to apologise ? " — ^Yes.

34943. I did not know what that meant.— It meant that
the management took exception to that part of the report
in which he said such and such a return was in a very bad
condition. The manager pointed out that there were only
about 16 or 17 to 20 yards which were in the bad condition
he had named. I say the man was justified in making the
report, inasmuch as the whole of the return, or the capacity
of the return, was judged by the size of the smallest portion
of it.

34944. That is a matter of science ? — ^No, it is a matter
of fact.

34945. You mean the apology was rather to explain the
reason why he had made the report. — Certainly : he
claimed to nave that report altered.

34946. He asked him to alter his report ? — He said he
, would insist upon his altering his report. He insisted he
' should do so.

34947. If it remained on the report he could not alter
it ? — The books were produced.

34948. Do I understand you to mean that he is
brought before the manager to explain the reasons of his
report ? — ^The manager took exception to his report. I
might explain the manager took exception to his report
and demanded that part of the report should be altered.

34949. There was a difference of opinion between the
two ? — It does not tend to give confidence to the workmen
to go round making a proper examination according to their
juc^ptnent, when the manager demands an apology for
making reports.

53 A

Mr. W.


13 Pec., 1907

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Mk W. 34950. iBityouropimonthanlOor 12 yards of the return

Harris, airway being narrower than the remaining part would

■ seriously afifect the remaining length, a mile or more long

13 Dec., 1907 — l do not know how many miles it was ? — It was not a

question of miles.

34961. What was the distance ?— 500 or 600 yards,

34952. Was the whole of the return airway only 700
yards 7 — 500 or 600 yards, and about 15 or 20 yards were
▼ery narrow. I do not say the whole of the other portion
was strictly right : there were certain portions that were
good, but the other portion was so very poor that the capa-
city of the whole return was only to be measured by the
size of the smallest part of it.

34953. What was done to the man ; was he discharged ? —
No ; but he has not undertaken an examination since, I

34954. What did the owners do to him ? — ^Of course they
had exactly what they wanted. They brought the necess-
ary pressure to bear, and they had the alteration of the
report, and the man has not made an examination since, I

34955. Surely the owners have the right to ask the man
to explain his report ? — ^When you demand an apology it
does not tend to give men confidence in making an exami-
nation on a second occasion, nor does it tend to have
truthful reports so far as other examinations are concerned.

34956. {Mr. Wm, Abraham.) Let us understand this for
the benefit of all. Did the man alter his report ? — ^Yes.

34957. He did that because the manager demanded it ? —

34958. {Mr. Batdiffe EUis.) I suggest he altered the
report because it was wrong, not because the manager
requested him ? — I should say that the man was intimidated
into that position.

34959. Now you said that the most experienced men, the
older men, were diffident about making tiiese examinations
for fear of consequences ? — ^Yee.

34960. Those, I gather from you, are the men who can
make tiiem best and most satisfactorily — ^the older and
more experienced men 7 — ^Not all of them, but you would
get some of the be^t men among those.

34961. A man who can make an examination of that
kind most satisfactorily would be the most satisfactory
man for a fireman ? — Certainly.

34962. Are there many of these old and experienced men
who can pass an examination for a second-class
certificate 7 — ^No. I am not suggesting the second-class
certificate. What I have suggested has been a special
examination for firemen.

34963. These are the men whom experience has made the
most competent to make a satisfactory inspection or exam-
ination 7 — Yes.

34964. These are men who could not pass a second-
class certificate 7 — ^No.

34965. What examination is in your mind to qualify
a fireman 7 — A knowledge of ventilation chiefly.

34966. Do these men know anythins about ventilation
— these old and experienced men 7 — ^They certainly know
about ventilation.

34967. Is it your idea to set such an examination which
these men can pass 7 — Such an examination as a practical
man could pass, or one which an impractical man could
not pass, so hat he would not be appointed to the position.

34968. People who have never really worked at the face
may know something about that 7 — ^Yes.

34969. A man who had experience on the roads as a
timbeiman may know somethmg about timbering 7 — ^Yes,
and ventilation, but there are other things he would not

34970. What are those 7 — ^The experience of dealing
with tiie roof in the coal face. There is a vast difference
between treating the top as you take the coal out, and
when you are back perhaps five hundred or six hundred
3rards from ^e coal face where the thing has settled.

34971. You want the firemen to watch particularly
the dangers at the coal face 7 — ^Yes.

34972. The men who work at the coal face do the
timbering there 7 — ^Yes.

34973. They are the most competent men in the pit
for timbering 7 — I would not say that. So far as the face
work is concerned, I have known plentv of workmen who
are excellent workmen so far as timbering in the face

is concerned, but possibly you would find men who had
not been near the face who would be better in timbering
on roadways in certain positions.

34974. It is not necessary to work as the face to become
a good pitman 7 — ^Not to be a good timberman.

34975. Is it necessary to be capable of examining for
gas without working at the face 7 — Possibly he may find
gas on the roadways, but so far as having an experience
of blowers, or anything of that kind, he would only get
that at the coal face.

34976. He can get that without working at the ooal
face 7 — ^No. You get your blowers as you are working near
the coal.

34977. He does not need to be working in the coal
face to get experience of a blower 7 — He would not
get any experience so far as working in the coal face.
He would get experience when it occurs, but unless he
has been working in the coal face before he would not be
capable of dealing with it.

34978. Have you in your mind the examination yon
would suggest for these examiners 7 — Yes, the examinatiou
would have to be an all-round practical knowledge of the-
working of the colliery, not takmg in much of the theory.
For a second-class certificate you require knowledge of
mining, arithmetic, and a knowledge of surveying. ThdX,
I think, is not dispensable to a colliery manager.

34979. Do you think it important for an examiner to
know something about the constitution of air, and what-
percentage of gas would be safe 7 — He would require a
smattering of theoretical knowledge. As far as that is
concerned I think if he has a sound knowledge of ventila-
tion there are sufficient officiskls over him to take charge
of that work.

34980. They would have to teach him 7— No.

34981. You have not any definite system in your mind
as to what tiie examination is to be 7 — No, other than what-
I stipulate, that they must have practical knowledge.

34982. Who should conduct the examination 7 — I
should suggest it should be formed under the Home-
Office. ^

34983. And a certificate granted of a still lower degree
than the second class 7 — Yes.

34984. You would leave the manager to appoint anybody
he thought fit who had a certificate 7 — Yes.

34985. But he should not be able to appoint one of the-
old and most experienced men, even if very competent,
unless he had a certificate 7 — ^The same thing would apply
there as applied when the second-class certificated became

34986. He would be excluded from appointing these-
men because they had not the certificate, although they
might be more competent for the work 7 — My opinion is
that the more experienced men would be able to pass the-

34987. With regard to fines you agree it would be a
very hard case where a man who had never been before
the magistrates at all and had lived a respectable life and
was proud of it, because of some unintentional breach,
should be brought before the magistrates 7 — I agree with

34988. You would approve in that case of it being
dealt with by a fine 7 — Yes.

34989. Are you familiar with the provisions of the
Truck Act as to fines 7— Yes.

34990. Do you know it must be with the man's consent-
to begin with ? — ^Yes.

34991. And it must be reasonable 7 — ^Yes.

34992. There must be an agreement in writing 7 — Yes.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 139 of 177)