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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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ought to be.

36046. And that no shot should be permitted in the
solid ? — He should not fire any, in my opinion, unless he
had sufficient, 6 ins. or 8 ins. or 1 ft. if a very thick seam,
between the distance it is curved in and the hole end.

36047. If he saw it charged he would have a much
clearer knowledge as to whether it was likely to do its
work ? — ^Yes.

36048. It may go a greater depth than he has knowledge
of, as to whether it is safe or not ? — ^Yes, and the cap
put on as well and just the wire for him to attach in some

36049. What is your complaint with regard to coroners*
inquests ? — Do you yourself attend them ? — I have
attended, probably, during the period I have been agent,
200 or 250.

36050. Have you yourself had any difficulty in putting
questions ?— I have had no difficulty with our coroners.
They have been very fair to me in that way, but there is
one thing I complain of. When a person gets killed,
the coroner, if he can fall in with the inspector, sometimes
meets him and gets his approval; according to the Act

he holds his inquest right away. A man may be kiQed j
to-day, and the inquest fioii^ed to-morrow. Nobody'
knows anything about it, and it does not give the relatives
or fellow worlonen an opportunity of getting the agent
or a soUcitor to represent them. In all oases in a mining
accident I think the inquest ought to be adjourned, S
the body is viewed for burial purposes. I think it oujcht
to be aajoumed for a week to give the relatives or f<
workmen time to get some particulars respecting tibs cause
of the accident.

36051. You complain of the want of time. You say
that an inquest may take place and you not know anytbing
about it ? — Yes.

36052. Do you get facilities from your Society for
viewing the scene of the accident ? — ^Yes. I cannot say
that any of our employers have refused to let us go to
view the scene of the accident. We have viewed several
localities where an accident has occurred. There has
never been any opposition to my knowledge.

36053. Do you think it proper t^at the relatives should
have an opportunity of seeing t^e scene of the accident ? —
If they choose, or some person they choose to appoint.
I thii^, however, it would be better if the coroner's
inquest were adjourned. Our late coroner scarcely ever
held one without adjourning it.

36054. What have you to say about the examination
for certificates ? — I have been a member of the Newcastle
Board since 1872, and I daresay that the Newcastle Board
is considered to be very stringent in connection with
obtaJningcertifioates. Many, to my knowledge, have gone
to other Boards. They have tried at Newcastle and have
failed, but they have managed to pass in Scotland or
Lancashire or somewhere. With regard to second-class
certificates I think it would be of great advantage if
more marks were given for practical experience.

36055. For practical men ? — ^Yes. My experience has
been this. I know a few who have obtained seoond-class
certificates at the {Mresent time, but they have not obtained
situations, because I do not think they can earn their
living at any kind of work in a mine. They have obtained
a second-class certificate through probably book-reading
and arithmetic and being fair scholars. I know some
who are simply travelling for insurance companies. I
know three or four very good practical men who have not
obtained these certificates.

36056. Did the men you know obtain them at Newcastle
or elsewhere ? — ^I do not think they obtained them at
Newcastle : I do not remember any. We have some very
good practical men who have failed to obtain certificates
although they are good men — ^the very best. Certain
technical points may be put to them and they may not be
sufficient scholars in arithmetic to anaswer them. But at
the same time there are good practical men who would
be able to deal with the whole of mining matters.

36057. They would have a thorough knowledge of
mining in general ? — Yes, and that is all that is needed
in my opinion for an under-manager.

36058. They could not direct the construction of an
engine, but you think that they could manage a pit ? —
Yes. I think more weight ought to be given by the
examiners to men who have a good practical knowleagc

36059. What do you mean by " practical knowledge " —
a man who has spent 10 or 20 years in a pit and got coal ? —
A man who has done all kinds of work in a pit, hewed coal
and set timber and drifted and helped to sink pits —
all kinds of practical pit work.

36060. He will have some knowledge of the danger of
gases and how to deal with the i\ ? — ^If he has been a coal
hewer he will have that- knowledge of gases because hewers
come into contact with most of the gases. He is there
daily with them if there are any.

36061. What is your opinion as to inspection generally ?
How far do the inspectors in Cumberland inspect your
pits : I mean the Government inspectors ? — ^The chief
lives about 100 miles from the centre of our locality.

36062. Coming and going will take him a good deal of
his time 7 — Yes. There is an assistant, but &ie assistant
in Cumberland is not for coal mines. He is for the
metalliferous mines. We do not recognise him as being
a party to the coal mines. He is not appointed to the
coal mines.

36063. The inspection of coal mines in Cumberland
under the present arrangement must be carried out by a
man who lives 80 miles away 7 — Yes, or his assistant.

36064. How far away does the assistant live 7 — One
used to live at Carlisle, which is about 30 miles : I

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do not know if he lives there now, but if he does he
has to get instructions from the district inspector.
I think if the ast^istant inspector could be called
92 Jan.4d08. upon to go and visit places wiuiout receiving orders, it
would be a good thing. Letters have been sent to the
assistant inspector but they have had to be forwarded to the
^ district inspector. I think Uiere ought to be more inspection,
and it would be better if they were appointed more from
practical men who have a thorough knowledge, something
Uke the inspectors the men appoint to go round the mine
monthly to make a report.

36065. Still, you would have inspectors who would be
qualified and capable of taking certificates 7 — ^I do not know
tiiat I would go that far. You might get men with any
amount of theory but who were not very practical.

36066. If you appoint another class of inspectors it
would be necessary for them to be equal in knowledge to
thepreeent managers and under-managers at the colliery ?
— ^They would be subject to the chief, I mean the sub-
inspectors appointed, and any complaint the chief inspector
would have to inquire into. He is supposed to stand equal
to the managers.

36067. In sending an inspector to inspect a pit you
would expect he would have knowledge sufficient to carry
him through with a man who manages that pit ? — If it
was a scientific question he had to inquire into it woiild
be so, but a good deal of inspection is as to whether props
are Bet right, or whether the ventilation is going right, and
little falls of stones that ought to be propped up that are
not propped up. I think a practical man is as good as the
manager or as anybody else to find this out. If there
could be an inspector of that description who could give
a surprise visit, it would be the means of more care and

» attention being paid to those things which cause accidents.

36068. If this class of inspectors were practical men,
and that is the condition, they would be none the worse
for having taken a certificate ? — I quite admit that.
The practical men would be the best men to deal with the
question of propping.

36069. At any rate, you agree that they should be
practical men ? — ^Yes, practical miners.

36070. If there were more complete inspection it would
lead to less accidents 7 — Yes, they would be able to make
surprise visits.

36071. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) You said in your district
you had not any complaints to make about the inspection
tmder Rule 38. It is generally carried out without any
interference by the owners. Is that so 7 — Yes. I have
no complaints to make of any prevention being put in the

36072. Do you think it has any beneficial efEect 7 —
Yes, they have made reports as to defects and the defects
have been at once remedied as soon as convenient.

36073. The reports have been acted upon ? — Yes.

36074. Do you think that inspection might be made by
practical men not working in mines at the present time 7 —
Yes, I think it would be better if the workmen were left
at liberty to appoint men outside of the works.

36076. Is it not better to have the inspection by someone
who knows the mine 7 — A person goes with them, and it
would not be any different whether they worked in that
mine or not. They would have a practical knowledge of

36076. You said you thought that the deputies — I
understand you have the same system as in Durham —
should have smaller districts ? — In some collieries we do
as much as they do in Durham. The deputy sets the

36077. What size is the district appropriated to each
man 7 — I could hardly say exactly. The areas would be
a considerable distance and probably some smaller, but
he may have something else to do.

36078. What else does he do 7 — The man who examines
the places does work after.

36079. Do you mean timbering 7 — Timbering, and he
sees the pit started, attends probably to the boys, and acts
in a general capacity. In some of the small pits there
may he one man for that purpose. He sees to the whole
of the work being set going.

36080. That would be in the smaller pits 7 — Yes.
38081. You do not know how many men one deputy

looks after. Is it 15 or 20 7 — Far more than that. They
will vary very much in the pits in the diflFerent localities,
but in some localities the man who examines the pit in
the morning will probably do nothing else all day but

examine. He makes a visit to the men again during the
shift, which takes up all his tkae. There is inspection,
going round, seeing the*work is going on all right.

36082. He can only get over a certain distance, because
he has to come to the station before the men can go in 7
— ^Two hours is allowed.

36083. You cannot say how many men he has under
his charge 7 — ^Not particularly at any place. I have
known where an accident was that the man would
probably have 200.

36084. Were they working in longwall 7 — ^We have some
working in longwalL

36085. Where this man had 200 men to look after 7—
He had some long-wall. That man was doing nothing
else the whole shift but inspecting the places, although
nothing came out of it. This place where a boy was
killed had been examined about 3^ hours before the men
went in to work, which was contrary to the Mines
Regulation Act. That was the reason of the complaint.

36086. That was wrong. He would not be able to
inspect 200 places in two hours 7 — The men work double.

36087. Would that be 100 places 7— Yes.

36088. Could he do that in two hours 7 — No, he would
be the whole shift, six or eight hours.

36089. How would that be.7— Because hej did nothing
else but inspection. That was where the thing came
up at the accident.

36090. He would have to see the men before they go
in. They go in in shifts 7 — Yes.

36091. He would have to see the men before they go
in and examine all the places 7 — He was violating the rule.
The company was violating the rule by appointing him
for that purpose.

36092. {Mr, Ratcliffe Ellis.) That is an instance of a
man not carrying out the rule 7 — The man was not
carrying out the rule, but he was set on for this purpose
and could not carry out the rule. He had this quantity
of places to inspect.

36093. {CJiairman.) Which he could not do in two
hours 7 — No, it took him five or six hours.

36094. {Sir Lindsay Wood,) You say a man was travel-
ling for insurance who had a second-class certificate 7 — I
know one or two at the present time.

36095. Had he had experience in the mine 7 — He got
a certificate ; that is all I know.

36096. In your district is there any particular period
of time they must have had experience in a mine before
they get a certificate 7 — If a man wants a second-class or
a first-class certificate he applies to whichever Board he
likes. He is not obliged to go to the Cumberland Board.

36097. The Act says he must have had experience in
a mine 7 — He would probably have had that.

36098. He would 7 — ^I cannot say ; that rests with what
Board he obtained his certificate from, whether they
examined his credentials or not.

36099. He might be perfectly well qualified for a
manager's certificate, and yet take up insurance travelling
if he had not a situation in a mine 7 — Yes ; it is quite
possible. .

36100. {Mr, Smillie,) With regard to the Examination
Boards, is it not possible that a person might fail at New-
castle and have three or four months further education
and pass at some other examination 7 — Yes.

36101. Have you heard of any candidate failing at
Edinburgh or Glasgow and petssing in Newcastle 7 — Not
to my knowledge. I cannot say that I have.

36102. Would you be astonished to know that there
have been many cases of that kind 7 — No ; it is quite

36103. Three months' study may make a big difference.
A person may fail to-day, and three months afterwards,
at the same Board, he might be able to pass 7 — Yes, but
it would have to be 12 months if he came to the same

36104. You would not object to having a general
examination paper set for the whole country on the
scientific side of the subject as well as the necessary quali-
fication 7 — I think a uniform system would be the best.

36105. On the scientific side at lea^t a uniform system
to apply to all candidates might be best in order to secure
a uniform qualification so far as possible ? — Yes.

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36106. There might be then a district examination, if
it was thought necessary, to find out whether a person
was locally qualified to manage a mine ? — I do not think
there is much which comes in locally. We advocated
that at the Newcastle Board. Complaints have been
made of people going elsewhere.

36107. Yon have not had any trouble with managers
putting obstacles in the way of examiners appointed
under Rule 38 carrying out their examination 7 — Not
any special charges, but I say this : that a manager has
a hundred different wayB of prosecuting a man for this
purpose without exposmg him. It may be something
mdirect he prosecutes him for, or dismisses him, while the
examination might be the real cause. It is hard to get
at it. We have had men removed and we have thought
it was for that, •tut we could not trskce it to any charge
or some action might have been taken.

36108. Have you heard a manager protesting against
the nature of the examiner's report in the report book,
and expressing an anxiety that the report should not be
put in as they put it in ? — I believe there has been some-
thing of that kind in some of our places. I believe a case
did arise of that description once, but we persisted on the
report being put in.

36109. You are well acquainted with General Rule 38,
which gives power to the workmen ? — Yes.

36110. I do not know whether you have answered
Mr. Edwards -with regard to this matter. You are in favour
of appointing persons who are or who have been practical
working miners ? — I think that would be the best thing
that could be done.

36111. The last clause of Rule 38 says that " the report
shall be recorded in a book to be kept at the mine for the
purpose, and shall be signed by the persons who made
Hie inspection ; and if the report state the existence or
apprehended existence of any danger, the owner, agent
or manager shall forthwith cause a true copy of the report
to be sent to the inspector of the district." You are
aware of that clause ? — Yes.

36112. The presence of firedamp would be a danger
or an apprehended caute of danger ? — Yes.

36113. The presence of coal dust in large quantities
might also be looked upon by the inspector as a cause of
danger 7 — I think it ought to.

36114. In the case of examiners reporting in the report-
book the existence of quantities of gas in places not fenced
f>fF, and dangerous quantities of coal dust, do you think
that report should be sent to a mines inspector ? — Yes, I
think anything that is likely to lead to an accident ought
to be sent to the mines inspector unless it is remedied at

36116. If the inspectors in their report call attention to
danger or apprehend danger, would it not be canning out
this clause if that was sent on to the mines inspector 7 —
Yes. I do not see why the full report cannot be sent to
the inspector.

36116. There are certain conditions under which it must
be sent on. If there is any danger or apprehended danger
reported, the clause says it must be sent on. Are reports
of that kind sent on as a matter of fact to the mines
inspector 7—1 cannot say. We expect that they are sent
on, but that is a matter that rests between the management
and the inspector. That is one of the matters where an
inspector ought to give more publicity to the workmen
with regard to the report he gets.

36117. Are you aware in the case of the Whitehaven
Collieries that you have mentioned that the examiners
who examined a few weeks ago did put into the report a
complaint as to the accumulation of fire-damp being given
off, and the presence of gas in dangerous quantities. Are
you aware that that report was put into the report book ?
— Yes.

36118. Are you aware that it was not sent to the mines
inspector ? — It was given out in evidence that it had not
been sent.

36119. Do you consider that in keeping with this clause
of the Coal Mines Rei^ulation Act ? — No ; the manager
ought to have carried that out. It would be better if there
were some means or a proof that such was done to the men
from the inspector.

36120. When inspectors are appointed by the workmen
to report the presence of danger in the report book, do you
naturally expect that will be sent on to the inspector, and
followed by a visit from the inspector to see whether or not
the thing is put right 7— One would expect that would be
done, but whether the inspector comes or not I could not

36121. Is that not the purpose of sending it to the Mr, A.
inspector in order that he may pav a visit to find out Sharp.

whether the danger has been att^ded to or not 7 — ^That

seems to me to be the spirit and meaning of the Act, that 22 Jan., 1908.

the inspector ought to visit the place directly after he gets

the report.

36122. I am not sure whether the assistant-inspector at
present lives in Newcastle or Carlisle. I understand Mr. J. B.
Atkinson is your chief 7 — He is the chief.

36123. Is the assistant Mr. Abbott 7— Yes ; Mr. Nichol
son was.

36124. Mr. Abbott lives in Newcastle 7 — Mr. Nicholson
did live at Carlisle. Mr. Oswald died at Carlisle. He lived

36125. The mines inspector at Cleator Moor is not the
inspector imder the Coal Mines Regulation Act, but under
the Metalliferous Act 7 — Yes.

36126. You do not call attention to any complaints in
connection with the coal pits 7 — No ; it is for the metall-
iferous mines inquiries.

36127. Under your Special Rules there are arrangements
made for lamp stations at certain places defined by the
manager ; lamp stations beyond which the workmen ought
not to pass until examination is made 7 — Yes.

36128. Those rules apply to the Whitehaven Collieries 7
— ^To the whole of the collieries. Our rules apply to the
whole of the county. We have them now all alike.

36129. Is it the fact that the workmen in the Whitehaven
Collieries have been accustomed to remain at the lamp
station until the examination was made 7 — I expected so
until evidence was given at the late enquiry that they did
not do so.

36130. You found out then it was not customary to do
that in all cases ? — ^No. Prom the evidence given it was
proved»that they travelled beyond, and nothing was said
to them.

36131. That was a breach of the rules ? — Yes, that is a

36132. If the rule was carried out it would be all right.
The rule provides that they are not to go beyond a certain
distance 7 — Until the fireman returns to report the position
from his examination.

36133. Are you favourable to deputies or firemen holding
a certificate of competency by examination 7 — Yes, I
think it would be a step in the right direction, because many
deputies are put on, it may be, from favouritism. They
may be brothers-in-law or relatives of some manager, and
have very little practical knowledge of mining. I think
they all ought to have a qualification. They ought to have
something set which is not as severe a test as that of the
under-manager or manager, but there ought to be some
qualification as to practical mining, with respect to
propping, setting and securing roofs, and gas, and those
things, in connection with the working of a mine.

36134. An examination as to these things, and the
granting of a certificate, would let the mcuiager know that
they had that knowledge 7 — Yes. It woidd be well if
there were local boards for that purpose of qualified parties
appointed in localities. I do not mean it would be wise to
carry them to big centres, because it would be costly ; but
local boards in the case of a county like ours, which covers
24 miles. I think there should be a centre where the men
could be examined by parties appointed in the district, as
to that knowledge which was local.

36135. You would be satisfied with any method which
would secure that ? — To prove that the deputy or shot-
firer had abilities for the occupation he was put in.

36136. You have been down the Wflliam pit 7— Yes.

36137. You have been between three or four miles under
the sea in that pit ? — Yes.

36138. Do you know it is a very dry and dusty mine 7

36139. Do you know in some ctises that there are three
or four inches of very fine dust lying n.t the bottom and on
the timbers 7 There is a considerable quantity on the
timbers ? — Yes, and on the haulage roads. It is the dust
from the tubs, which settles in large quantities.

36140. Are precautions taken to water the dust and t(»
keep it damp 7 — ^They have occasionally done so, but I do
not think that the watering has been continuous, as it
ought to be. Occasionally they may have watered it, but
I do not think that watering has been applied continuously.

36141. Is there anything done in that pit to prevent shots
being bored in the solid in drifts, and fired in the solid 7 —
I thmk there should be somothhig done to prevent them.

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36142. Has anything been done, so far as you know, to
prevent it ? — ^No.

36143. Is it the custom in drifts to bore the holes in the
solid and tire them ? — I think the evil commenoes in that
You are referring to the last explosion.

36144. Yes ? - The Company lets a drift by contract, and
then they give the man the explosives free. Then he drives
the drift with cheap labour, and does not drive it as a
practical drift ought to be driven. Here he has a freedom
of explosives, and he bums it out. The recent explosion
might have had most serious consequences. There were
no less than seven holes. That is a plan (producing plan).
There are the seven holes drilled in a little seam of gosX. It
was running in the drift 7 inches thick, and there were two
holes ready at the top. These holes could not be a foot
apart in a 9 ft. drift. They were bored in the coal, and
there was the dust taken out of the holes — it was a dry
drift — and the two flanking holes were fired, and then
the third, and then the fourth hole, which was fired,
was a blown-out shot and caused explosion.

36145. Were they holes bored in the solid ? — Five feet
at least in the solidL

36146. Saxonite was the explosive used ? — ^Yes. I was
shocked when I heard the evidence and saw the plan, as a
practical drifter. It surprised me.

36147. There was not a large quantity of dust in the
drift itself ?— No.

36148. The explosion was a gas explosion, so far as the

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 150 of 177)