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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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differences, and you would fail to have uniformity by
having the questions sent from London. There would be
no insuperable difficulty to have a central district, such
as Newcastle and Darlington. They could frame questions
that could be set before the several Boards in that district
with great advantage.

35960. (Mr. Cunynghame.) I want to make it clear. The
essence of the system I am proposing is that one Board
of Examiners should act for tJie whole country, inasmuch
as it is impossible to be sure that the marks are allocated
upon a uniform system. You may get one Board giving
50 marks for a paper, and another Board may give 90.
Unless you get some form of central system it is impossible
to be sure that the marks are allocated in the same way
in all the districts. I was suggesting a Board of Examiners
allocated by the Examining Boards of the whole Kingdom.
That would be a sure way of getting a representative one.
When five or six men are appointed to make the examina-
tion they should examine for the whole Kingdom in the
same way as the City Guilds and South Kensington ? —
I cannot see why there could not be what you suggest.

35961. I am endeavouring to provide that on the
Examining Board one examiner should represent
Newcastle and another South Wales, and another
Scotland, and so on, so that the paper would go before
the Board of Examiners and eacn man representing a
particular district would take care the question was right
as regards his district. That is the idea.

(Witness.) Therefore your questions sent to the several
districts would not be uniform.

35962. (Mr. Cunynghame.) The different terms ootild be
given ; it could be explained, for instance, that in South
Wales a holing prop is known as a sprag. The examiners,
if you had one representing each district, would take care
that the paper was fair for his own district ? — ^There is this
objection, which is much more important than the mere
technical terms. Take the different work, the board and
pillar work, for instance : it would have to be made clear.
Suppose a man was told to ventilate that district, you
woidd have to put an ideal district before a candidate of
which he had experience and knowledge, or he would know
nothing about it. If asked to ventilate a district such
as you get in South Wales, he would say " I do not
understand it."

35963. The examiners would put " This question is for
the Cornwall district." You must trust your examiners
to keep that clear, the object being that the system of
working should be uniform throughout. You get a
scientific side of the examination, at least, which would
run uniformly through the whole thing ? — I sympathise
very much with you.

35964. You have pointed out the necessary qualifica-
tions, and one must take care in seeking after an ideal
not to lose sight of them 7 — Yes.

35965. Would you have sufficient confidence in the
Home Office of the day or the Secretary of State to empower
him to lay down some system of conducting these examina-
tions 7 It could be made flexible, and errors corrected ?
— I would be bold to say I had not confidence in him,
but there is a great deal in having examiners that under-
stand the nature and qualifications of t^e district. I
sympathise with the central idea of uniformity. I do
not think a man should say to Newcastle "If I do not
pass I will go to Manchester or Scotland."

(iff. Ratdiffe EUis.) Do you not think that there might
be two parts to the paper, a scientific part which would be
applicable all over the Kingdom, and another part more
particularly appUcable to the different districts 7 -^ ;

35966. (Chairman.) I would suggest that the paper
which was sent round to the various districts ^ould not
be identical, but equivalent 7 — I think so. Then the
trouble would be to get a uniform number of marks because
your questions would differ.

Digitized by



36067. By "equivalent'' I mean this. Take the
particular case of ventilating a district. There might be
a number of questions for each district in this paper
dealing with ventilation, and you would deal with ventila-
tion differently in each district, that is to say, you would
ask a person to ventilate a district he knew of in each
district, and consequently the papers could not be identical?

35968. It^might be equivalent, or nearly equivalent 7
(Mr. SmiUie,) No person should hold a certificate who
could not ventilate any of the three systems.


(Chairman.) A person in Newcastle has only a Mr. J.
knowledj2:e, as I imderatand it, of a certain kind of distriot Johns&fh
He would not understand the way in which you would M.P,

ventilate a district down in Cornwall, apparently. That if

the suggestion. With regard to questions of ventilation 22 Jan., 1008.

you must make those questions to a certam extent local ?

— ^My idea is for the candidate to have it dear to his mind
that you want him to ventilate according to a certain system
in a certain district. He might know the kind of ventilation
theoretically, but he might not know the system in another
place, not having a practical knowledge of it.

Mr. Andrew Sharp, called and examined.




35970. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) I understand you repre-
sent the Cumberland miners ? — Yes.

36971. You are the Agent and Secretary for the Cumber-
land miners, which office you have held a great many
years ? — ^Thirty-four years.

35972. You are a Cumberland man ? — ^Yes.

35973. You have had many gears' experience in the
Cumberland mines ? — ^Yes. I worked about 23 years in
the mines, about seven years as a boy at all classes of work,
and about 16 at coal-getting, drifting, sinking and deputy

35974. What have you got to tell the Commission. What
is youjr view with regard to inspection under Rule 38 ? —

|That is the inspection by the workmen. That is carried
■out at several of our collieries almost monthly. Some
[collieries now do not carry it out so often, and some only
carry it out occasionally, when probably an accident of
any description happens, or there appears to be any
danger or any complaint with regard to ventilation or any
other matter in connection with the pit.

35975. Have you ever experienced any difficulty in
carrying out this Rule with the colliery people ? — ^No, I do
not think there has been anything that could be traced
directly against the men for carrying out the Rule. They
generally get every facility afforded to them to do so. I do
not think we can trace anything directly against them,
but a manager can find many ways of dismissing a man
without being direct.

35976. Do they usually report the result of their inspec-
tion afterwards ? — Yes.

35977. Is that report left at the colliery ? — Yes, and a
report given to the workmen at the lodge meeting, or
sent to the workmen, and put in a book which is kept
by the Lodge.

35978. What are the views of your people upon the
possible inclusion of checkweighmen to inspect mines as a
rule; now there is usually a man selected from the pit ? —
We think that rule ought to be improved so that workmen
might either be taken from a neighbouring colliery, or
practical workmen who have ceased to work in mines could
be employed for that purpose. We think it would be
better if practical miners could be taken from any part of
the district. They would be more independent.

35979. You still hold the view that they must be practi-
cal men ? — I do not see how an inspection could very well
take place unless he was a practical man.

35980. If he had had practical knowledge of working the
pit, but you would not consider a man a practical man who
had been in some other business for 20 or 30 years ? —
I say if he has been a practical pit-man, no matter if he has
left the mine and retired.

35981. (Mr. Raidifft Ellis.) Supposing he has kept a
shop 7 — Yes, as long as he has been a practical miner.

35982. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) The men would rather
prefer a man who had up-to-date practical knowledge, a
man who understands his business ? — I think they would
select them. If left, they would select those men. They
might probably select a man from sonje other colliery,
but I do not think they would go outside of men actually
working in the pits, if it was left to them.

35983. You see no reason why the mle should not be
broadened so that they may select their men from other
pits ? — We have some very good checkweighmen, who
would be good practical men. They might appoint them.

35984. Now I want to have your observations with
regard to inspection by officials ? — I think that the inspec-
tion by the officials prior to commencing work in the
morning is not done as efficiently as it ought to be. In
many cases, with the area that the inspector has to go

round, be cannot possibly give attention to matters which »
he sees in his way, or ought to see in his way, as he could f
if there was a certain area. If it could be decided upon -
as to what was a reasonable area for a man to inspect-, that
ought to be done. Only a few months ago we had a case
where a boy was killed, and the fireman admitted that he I
saw this a few days before, but he had not time to go |
round the area owing to the quantity of places he had to
inspect. He could not do it in two hours.

35985. The area was too big for his inspection ? — Yes.

' 35986. You are referring to the inspection that takes
place by the fireman before the commencement of the
shift ?— Yes.

35987. One of two things have happened: either the
area is too big or the deputies are too few ? — Yes.

35988. In your judgment some of these accidents happen
because of the inefficiency of the inspection that takes
place ? — ^No. I think if the area was smaller, if it was
judged what he could do, he would see the various things
that had happened. If he had time he might be able to
find many defecte he is not able to find at present, with
his speed.

35989. He is too hurried ? — Yes.

35990. It could be met by appointing more deputies
over an area, or making their district less, so that thev
could get round it ? — ^Yes. In fact, in certain mines I
would recommend it would be better if there were two
deputies and a portion of the way they might go together^
to be within a reasonable distance of one anotner, because
many things may happen to one man, of which we have
had cases. Not so long since we had a man who kindled
some gas by himself. They did not know till the men
went in in the morning. In a wide area in some of our pits
it would be better to have two, and arrange the distances
between them, so that they could easily get to one another
if anything happened.

35991. Was the man going round with an ordinary
safety-lamp ? — He had an or£nary safety-lamp, but how
he got burned is the question.

35992. You suggest that he lit the gas 7 — I cannot say.

35993. He was burned 7— Yes.

35994. The inspection was being made with an ordinary
safety-lamp 7 — Yes.

35995. He was the ordinary deputy in the early part
of a shift 7 — Yes. He never got out, and when they found
him he was burned and had been injured.

35996. Was there any explanation ever got of how it
happened 7 — ^That is a matter that comes up rather in a
question I want to say something about with respect to
prosecutions and accidents. Unless a man is killed, we
never get any particular details of what happens. You
hear vague statements, but if a man is killed there is a
coroner's inquest, and then we get the facts.

35997. If there is an accident, and a man gets burned or
injured, you get no statement or evidence except you know
the fact that the man has been burned. Beyond that you
get notJiing ; it stops there 7 — It stops there, because the
manager ^nU send to the inspector of mines to say that
there has been this accident. You never find anything
further about it, so far as the general workmen are con-
cerned. Probably a Blue Book may be published, but it
is a question whether any of the workmen see it or not.
I think only myself in the whole district may get one.

35998. In case a man going round in the morning as a
fireman gets burned or injured, or in the case of any injury
or accident, what should be done, do you think, if it is not
a fatal accident 7 How would you deal with the matter 7
—A copy of tihe report that is sent to the inspector by the
manager ought to be given to the worianen or posted up.


Mr. A.


Digitized by


Mr. A,




These workmen would see whether that report was an
aoourate report, as far as their knowledge went, and they
would have an opportur ity of meeting and disoussing it.

35999. You are dealing now with non-fatal aooidents,
take it?— Yes.

36000. Whether it arises from a man being burned, or
an aooident, or otherwise, the manager writes to the
inspector, but you suggest that the workmen should have
some knowledge of iSie report that is sent ? — Yes. The
Act appoints the manager to send word, but there is none
given to the workmen. I should suggest that there should
be some means whereby the workmen could have a know-
ledge of what was sent.

36001. Would it be reported at all in the report books
of the colliery ? — ^It would only be reported in the report
book that such a thing had happened.

36002. Would it meet your view if the workmen had
aooess to the report book ? — They have access to the
report book, but it would be better if a notice could be
given to the workmen, because it may not be everyone
that would go to the report book.

36003. How would the notice be given to the workmen ?
— If a copy of the. notice that was sent to the inspector
was either posted on the pit- top so that the workmen
oould see it, or given to some official of the workmen, I
think that woukl do.

36004. The notice sent to the in8X)ector you rather
suggest would give the particulars of the case and the
company's explanation of how it happened T — Yes.

36005. If that was in a report book and seen by the
workmen, that would not be sufficient ? — I do not think
the whole of that can be put in the report book.

36006. It could not 7 — Well, there would be a consider-
able amount of it. It would take nearly half of the page,
and there does not seem to be that room. It is very
curtailed, what is in the report book.

36007. While you get reports of fatal accidents, you
think you should equaUy get reports of non-fatal accidents ?
— ^Yee, those of a serious nature.

136008. With regard to the method of timbering, do the
colliers themselves timber in your district ? — We have
two or three systems. In most of them the company have
deputies to set the timber, but in their absence the work-
men set principally the whole of the timber.

36009. In Durham deputies are appointed whose
business it is to set timber ? — Yes.

36010. In those cases the colliers are not responsible
for setting timber? — ^They are responsible with the deputy.
By the Special Rules we have it is to that effect.

36011. In other cases it is in the man's contract to set
his own timber ? — ^We have some pits where the whole
is set by them.

36012. That would apply to setting props or sprags
or setting timber, or building chocks or packs ? — No ;
the bar timber is generally separate, except that he may
have contracted with them at so much a bar, and the
ohooks are generally separate in longwall. A deputy
generally sets them, but the ordinary props and sprags
are generally set by the men.

36013. Have you any complaint to make of your present
methods of timbering ? — Our present method is this :
we have always had a voice in making our Special Rules.

36014. We will come to that presently. I am upon your
present method of timbering. Have you anything to
eomplain of with regard to Siat ? — I do not Imow that
there has been any complaint particularly. We have
oomplaints with respect sometimes to the method of
gettmg the timber in.

36015. Taking it from the working face ? — Yes. Two
or three collieries where the men have to take it from the
siding or the pass-by, and where long timber is used,
say, 5 to 5( ft., they can only cany it on the tub top, and

[ we have had accidents. There was a case that was tried
under the Employers' Liability Act, where the county
court judge ruled that it was not a proper method of
canyinff timber in, and he gave us a verdict upon it. We
think tibat the manager or the employer should be com-
pelled to carry the timber in. The men do not object
to carrying in props 2 or 3 feet, in the bottom of the
tub, but it is in seams where 5 ft. props have to go
that they go on the top of the tub. There is danger of
catching the roof and people getting injured.

' 36016. Do you Buggeat that your men have a difficulty
in getting suitable timber to set 7 — ^No, I do not think
there has been any difficulty in that. W^ have no parti-



cular complaint about the Hi^^r not being in. There
is a difficulty where it has to I'^O&rried in by the workmen
or his trammer or drawer, di^d carried on the tub top,
where it is likely to catch the roof and cause injury.

36017. What do you mean when you speak about the
Special Rules ? Aje you referring to the Timbering
Rules ? — ^The supplying of the timber. It should be
carried in a tram by the company, and a sufficient quantity
laid for the workman at his particular place, within 10 ft.
of the face. They should see that he has sufficient.
According to the Special Rules they have to see that there
is sufficient, and they should see that sufficient was carried
by the company where timber will not go inside the tub.

36018. Is it not the business of the company now to see
that the timber is brought in ? — No, they only see that it
is in.

36019. There is an obligation on them to supply suit-
able timber to a man near his working face, is there not ?
— Special Rule 116 is this : '* Where the coal is put from
the face by the hewer, or a putter employed by him, it
shall be the duty of such hewer, or his putter, to take the
timber from the gate end, pass-bye, sidmg or other similar
place, and to keep at ort within 10 yarcb of his working
face a supply of suitable timber, reasonably sufficient for
the work that is being done, and where it is the duty of
persons, other than the hewer or his putter, to deliver the
timber at or within 10 yards of the working face, the hewer
shall from time to time inform such persons as to the
supply of timber required." In some cases the company
put it into this place.

36020. Within 10 yards of the working face ?— In most
of the cases they do it. The siding or pass-by may be
150, 200 or 300 yards from the face. He has to fetch
it, and if it is long timber it has to come on the top of the

36021. How long has that Special Rule been in force 7
— This is the latest since the systematic propping came in.

36022. Are those Special Rules you raise here those as \
to the consideration of which your men were not invited ?
— ^We have always been invited, but we disagreed upon
these, and the inspector was with us, and with regard to
any upon which we disagreed it was left to him. These
were adopted. There are some probably that we got in
where the owners disagreed.

36023. The disagreement was not as to how far the
timber should be set, but as to the obligation of bringing
this timber within 10 yards of the face ? — Yes.

36024. Under that rule the hewer and his drawer have
to fetch it 150 yards ? — Yes, and some other men more
than that, some less.

36025. What have you to say about the haulage roads
and the travelling roads 7 — We have a number of haulage
roads, and in fact haulage roads are the rule in our locality.
We have very few horses in many of the pits now ; where
we have big haulage roads nearly every pony is taken out
of the pit, it is all rope haulage, and a number of accidents
have occurred at the Whitehaven Collieries and at many of
the others. We have two or three miles of haulage roads.

36026. What is the nature of the accidents that happen
in the haulage roads ? — The men get caught with the

36027. The men travelling up and down ? — Yes. They
have to travel in and out of these roads with the setts
running. The setts are fastened to the rope, but there is
not any specified distance between the setts, because in
the sections and junctions where they are attaching them
to the clutch bogey, there may be one sett within
100 yards of another, and then it may be a quarter
of a mile. Some would be running on to 30 setts with
a very long rope. There is no set rider with the setts,
and they are clutched to the bogey coming in and out,
and when the sett is travelling a man has to get out of
the way, and he may go out of the way of the empties and
into the way of the full ones.

36028. In the ordinary way, do the men travel in and
out while the machinery is in motion 7 — In most of them
where they have not a special travelling way there are

36029. Is any effort made to make a travelling road
by the side of the main haulage roads ? — ^That is what I t #
want to suggest to this Commission, that a special travelling I }
road ought to be made dear of the engine plane or the | I
haulage road.

Digitized by





36030. Are theee haulage roads mainly in the ooal or
the metal T — They are mainly in the coal at Whitehaven,
except passing through a drift where it continues, but the
same evil exists €kll the way.

36031. A separate travelling road can be made in the
ooal ? — ^Yea

36032. Some of your working faces are a long way out ?
— Yes, at Whitehaven it is five miles to some of the

36033. At those long places they take the men out by
trams or bogies ? — ^Yes, in some cases. They do them
principally in the shift now, but a number of men may
occasionally travel on the'roads.

36034. In those cases where it is four or five miles,
it is under the sea ? — ^Yes.

36035. From the shaft you are in a direct line some
three or four miles under the sea ? — It would be that as
the crow fiies, three miles odd.

36036. There is no provision made for travelling roads ?
— ^They are all high roads. The only thing is they travel
occasionally on &e haulage roads, and iSie danger witii
the bogey is, they cannot cany lights. Lights were tried
for a time. They had a red li^t on each bogey, but
they became more a death trap than anything else,
because the lights got (knocked put and then the men
could not see — they were expecting a red light. They
were abandoned.

36037. You suggest where men have to walk in and out
that there should be separate travelling roads 7 — ^Yes.
If that could not be done, the only thing to be done, I
think, is for the end of all clutch bogies to be painted
with some illuminating paint — the ends of them — which
would cause a reflective light and give men more time to
get out of the way.

36038. Is your district a fiery district ?— Yes. I think
we use lamps in the whole of the district except one or two
small shallow pite*

36039. Do you blast the coal mainly ?— In half of the
district the ooal would be blasted. In other parts, where
long-wall is worked. These little seams are not often
blasted. There is no blasting allowed in the Whitehaven
Pits except in the drifts. There is no blasting in the coal.

36040. Where the blasting is carried on, are the shots
fired by qualified firemen ? — ^Well, we expect so, but
whether they are qualified I could not say.' I know some
shot-firers who are very qualified men.

36041. Have the shot-firers charge of the explosive ? —
No, the men generally put in their own explosives and the
shot-firer generally attaches a battery. They set ihe
cap prior to the charge being put in«

36042. The shot-firer will be responsible for the position
of the shot before he fires it ? — He ought to be, but in
some cases he does not know. That is one of the points
in which the greatest care should be taken. He should
never fire what would be likely to be a fast shot.

36043. There is a danger, unless he sees it charged,
that it may be bored beyond the first shot ? — Yes, if
bored on the solid €uid a charge of powder given, it is sure
to be a blown-out shot.

36044. And then the inevitable follows ?~Yes.

36045. Do you think the shot-firer should be made re-
sponsible for seeing those shots charged ? — I think he

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 149 of 177)