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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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80 men ? How often do you suppose that each mine in the
Kingdom would be inspected ? — ^That I could not venture
to say, as I told Sir Lindsay Wood, but I suppose that it is
not too much to ask that they should be inspected once in
every six months.

20980. If inspected once in every six months you would
have to assume that what the inspector saw at that in-
spection represented the normal condition of tlie mine ? —
The inspector would just have to form his own conclusions.

20981. He would have to conclude that. If he were
satisfied, he would have to conclude that what he saw
then represented the normal condition of the mine ? —
I understand that he would take that for granted.

20982. Do you see any reason why he should not obtain
the same information if he inspected once a year instead
of twice a year ? — It is not possible, in my view, that he
could. You might as well say if he examined it once every
three years that he would have the same opportunity
of correcting what was going on wrong,

20983. It is a question of degree ? — ^Yes.

20984. Then you think if he inspected twice a year that
he might reasonably assume that what he saw was the
normal condition of the mine 7 — It would have a tendency
to keep things better.

20985. That is with reference to inspection by the
Government inspector ? — Yes.

20986. With reference to grades of inspectors, do vou
propose that there should be a class less qualified than
the present inspector amongst these additional inspectors ?
— ^I was proposing that practical men who held certificates,
either first or second-class certificates, should be eligible
to take up that work under the direction of the district

20987. Are they not eligible now ? — First-class holders
of certificates.

20988. If they can pass an examination by the Home
Office ? That is so.

20989. Do you wish to do away with the Home Office
examination, and make either first-class or second-class
certificates sufficient ? — I would not ask you to have
as stiff an examination for these inspectors as you would
have for the chief inspectors.

20990. Why not ? — I do not think that it is necessary.
In fact, my main reason for holding that view is, that there
would be a tendency to limit the selection from good and
practical men.

20991. Why should it limit the selection from good and
practical men ? I understood you to say that you had no
complaint to make against the present inspectors, except
that there were not enough of them 7 — ^Yes, that is so.

20992. What do you suppose would be gained by having
an inspector Icbs qualifiea than the present inspectors ? —
I do not say that they would be less qualified. I hold that
practical knowledge is equal to a great deal, and that
practical knowledge, plus his theoretical knowledge gained
by his study for his certificate, would make him an excellent
adjunct to the inspectorate.-

20993. Every man who gets a certificate is required to
have had five years' practical experience about a mine T —
About a mine, but not

20994. I want to know what class you say that the
inspectorate should be. Must it be confined to a man
who has worked at the face ? — That is my view.

20995. Take a man who has been engaged in a mine,
say a young gentleman who is a pupil at a colliery, and who
is down the mine every day inspecting and examining it :
do you think that, because he has not worked at the face
that he should be disqualified for one of these posts ? —
If he has the practical knowledge equivalent to a man
working at the face, I do not say that I would object.

20996. What is the special knowledge that a man gets
for the purpose of inspection by working at the face ? —
The special Imowledge that he gets is a knowledge of the
dangers that arise through falls of roof, and what not.

20997. Is that the sole object of inspection ; I am
speaking about Government inspection now. Can you


suggest any special knowledge that a mAH gets from working
at the face to qualify him for a position of an inspector ;
I mean, any more than a maki gets by making the inspection
all over the mine ? — I think his practical experience goes
a long way to qualify him.

20998. Because he has got coal ? — ^Not because he has
got coal exactly, but if he holds a certificate such as I have
indicated, I think his practical experience gives solidity
to his knowledge which a man who has not hs^ that work
to do has not got.

20999. Any person who has had practical experience
of examination in a mine, or of doing anything down a mine
except coal getting, you would exclude from the chance
of getting one of these appointments 7 — ^I would not go
so far as that. If a man had been engaged as an overman,
or as a fireman, or in any other department, I do not say
that he should be excluded.

21000. Do you not think that a man who has been
engaged in that work would be better qualified to discharge
the duties of an inspector than a man who has been merely
engaged in working at the face 7 — I do not think that he
would be any better.

21001 . I want you to come as near to my view as you can.
Do you not thii]JL he would be better qualified than the
man working at the face, because he has been engaged in
making an inspection as to the general condition of the
mine, which is what an inspector has to do 7 — I believe
that you are perfectly correct in what you are aiming at,
but I believe that a man engaged as an overman holding
a certificate, going through the mine inspecting it, would
be better qualified than a man who had never done that

21002. A man who has done that is a practical man,
whatever his class may be 7 — Yes.

21003. It is not a question of class at all. Whatever
class he comes from, if he has had that experience
and obtained a certificate, he should be eligible to
inspect 7 — ^That is so.

21004. Do you think that some inspectors should not
be bound to pass the examination of the Home Office 7
Will you tell me why ycu think some class of inspector
should be exempt from that 7 — ^The only reason I can give
is this : I understand qualification for the examination
for an inspectorship just now is a thing that a great many
of our men would not face very readily.

21005. Why should they not qualify themselves for it 7
There is nothing that a Scotchman cannot do if he puts his
mind to it 7 — iSiey are supposed to be hard-headed, but
what is in my mind is this : Suppose this class of inspectors
were created, and these men were appointed with an
examination of some kind, but not so stiff as the Home
Office examination, before they could be promoted to
hold a district inspectorship, my view is that they would
have to undergo a further examination in order to test more
fully their knowledge of mining. I mean more fully than
when they were examined before.

21006. I see in your Bill ycu say: "The assistant
inspectors shall be generally under the control of the
senior inspector of the district, and may perform any of
the duties of an inspector which may be delegated to them,
either generally cr in special cases by the inspector, and
shall also perform any duties which may be assigned to them
by a Secretary of State." Therefore you contemplate
that they may perform ail the duties of an inspector
certainly for the duty of inspection. This additional
inspectorate is for the duty of inspection : you think that
there is not sufficient inspection, and you want a further
inspection of the mines. If he is to perform the same
duties as the chief inspector, why should he be less
qualified 7 — I do not say that he is less qualified in the least.
He holds the certificate as a manager, for example, but all
that I claim exemption from is that he should not be
asked to undergo the stiff examination that is now necessary.

21007. If I understand you rightly it is because a
particular class of persons would not be able to pass it 7 —
I do not say that they would not be able to pass it.

21008. Then why should not they pass it 7—1 do not see
that it is necessary that they should be so particular in
insisting upon that high class examination for a subordinate
position of this kind.

21009. That is your view 7— Yes.

21010. With regard to the French system of inspection,
do you remember after the Courrieres accident that
difficulties arose with reference to what they called the
engineers, and the men reryolted against these engineer
being put in charge of the work and examining the mines ?


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21011. Were those Government inspectors ? — ^I could
not say whether they were or not. I think, from my reading
of the reports of the accident, that these engineers were
employed by the company, but I am only speaking from

' 21012. You do not know that those were the Government
inspectors, and that it was thought by the practical managers
that they could possibly do fetter without them ? — You
do not know whether that was so or not ? — 'No,

21013. So much for the inspection. Do you recognise
that it is desirable that the manager of the mine should
have the responsibility for seeing that the CJoal Mines
Regulation Act is carried out ? — ^l do.

21014. Do you think that it would be a very unfortunate
thing if anything was done to lessen that feeling of re-
sponsibility ? — I do not see why anything should be done
to lessen it.

21015. That is not the point. You think that it ought
not to be lessened, and that it would be prejudicial to
safety if that feeling was lessened ? — That is so.

21016. Do you think that a too frequent inspection
(I am not discussing now how often it should be) might
not result in relieving the manager from responsibility ?
— ^I cannot see it.

21017. A manager might say : " The inspector has seen
it, it is all right,^' and so on ? — ^I cannot see it.

21018. You do not think that would be so ? — ^I do not
think that there is a possibility of it. If an inspector
came to a colliery and said that there was nothing wrong,
and there was really something wrong, I do not see why
that inspector should not be blameworthy as weU as t^e

21019. Now I want to ask you, with reference to in-
spection under General Rul e 38,^y ou quite agree that it
would be reasonable that a minmg engineer should not be
permitted to make that inspection 7 — ^1 have said so.

21020. Why ? — ^I have no particular reason to give.

21021. I want to know what your reason is ? — ^It is
because the employers insist upon it.

21022. I understood that you thought it was reasonable,
and I want you to tell me why ? — 1 have no reason to give
further than we concede that to the employers because
they ask for it.

21023. Will you tell me why you think it reasonable ?
— ^I suppose that the employers consider that they would
not like professional men to come an4 see things about
their collieries that they do not want them to sec.

21024. They might come and get information apart
from the ostensible object of coming for the purpose of
inspection ? — Yes.

21025. IVIight not this be the case with the itinerant
inspectors you propose to appoint ? — ^I do not think so ;
they would be drawn from a different class altogether.

21026. They are to be under nobody's control but yours ?
— ^We should have the appointment of them, but that
would be a matter for the

21027. Are ycu aware that the Government inspectors
are under very strict regulations with reference to what
they may and what they may not do in connection with
their inspections ? — Yes.

21028. Do you think that is reasonable or necessary ?
— I do not think that it is unreasonable. I do not think it
unreasonable that there should be some limitation.

21029. Do you not propose that employers should be pro-
tected against the misuse of this power of inspection with
regard to these itinerant inspectors to be appointed by you ? —
I caimot see that there is any possibility of misuse of an
inspection of this kind, so long as a manager keeps his mine
in a condition which conforms to the Coal Klines Regulation
Act and the Special Rules.

21 030. Supposing that there is some dispute with reference
to a price list in coimection with some part of the mine,
and the miners' agent went down ostensibly for the purpose
of inspection, do you not think that he would have the means
of causing a good deal of embarrassment and trouble if
he chose ? — We do not for a moment consider that that
would come within the scope of these inspectors at all ; I
mean, to go and inspect the mine for the purpose of settling
the price list.

21031. What is to exclude them from doing it ? I want
to remind you of your Bill and the powers that you propose
togive tothesemen. "The following rule shall besubstituted
for rule 38:— * Rule 38. — (1) The workmen employed in

any mine may from time to time appomt any persons who
are or have been practical working miners to be ezarm'ners
of the mine on their behalf. (2) Such examiners may at
any time examine the mine or any part thereof, or any
old workings, shafts, machinery or apparatus coimectea
therewith, and every facility shall be afiorded for any such
examination by the owner, agent, and manager of the
mine, and by all persons in the mine. (3) The examiners
shall make a report in writing of every such examination,
and shall communicate the same to the workmen, either by
placing it in a book to be kept by the workmen for the
purpose, or by reading it to a meeting of the workmen, or
in such other manner as may be from time to time deter-
mined by the workmen. (4) If the examiners in any
examination consider that any danger exists or is to be
apprehended in the mine, they shall make a report in
writing to that efEect to the inspector of the district.' "
You propose to give very large powers to these inspectors,
but there is not a word here said about reporting anything
to the manager of the mine. It is all to be done behind
his back. I put this to you : if there is an objection to a
mining engineer coming for other purposes than inspection,
is there not the same objection to a miners' agent coming ?
~I do not see any objection.

21032. Can you imagine that a coalowner sees a good
deal of objection to it ? — I cannot see any objection so
long as the colliery is conducted properly.

21033. I am assuming, if he has a right to come, he has
a right to come there for any purpose he may choose to
go down the pit for. Can you see that it is reasonable on
the part of the coalowner to say that the person who has
to make that inspection should be under strict regulations
not to use the information that he gets to the prejudice of
the owner 7 — I should say that he should be protected
against an3rthing that could be used to his prejudice.

21034. How would you propose to protect him 7 — I have
no idea ; I have never applied my mind to that. It never
occurred to me that that was possible. I mean, that
information could be applied to the prejudice of a coal-
owner in a mine which, properly conducted, and all I under-
stood that these men should be empowered to report, either
to the inspector or to the workmen, was any defect in the
mine, or the case of any regulation being violated ; and if
you think it is prejudicial to the coalowner for them to
make reports of that kind, I am afraid I cannot agree with

21035. I do not at all. The men at the pit, you agree,
are the most competent to make an insi)ection for the
purpose of safety. The men who are working in the mine
know the pit, and if it is a pure question of safety, they are
the most competent persons to make an inspection 7 — In
one sense they are the most incompetent men, because
they are not free agents.

21036. For the purpose of safety the men working in the
pit are the best persons to make the inspection 7 — Providing
that they were free agents.

21037. Do you know any case in which any man has
8u£Pered in any way at any colliery through having exer-
cised his power 7 — I have no case I can name.

21038. Then why do you suggest this 7— It is difficult
to find cases of that kind, because these cases can be dealt
with in a manner that we cannot discover very readily ;
besides, what I have tokl you about these inspections is
sufficient to cover these points. I have told you that we
have scarcely ever had any defect reported, and this is
why the men have got lukewarm in making these appoint-
ments, because they do not see that there is any practical

21039. The reason you have had no bad reports is tJbat
there is nothing bad to report ? — I did not assume that.

21040. The only case which you have given to the Com-
mission is a case in which there were very serious imports
made : but the men at the pit examined it and found that
ever3rthing in it was ail right 7— They reported so ; I do
not say that they found it so.

21041. I see that Mr. Ronaldson, one of the Government
Inspectors for Scotland, gives another reason why these
examinations are not made. It is Q. 4980 : " Do you
suggest to the owners and the men that such inspection
should take place 7— (A.) I have suggested it, but I have
been met with this reply — that the Government Inspectors
are paid for inspecting, and the men are not going to do
it "-—that is the reason that he gives. — ** I do not say
that is the general feeling, but that is the reply which has

been given when we have spoken about the matter 7"

In our district I have never heard «that put forward aa a

Mr. J. Weir.



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Mr. J. Weir, 21042. The alteration that you want is, that this General
Rule should be extended, and that these very wide powers,
entirely uncontrolled by anybody, should be given to an
itinerant inspector to be appointed by the worker, to go
wherever and to go whenever he thought fit ? — I want
what we have in the Bill We do not want the wide
powers such as you interpret them.

21043. Is not that what you are asking for in the Bill T —
No ; I do not agree with your interpretation.

21044. There is not much difference of opinion about
that. You agree that this man who makes the inspection
should be under some control, so as not to use it prejudicially
to the employer ? — If you think that requires to be safe-
guarded, I have no doubt that the Commission will know
now to safeguard it.

21045. If the Commission thinks this power should be
extended, would you be prepared to say that it should be
subject to the inspector not using any information to the
prejudice of the owner ? — I should think that is perfectly
lair. All that he has to report on is as to the general safety
of the mine.

21046. And that he is not to do anything in connection
with reporting which may prejudice the owner ? — Yes,
I think that is fair.

21047. If he reports adversely, it is to be solely on the
question of safety ? — Yes. I have safeguarded myself by
saying that.

21048. Now I will ask you about the firemen. I am
quite sure we have known each other long enough for me
to know what you have said here is what you quite believe
is the state of things, but, after all, it is from information
given to you by somebody else ? — Chiefly.

21049. During the last 30 years you have had no experi-
ence as to the way the firemen do their duties ? — ^I nave
never been underground much.

21060. Can you submit to the Commission any evidence
from people from whom you get your information as to the
negligent way in which the firemen discharge their duties ?
— I have made enquiries frequelitly, and it is matter of
common talk among our representative men, when the
subject is under discussion, that the duties of the firemen
are performed in the way I have described to the Com-

21051. I do not want to ask you to give it if you feel that
you should not give it, but can you give any collieries
where you say that this is so, in order that it may be
enquired into ? — I think you may take the whole of the
collieries : I do not think that there are many exceptions.

21052. In the whole of the collieries I understand you
to say that there is no examination of the roadways ? —
That is my information. In fact that was my experience
when I was in the mine myself.

21053. How long have you known that, because you
put that as being a great source of danger ? — It has been
known to us for years and years, and it has been known to
the managers, and it has been known to the Government

21054. I want to read to you from the special Rules
under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, printed by
permission of the Joint Committees of the United Mining
Associations of Scotland. Rule 35 says: ''It shall bi
the duty of the fireman, or firemen, if more than one, in
their respective divisions and shifts, to perform the duties
of inspecting not more than two hours immediately before
the commencement of each shift, the roadways, working
places, and every part of the mine situated beyond the
station, or each of &e stations, appointed at the entrance
to the mine, or different parts of the mine, in terms of the
Statute, and in which workmen are to work or pass during
that shift, and to ascertain the condition thereof, so far
88 the presence of gas, ventilation, roof and sides, and
general safety are concerned. The above inspection shall
be made wiUi a locked safety lamp, unless inflammable
gas has not been found within the preceding twelve months,
which it diall be the duty of the manager or imder-manager
to ascertain and intimate to the fireman, and in every case
where the mine is worked with safety lamps. For the
purpose of this rule, two or more shifts, succeeding one
another without any interval, are to be deemed one shift.
In making tiie above inspection the fireman shall mark
with chalk Uie day of the month upon the face of each
working place, as 1, 5, 10, 25, or other numbers as the case
may be."

<*(36). In the event of the fireman finding either the
ventilation or roof and sides defective, or anything affecting
the general safety of the mine between the pit bottom

and the station underground, he shall at once return to
the pit bottom and report so as to prevent persons

'' (37). He shall record without delay in a book to be kept
at the mine for the purpose, and accessible to the workmen,
before conmiencing work, where obnoxious or inflammable
gas (if any) was found present, and what defects (if any)
in roofs or sides, and what (if any) other source of danger
were or was observed in his inspection before commencing
work, and such Report shall he signed by, and so far as
the same does not consist of printed matter, shall be in
the handwriting of tiie fireman who made the inspection."

" (38). He shall be careful to ascertain that every part
of the mine and roadways, so to be examined, is free uom
fire-damp, choke damp, and other impurities, and is safe
for workers to enter and to work therein ; and in case
fire-damp or other impure air shall be discovered in any
working place, road or level, the fireman shall, in the first
instance, thoroughly clear the same of such impurity — if
that can be done easily — and shall thereupon report to
the miners and other workers, that the same is safe : but
if the impurity cannot be readily or at once cleared out
the miners and workers shall not be permitted to enter any
such working place, road, or level, or, if the accumulation
be dangerous, into any place ventilated with the current
air which has left that place until the impure air shall
have been, by further appliances, entirely dispelled. He
shall prevent miners or other workers entering the roads
of working places until a report shall have been made that
they are safe. If no fire-damp, choke-damp, or other
impurity shall be discovered, or suspected to remain after
such inspection, the fireman shall make report to the
miners and workers, and allow them to proceed to work."

I will not read the whole of them, but you say that you have
been aware, and the men have been aware, that these
Rules have not been carried out for years past ? — They
have not been sufficiently c€urried out.

21055. What steps have you taken to see that they
should be carried out ? The fireman has to examine
both working places and roadways. What steps have you
taken to prevent this great danger which exists through
the fireman not doing the work which by the Special Rules

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 15 of 177)