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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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35378. You do not think it is any good for a map to 22 Jan. 1008.
go down a mine and see a bit of it ? — No. 1_

35379. You think he ought to see the whole of it ? —
Yes. Looking to the number of accidents and the classes
of them, I thiiSc they all want closer scrutiny and inspection
of the roofs and sides.

35380. By the fireman ? — By whatever inspector it
may be. It is not sufficient, I think, for six men to inspect
all the collieries in the North of England, taking our part
as a type. We have 311 collieries in Durham ; one-third
of that number, speaking roundly, in Cumberland and
the whole of Northumberland and the North Riding of
Yorkshire.

35381. Have you considered what number of inspectors
would be necessary in your district to carry out your
views ? — I have not.

35382. Probably twice as many as at present ? — I
should have, perhaps, a different class of inspector.

35383. Would you have a third class ?— Yes.

35384. Would you have a considerable nimiber of
them ? — I would have a sufficient number to properly
and safely inspect the mines. I have not gone into the
question of the mathematical number.

35385. What sort of pay do you think you ought to
give to them in order to get reasonably good men, com-
petent to do the work ? — f think if you had the men paid
pretty much like the officials are paid at the collieries,
you would get a class of men who would be competent
to make it weir particular and special work to look after
the safety of the -mines.

35386. They have very much that class of men in
Germany, and they pay them about £3 a week to begin
with. Would that be about your idea ? — ^I think that
would be a very fair wage, and you would get a good class
of man for that.

35387. Would you consider the third class inspector
should be a class by itself, or would it be men who have
risen and made themselves competent to do that work ?



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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



Mr, J. — I do not think I would stand in the way of their doing

WiUon, that. If a man in the lower grade showed himself com-

M.P. petent and qualified, I do not see why he should not rise

to a higher grade.

22 Jan.,1908. 35388. What sort of examination would you put these

men through ? — ^There are hundreds of men in the county

of Durham holding first-class certificates working every
day, and a numher doing deputy work and coal hewing.
They are competent to examine a mine.

35389. Would you suggest it should be made a sine qua
non that only mese men holding first or second-class
certificates should be appointed ? — I think they should be
shown to be competent, and I should think for inspecting
a mine a second-class certificate would be sufficient.

35390. You think the third class of inspector should be
quaUfied if he had a first or second-class certificate ? —
Yes. I think men should show their qualification, and it
would be an impetus towards the education of men, because
they would educate themselves with a greater hope of
success.

35391. Would you suggest some sort of special exami-
nation ? — Is not the present second-class certificate
sufficient for a man to manage a mine ? It entitles him
to an under-manager's place.

35392. (Mr. Ratdipe Ellis.) Of course an under-manager
is under the supervision of the manager ? — ^He has the
sole charge of the mine while the hetui manager is not
there, and if a second-class certificate is sufficient for
that, surely it is sufficient for him to examine a mine.

35393. He does not * take charge ?— Wliile the head
manager is not there, he is the sole responsible person in
the mine.

35394. Yes, but the manager is responsible ? — But he is
not always in the mine, and the under-manager is more
frequently in the mine than the head manager. He is
the practical over-looker of the mine. My point is
this, that whatever qualifies a man to take that responsi-
ble position qualifies him for examining a mine.

35395. (Ckairman,) You consider that these men whom
you would like to be appointed as a third class of mining
inspector should be qualified by having either an ordinary
first or second-class certificate ? — Yes. I would not like
to say every man should be chosen regardless of his fitness.

35396. Would you insist upon his having five years'
experience underground or some such experience ? — I
think so. I think he should be a practical working man.
I would not take a man out of a school and set him to
examine a mine.

35397. Need he be a practical man at the time of his
appointment. Would it be sufficient if some years ago
he had worked underground for a period, say, of five
years ?— And then left the mine ?

35398. Yes. Supposing he had left the mine and set
up a shop, for iastance, and he was taken back again into
the mine ? — That, speaking broadly, would not be an
objection if the man had had the experience previously.
Take myself ; I have been out of a mine for more than
five years, but I think I couli examine a mine.

35399. You say a man to be appointed must have got
either a first or second-class certificate, and in addition
to that, ho must have had considerable experience under-
ground some time in Jiis life ? — I think so. I would not
say a man could examine a mine by theory, because it
means a practical experience of a mine to examine properly.

35KK). Let me ask you with regard to other forms of
inspection. Take first inspection by the men under
General Rule 38. In Durham, according to Mr. Bain's
evidence, inspection under General Rule 38 is very much
in vogue ? — It is not practised as largely as it ought to
be.

35401. How often do you suppose inspection takes
place on an average ? — I think it depends pretty much
on the colliery. Sometimes they go round once in three
months, and sometimes once in six months.

35402. Sometimes they do not have any inspection at
all ? — Sometimes, I think, some mines are not inspected.

35403. Do you consider under General Rule 38 the men
should inspect once a month as they are allowed to do ?
— ^I think they should.

35404. Even in your district, where this inspection under
Rule 38 is carried out much more thorough^ than appa-
rently it is in other parts of the kingdom, you think there
is room for improvement ? — I think the improvement
should be within the provisions of the 38th Rule — that
men should take advantage of that.



35405. Whom should ^*6 men be allowed to appoint ?
Should the choice be x'^tricted to men working in the
same pit ? — ^When this Cba] Mines Regulation Act was
under discus.sion, I objected to tbe words in the 38th Rule.
I felt it was restricting it too much, when the present
tense was used : ** Who are practical minera." I think
it ought to be broadened ; even if a man was not working
in tJie mine for the time being, but had been a practical
working miner.

35406. There is a third point, as to whether the power
of the men should be restricted to the power of appoint-
ing someone working in the same pit, or whether they
should be allowed, if they liked, to choose someone
outside ? — I could not imagine such a case. It would be
a queer thing if we had not a man who was fit and whom
the men did not think was competent to examine his own
mine.

35407. It is suggested there have been such cases ? —
I do not know a case. We have men at every pit able
enough to inspect the pits and we would never bring in
a man from other coUieries. I cannot speak for other
couifties, I am speaking for myself.

35408. We have had a great deal of evidence as to the
duties and responsibilities and the appointment of firemen.
The general complaint was, in the first place, that the
districts were in many cases too large, and it was impossible
for the firemen to get round his district and do justice
to it — and, in the second place, they complaiu that the
firemen were in the habit of being told off by the manage-
ment to do other dutiei than looking after the safety of
the men — that they had, for instance, to see the way in
which the mine was worked, that there was no waste and
so on, and in general that they had the duties of manage-
ment put upon them in addition to looking after the men's
safety, and they thought that was very undesirable. In
the third place, there was a good deal of complaint as to
the appointment of the firemen, that they w«*re very often
appointed not because they were the best men to look
after the safety of the men, but because they were, to put
it in the language of one witness, good slave drivers, and
they could get ^ good deal of work out of the men ? —
With us, the latter portion would hardly apply. It might
apply where there was a sort of * buttyism " — sub-
contracting — but in the North deputies* are appointed
who^e ostensible work is to look after the safety of the
men as well as the proper working of the district over
which they are set.

35409. Do you think that is a proper thing to do, to
combine the functions of safety and the functions of
management ? — In many cases I think the deputies have
too wide an area to look after, too many men and too
many places, to carefully examine the places as they ought
to do.

35410. Some of the men declared it was perfectly
impossible that the fireman could go through all the gates
leading up to the working places 7 — Take the time to be
an hour between his going in to examine and the coal
hewer going in — I do not think it is possible, speaking on
the average of the distance of the station from the face,
for a man who might have 13 or 14 or 15 gates or places
to properly examine in accordance with the requirements
of the Act. He should examine all the sides and roofs
and all the plaees the men have to go through. Speaking
now for the North of England, Durham and Northumber-
land, and what I would call an average number of places,
I do not think it is possible for a man in the time to properly
examine that distance.

35411. Are all the districts too great, in your opinion ?
—I would not like to say all. I suggest that, of course,
as a means of safety.

35412. You said just now that the deputies have not
only to look after the safety of the men, but they have
to some extent to have regard to the management of the
mine ? — In the district over which the deputy is set he
is the first man to which an application is made if any-
thing happens. For instance, if a boy's wagon or tub
eets off the way and he cannot manage to. put it back
by himself, the deputy is the man he applies to. Likewise
in the case of setting timber and attending to brattices
and doors, and lookmg after tJbe places, he is the first
man to be applied to. It is all right with regard to the
face examination, but what time has he to give to the
sides, according to the wording of the Act 7

35413. You think the duties placed upon the deputies
are too multifarious. Brattices, no doubt, you would
consider he should attend to ? — That depends upon the
relation of his work to his time — whether he has too
many men or too many gates or places. It is possible



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to keep the number of places within the compass of a
man 6 work and time so that he can look after all of them.

35414. Ought he to be the person to look after the
filling of the tubs, to see, for instance, that not too much
small coal is put in? — ^The depuly with us never interferes
with that. f

35415. You consider in Durham the functions of the
deputy are what they ought to be ? — ^Exactly, if vou bear
in mind what I am saying, that he should not have too
many places.

35416. He ought to have a district that he should be
thoroughly capable of inspecting from end to end ? —
Yes.

35417. Complaints have been made to us before now
by the Miners' Federation that the deputies have different
work to perform to the work they ought to perform ? —
You see customs differ very much. Speaking now for
Durham, with its own peculiarities, and Northumberland,
if he had not too many men he might do it properly. The
work he has to do so far as we are concerned, is deputies*
work, and he has not time to inspect, according to the
requirements of this Act, the sides and the roof. I take
it one-half of the accidents in the country arise from
falls of roof emd sides. I would Uke to say I have no
complaint whatever to make against our deputies and the
work they do ; I am only speaking from my own observa-
tion that they have too many men to attend to to carry
out the proper safety of the mine in many cases.

35418L As a general rule you consider the deputies are
the proper men to perform those duties and that the
best men are generally selected for the purpose ? — I have
known cases where ** my cousin '* got a "plaoe and someone
else should have had itw I was never chosen to be a deputy :
I was never considered capable enough to be a deputy,
but we have all our " cousins," I suppose.

35419. I will now come to discipline and its enforcement
by fining or prosecution. Many of the men who gave
evidence before us thought that the system of fining was
too frequently put in force, and it would be much better
if there were more prosecutions ? — ^You mean fining by
the manager.

35420. Yes. — ^I do not know whether it is our peculiarity*
but we do not permit that : we fight against that, and we
think the magistrates should decide.

35421. You fight against fines altogether ? — ^We object
to fines being imposed at the dictum of the manager. But
I do say this, that every breach of discipline, every viola-
tion of Special Rules or Act of Parliament, should, for the
safety of the men as well as the manager and employers,
be punififhed.

35422. Even in the case of a small breach of discipline 7
— ^That would depend upon its merit.

35423. In every case where a reprimand is not sufficient
you think the man should be sent before a magistrate ? —
Yes. I think there were nearlv 100 prosecutions last
year in the southern part of Durham — ^indeed, I have the
list before me.

35424. The men who came before us were certainly
more in favour of prosecutions than fining, and I ^inK
a great many would agree that fining should be almost
totally abolished : but at the same time Mr. Bain, yolir
inspector, holds a different view upon that. He says with
regard to that : ** Men very much dislike being prosecuted,
and it creates friction in other ways : they would accept
the punishment of a fine of a larger amount than would
be infiicted by the magistrates of the district " — by the
manager, he means. You do not agree with that 7^1
respect Mr. Bain's opmion ; but I claim that I know more
about the wishes of the men than he does.

35425. Your opinion is that the men would prefer to
be prosecuted 7 — I say this, that they would object to
the manager having the magisterial function to fine them
as he thought fit.

35426. I suppose there might be very insignificant
breaches of discipline that miffht possibly be met by a
small fine 7—1 need not say that the insignificance of a
thing would lie with the observation of the man who had
to impose the fine. If you once say he can start to do it,
logically you cannot stop.

35427. The men could always object 7 — Yes, but the
law is made to punish. The magistrate is there, and the
summary courts are there to punish a man if he breaks
the Rules. We had 75 prosecutioiis in the south part
of Durham in 1906, according to Mr. Bain, and the
amount of the fines and the number of them are given
in Mr. Bain's report.



35428. Will you tell me the number of fines 7— There
were six contraventions of rules about safety lamps, the
amount of the penalty being £2 3s. 6d., and costs
£3 12s.

35429. That was prosecutions 7-'YeB.

35430. Not fines 7 — ^I am not speaking of the fines.

35431. Are there no instances of Durham miners being
fined by the management 7 — ^They are unknown to me. ^

35432. I will refer you to Mr. Bain's evidence, Q. 6,635 :
'* Although your prosecutions of the managers are rare,
prosecutions by the managers are fairly frequent in your
district 7 — A : That is so. I can give a few figures with
regard to some of the larger collieries. At one colliery
there were 103 persons £ied last year, the aggregate
amount of fines being £24 9s. 8d. : at another colliery,
37 persons fined: at another, 63: another, 18: then 11,
11, 45, and 48. One large colliery does not fine at all, it
always prosecutes " 7 — There were 75 prosecutions, accord-
ing to Mr. Bain, in South Durham in 1903.

35433. Were they fined by the management 7 — ^Does he
say that 108 persons at one colliery were fined last year
by the manager 7

35434. He does say that. — When he says " last year "
I suppose he means 1905.

35435. At all events there are fines by the management
sometimes 7 — ^If it is done it is unknown to me. My
colleague is here, and I say in his presence I do not know
of a single instance. I do not say there would not be
such fines, but I do not know of them ; and I say now,
collectively, the men object to being fined.

35436. What do you say with regard to *the system
of establishing Special Rules 7 — ^I think the system wants
altering.

35437. In what respect 7 — I do not think it should lie
with the manager and the owner to establish Special Rules
themselves. Here let me observe that what I am now
going to say is the practice in the County of Durham.

35438. As regards the County of Durham the system
which you explain commends itself to you 7 — ^Yes.

35439. You consider if that system was made general
that would be sufficient 7 — Yes. When a Special Rule is to
be introduced — I am now speaking in the presence of the
chairman of the Durham coal trade — the workmen and the
mines inspector and the employers all meet and discuss it.
I am sale in saying in 1887, 1 think, we had a very largo
nimiber of meetings before the Special Rules were agreed
to. Of course the owners drew them up themselves and 1]
submitted them to us and to the mines inspector, and we \\
met and discussed them. In my opinion that ought to
be the law. I have heard about other counties, but I do
not know what t^e practice is in other counties. I
recommend that the men should be taken into a sort of
partnership at once, through their representatives.

35440. In Durham do the men ever suggest to the
management any Special Rules 7 — I cannot remember an
instance since 1887 where there has been any suggestion
from the workmen as to the alteration of Special Rules.

35441. (Sir Lindsay Wood,) But during the discussion
were thei* any Rules suggested by the men 7 — Yes, many
alterations.

35442. {Chairman.) But the men never take the initia-
tive in suggesting any rules 7 — We brought forward
amendments.

35443. Do the men ever make the suggestion first to
the management 7 — So far as my memory will serve me,
in 1887 (I was one of the Committee) the Rules were sub-
mitted to us as framed by the pwners, and then the mines
inspectors and ourselves and the owners met, and amend-
ments were proposed by us and accepted.

35444. Do the men ever take the initiative 7 It would
be competent for them to do so if they liked. Supposing
they thought it was desirable that certain Special Rules
should be adopted in their district, it would be quite open
to them to approach the management with a view to
getting those Special Rules adopted 7 — ^Yes, and I do
not mind going further and saying that if the Association
of which we are Secretaries were to say that they want
an amendment of Special Rules, if requested a meeting
would be convened for that purpose.

35445. Supposing your Association wanted a change
in the Special Rules, they would go before the owners 7 —
If I sent in a request to the owners I do not think the
owners would object to appoint a meeting to discuss a-
Special Rule.

55



Mr. J.

Wihon^

M.P.

22Jan.,1908*



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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



Mr, J.
Wihon,



35446. With regard to accidents, taking first the falls
of roof and sides, in Durham you have, as I understand
it, a system by which the deputies set the timbers ? —
Yes.



22 Jan., 1908. 35447. You consider that is a good system ?~We do.

35448. In some parts of the kingdom the hewers are
principally responsible for that ? — i guard myself about
the deputies with the little objection that I might have
as to their having too many men to attend to. Many
a time when he has too many he outs the timber,
and puts the right lengths of timber required, and then
the men set the timl^r themselves while he is away.
If he had not too many men, and perhaps too much work,
he might pay a little more attention to the setting of the
timber : I speak from my own experience : I would much
sooner set the timber myself than allow the deputy to set
it, because I could suit my work — although all men have
not that knowledge.

35449. I suppose a deputy would very soon set to know
what men could be trusted to set timber, and what men
could not 7 — ^I do not know. I think sometimes he would
have to run more often than he does. I know many
times men will run themselves into danger for the desire
to make money if they have to set their own timber —
there is a possibility of men risking too much, especially
towards the end of the shift, or if they have not very much
time to do it.

35450. Have you any opinion as to the question of
systematic timbering : that there should be certain rules
ad pted whereby timber should be put up at nor more
than certain intervals, even although the roof might appear
to be good^ — ^I could not make any objection beyond
this ; the strata of stone differ very much, and that guards
against the danger of the eagerness to make money.

I l%ere are two things with regard to coal-getters which
oftentime lead to accident: first, familiarity — ** familiarity
breeds contempt," and leads them to look upon things in
a casual manner. The second is the man's eagerness to
make money, and when it gets towards the end of the
i . shift he will run a risk rather than stop, in order to make
money at his work. I would like to read a portion of
Mr. Bain's Report, if you will allow me, anent this question,
which struck me as being very a propoa. Dealing with the
falls of roofs and sides causing accident, at page 15
of Mr. Bain's 1906 Report, he says : " During tne year
there were 65 fatal accidents from falls of roof and side
causing the deaths of 68 persons. Thirtnr-five were caused
from falls of roof and two from falls of side in the working
places; 17 on roads; seven whilst drawing timber, and
three when otherwise working or passing, and one in a
shaft. Fifty-five of these fatal accidents occurred in the
coal mines of Durham, and 10 in the ironstone mines of
Cleveland." Now mark the next paragraph: "The
number of fatal accidents from falls during the 3r6ar is
very excessive, and I have difficulty in ascribing any
cans?. It is a fact that now there are many more thin
seams being worked than formerly, and it is very probable
that— other things being equal — ^a man has a very much
lessened chance of escape from a falling roof in a thin
seam than he has in a thick seam. In a thin seam he has
to work in a very restricted area — often lying at full length
on his side. In such cases any slight warning that may
be given is of little avail, as the man in so limited a space
is unable to move himself instantly from the threatened
danger; whereas in a thick seam he can do so. The
difference of the chances of escape may be readily con-
ceived — ^in the one case a man on his feet nimble and alert
in the other a man cramped up lying on his side — alert
enough, but anything other than nimble." That
strengthens my idea that those who set timber, the deputies
in the North of England or elsewhere, ought to have more
time in the thinner seams than in the thicker ones. We
all know that Mr. Bain is cautious, and does not make a
statement wildly. While the seams are getting thinner it
is necessary that more time should be given to setting the
timber.

35451 . How about accidents from haulage ? — I would
suggest that although there are refuge holes in the engine
planes, as endless ropes or endless chains are now beins
adopted rather more than they have been, there should
be a separate travelling way driven parallel with the
wagon-way. Endless chains are very dangerous. The
men take risks again and again in coming out or going in,
and they oft-times set themselves caught in the tubs.



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 143 of 177)