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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 151 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 151 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

evidence went ? — ^Yes. The fan, no doubt, was stopped,
and would have to be stopped. They had to ventilate it
with a fan. Within the last 50 yards the fan was stopped by
the shot-firer. He fires two shots at first; the fan
would have to stand, because the fan-man could not work.
There is a sort of refuge against the explosive from the
shot, which he gets belund. He fires a shot, and the fan
would stand again. The fan would stand when the fourth
shot was fired. These, no doubt, accumulated gas, and
the vibration of the shot would drive the gas further out
from the air, being lighter, and it would mix gases
together. This blown-out e^ot, the explosive having
nothing to resist, blew out 200 or 300 yards — the flame —
and the explosion occurred.

36149. Two of the men who were killed were 300 yards
from the place where the explosion took place ? — ^Yes,
between 300 and 400 yards out.

36150. The flame of the explosion must have gone down
within 100 yards of the main roads, because one of the
heavy sleepers was burning there 7 — Where the men were
found they were singed.

36151. Was there evidence of the mines inspector that,
had that explosion continued another 100 yards out on
the main road, it would have caught up the dust and pro-
bably everybody in the pit would have been killed ?—

36152. Does not that lead one to suggest that something
should be done to prevent this accumulation of dust, or
' hat it should be damped in the mine ? — ^Yes. If shot-
firing is to be done, the dust ought to be damped. There
ought to be great care taken with respect to allowing
the firing of these shots in the solid. They ought not to
be allowed to be fired in the solid in the coal.

36153. Your county has been particularly unfortunate
last year with regard to accidents ? — Yes.

36154. You are considerably beyond the proportion
of fatal accidents for any other period ? — Yes, we have had
a lot of shaft accidents, too.

36155. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) The areas are too large
for the deputy to examine satisfactorily. Can you suggest
any words by which a rule could be framed prescribing
the size of areas ? — Yes. I think the areas ought to be
taken into consideration when appointing the two hours'
examination. I think that might be if there was a meeting
between the workmen and the manager. I think they
could arrive at what was a reasonable area for a deputy
to examine in the morning.

36156. Can you suggest what an area should be that
could be put into a rule without a meeting 7 Do you think
it could bo said that a man could travel within the x>eriod
of two hours from the time he has to make the examination
before commencing work ? — ^I should have to know the
examined seams, because the seams vary. We have some
from 20 inches.

36157. The conditions are so dis-similar that no general
rule could be made to apply ? — No, only a rule might be
made that the workmen or some inspector ought to specify
the area. There ought to be an area specified.

36158. The manager is f^Ponflible for the mine. I
want to see if you can su^^t any general rule which
would be applicable. I think you will agree with me
that it is impossible, because the conditions are so dis-
similar. Do we agree as far as that ? — Yes, but a rule
might be suggested. I do not mean that you could suggest
a 'specified distance the same as a specified number of
hours — ^you get two hours specified — ^you could not
specify two miles, because in some places it could not be

36150. Does it not aU come to this : These dis-similar
conditions make it impossible to suggest a general rule ?
— ^Yes, only they might be agreed upon.

36160. The areas which these districts must be, must be
dex>endent upon somebody, somebody must prescribe
them ? — Yes.*

36161. The manager is responsible for the safety of the
mine ? — Yes.

36162. Is he not the person to prescribe these areas ?
— Yes, but suppose he places more on to a man than can
be done.

36163. The inspector is the person to interfere ? —
I am coming to that.

36164. He is now 7 — ^What is the good of the inspector
and the manager after the accident has happened 7

36165. To prevent another accident 7 — ^No, it still leaves
the manager with the same power. That is one of the
matters for discipline.

36166. Do you suggest the manager should consult
with the men as to what areas these deputies should
have charge of 7 — What would be reasonable areas ?

36167. Supposing they did not agree ?— Then the
inspector could be asked.

36168. Who is to be responsible 7 The manager i»
responsible now. Supposing the manager is over-ruled
by the men, would you make the men responsible for an
accident and relieve the manager from responsibility 7 —
It would not make them responsible.

26169. You would take away the authority of the^
manager and leave him responsible for the consequences T
— ^That would not take it away from him. The deputy
appointed would be responsible for his actions.

36170. With regard to the distance prescribed, the
manager is not to have the management of his pit, but
there is to be a debating society, consisting of him and his
workmen. If that is so, is it fair to leave him responsible
for any mischief which happens from that management T '
— If a manager prescribes an area for the man and that is-
too large and the man cannot do it, the manager is not

36171. Yes, he is ? — ^It is the man who failed to do hia

36172. The manager is distinct^ responsible 7 — In
Section 50 he is responsible for the act.

36173. The owner, agent and manager 7 — ^That is one
of the clauses that wants most reforming of anything.
That is the question of prosecution.

36174. We will go on to another point. Whenever
there is a report made by the manager to the inspector
in C£ise of a non-fatal accident arising from an explosion
or any of the causes which obUge a report to be made in
connection with a non-fatal accident^ a copy of that
report must be made to the men ? — Yes.

36175. Why 7— So that they shall have them.

36176. To see whether the manager is telling the truth
or not in the report he makes to the inspector ? — So that
the men shall be informed of how the accident occurred.

36177 Do you doubt that the manager's report is a
true one 7 — But the man has not a knowledge.

36178. Why cannot they ask the inspector for it 7 —
How do they know if the inspector has received it 7

36179. They know when there is an accident 7 — They
do not know when the report has been sent.

36180. They can find out 7— How 7

36181. Do you desire that an inspector should be
required to give the report to you 7 — If the men received
a knowledge of what had been the cause of that accident —

36182. Why do they want to know it if the inspector
has the information ? Why give notice to the men 7 —
Why should the men be kept in ignorance of it ?

36183. Why should the employers give notice to the
men 7 He gives notice to the inspector 7 — Because it
would then give the men some knowledge of what was
taking place.

Digitized by




36184. I imderstood you did not think muoh of certifi-
<;ate8. You preferred practical experience 7 — ^No, I did
not say that.

36185. Some of the men, I imderstood^ who were to be
eligible for the appointment of inspectors, you thought
might not be able to pass an examination ? — ^I say that
the Examiners* Board ought to give more marks to practical

36186. I am talking about the certificates given to
deputies and men of that sort. Do you think there should
be a rule that no person should be appointed a deputy
who has not a certificate of some kmd, do you agree
if the manager did not prefer his cousin or relatives but
honestly wished to select the best men, that he should
not be allowed to select a man who has not a certificate 7 —
If a rule was provided that there was to be an examination
for deputies and firemen to know whether they had the
qualifications for the job, it would be a good thing.

36187. As a practical man do you think you would
exclude a great many very excellent men if you required
them to pass a written examination 7 — No, I do not think
we would, because the examination might be of matters
that they were going to follow. I do not mean to give
them a scientific examination with regard to something
tJiey do not tmderstand.

36188. This is to prevent the mine manager appointing
by favouritism ? — It would prevent the mine manager
from appointing men who were not capable of their

36189. It would prevent him appointing a cousin if he
was a capable man 7 — Not at all.

36190. With reference to this Timbering Rule 116,
I understand you had a meeting when these rules were
framed 7 — Yes.

36191. You objected to Rule 116 7— Yes : we wanted
the whole of the timber carried in.

36192. Does this Rule 116 represent what has been
the practice in your district for many years 7 — No : it
only represents what has been the practice at a part of
our district.

36193. In that particular part of your district this has
always been the practice 7 — Yes.

36194. The men's wages have been fixed upon the
Assumption that this is work they have to do in addition
to getting coal 7 — I do not know that there would be any
particular fixing on that, because when the wages were
fixed at the ton price they would probably be near the
shaft, so that there would not be far to carry them.

36195. This is work which had to be done in your Mr. A.
district by the collier, and he does not get any special Sharp,

payment for it : it is included in his tonnage rate 7 —

Yes. 22 Jan«,1908.

36196. You wanted to remove the obligation from the
collier or hewer and put it on to someone else 7 — ^No.
I want to take away any system that is likely to tend to
accidents, and if timber is being fetched in th&t manner
it is likely to lead to uccidents, and did lead to some men
being injured through carrying it, and at the same time
probably some men might be injured through not having
it in.

36197. There are two sorts of injuries, one in carrying
it in. Whether carried in by the collier or somebody he
pays, or by the employer or somebody he pays, there is
an equal fiability to accidents 7 — ^No,

36198. Why is he more liable to accidents if it is some-
body paid by the employer rather than by the collier 7 —
Because the employer, when he carries it in, carries it in
in a proper timber bogey, and there is not likely to be
much accident from that : but when the workman carries
it in it is on the top of the tub. If another bogey was coming
out and hit it, and the prop projected over lying like that
on the top of tiie glass {Uie Witness indicated with a tttnibler),
and the man behind it here, he may be injured. When it
is carried in by the company it is carried in in a bogey of
this description, so that there is no danger {the Witness
indicated). The short props we do not object to, of 2 or
3 ft., which will go inside the tub. A man can carry them,
but when it is those which project over, we object to

36199. That was your objection to this rule 7 — Yes.

36200. The inspector, I understand, decided it was to
be in this form 7 — It is in the rules. I suppose he gave

36201. You first say that to carry timber of any length
on the top of an ordinary tub is dangerous 7 — Yes.

36202. That is a matter for consideration, of course 7 —
Yes, it is.

36203. If you had had your way this rule would not
have been in these regulations 7 — No, not in the form it is.

36204-5. If you had a veto, that rule would not have been
there, although it is a rule which the inspector approves
of as necessary for safety 7 — The inspector has evidently
tried to oblige both sides and put in both at the same time.


Thursday^ 23rcJ January, 1908.


Sir Lindsay Wood, Bart.
H. H. S. Cttnynghame, Esq., o.b.
Wm. Abraham, Esq., m.p. (Khondda).
Enoch Edwakds, Esq., m.p.

Lord MoKKSWXLL (Chairman).

Thomas Ratoliffe Ellis, Esq.
John Scott Haldane, Esq., p.r.s,
Robert Smillib, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq. (Secretary).

Mr. William Whttbfield, called and examined.

36206. (Ghairman.) Do you appear on behalf of the
Bristol Miners' Association 7 — I do.

36207. What is your claim to represent the Bristol
Miners' Association 7 — ^I am their Agent and Corresponding

It 36208. Have you been so for any length of time 7 —
18 years.

36209. Have they deputed you to give evidence before
us 7 — Yes.

36210. Have you had any special instructions from
your Association as to the views you are to represent, or
do you simply give us your views gathered from an ex-
perience of 18 years 7 — ^The views I have gathered from
an experience of 18 years.

36211. With regard to Government inspection, you say
that more visits would be desirable, but in other respects
you have no fault to find with the actions of the inspectors 7
— ^That is so.

Mr. W.



Digitized by




Mr, W. 36212. That is to say, they do as much as they can do,

WhUefiM, but you do not think there is half enough ? — ^That is my

opinion in the Bristol coal-field.

98 J an.,1 908. 36213. What is your notion of Government inspection ?

How often do you think it would be desirable that the

/mines should be inspected by a Government inspector ? —

/It would depend upon the condition of a pit, but I think

N a mine ought to be examined at least once a mont h.

/ 36214. All through, or by sample ?— All through — of
V course, I mean by the Government inspector.

36215. The Government inspector or assistant inspector
or some other person appointed by the Government,
you would say ? — Yes.

36216. Would you make the districts smaller, or would
you meet the difficulty by appointing, say, a third-class
of inspector, who should be taken from the working-men
class, and have a smaller salary than the present inspectors
and assistant inspectors ? — I think it would be in the
interest of safety that a large number of working-men
inspectors should be apjwinted under the supervision and
guidance of the Government inspectors.

36217. Do you consider there are enough Government
inspectors of the class that are at present employed, or
would you increase that number ? — ^I think not.

36218. You would simply have a. third class to assist ?

36219. That class would be a very numerous class. If
a Government inspector of some kind is to go through the
whole of every mine once a month, you would have to
have a very great many of them ? — ^Yes.

36220. Perhaps a dozen in each district, or more ? —
Do you mean each coal-field ?

36221. No ; I mean there are 12 districts now under
y I district inspectors, and, I suppose, in those districts you
/ I would want at least a dozen sub-inspectors ? — I do not

^ ' know exactly how many it would take, but I should at
any rate have sufficient that the pits should be examined
by a Government inspector once a month.

36222. AU through ?— Yes.

36223. On the question of the inspection by men under
General Rule 38, you think that the local inspectors

A appointed by the workmen of a colliery are dependent on

the owner of the colliery for their employment, and that
may deter such local examiners from pointing out and
giving a report as they otherwise would do were they not
so dependent for their future employment on the owner ?
— ^Yes.

36224. Do you think if a number of practical miners
were appointed in each district, who would be under iJie
authority of the chief inspector of the district, and paid
as Government inspectors, that would be an improve-
ment ? — T do.

. 36225. I understand you would still leave the workmen

' of each colliery with the right, as now, to select not merely

one of their number at the coUiery to examine the mine,

but a man who is or has been a miner, and that apart from

where he worked or where he lived in the county ? — Yes.

36226. You would alter the Act of Parliament so that
a person who has been a miner should be eligible, and you
would place no restriction upon the men choosing whom
they liked, quite irrespective of the mine at which he
worked ? — ^Yes.

36227. That is the case now ; I do not think there is
any restriction : they may appoint anyone they like,
whether he belongs to their own pit or not ? — If that is
so, I was not conscious of it. I thought the man must be
employed under that company.

36228. The men may think it desirable to have a man
appointed who was working in their own pit ; and in
99 cases out of 100 they would appoint a man from their
own pit, but I believe it is a mistake to assume they have
no right to appoint an outsider so long as he is a practical
working miner 7 — I was not conscious of it.

36229. You say that such examiners in the case of fatal
accidents should have the right to appear and give evidence
before a coroner, or in and Court where the case might be
heard ? — Yes.

36230. If a workman who is employed in these exam-
inations knew anything at all about tfie circumstances
attending an accident, would he not naturally be the
person to appear before a coroner's Court, and would any-
one object to his appearing before the coroner's Court ? —
I am not conscious that any objection has been raised,
but I think if he were bound to be there by law, there
would be a greater certainty of proper evidence being


36231. If he had some ^3* of knowing the cause of
the accident, you would cC^W him to be present and give
evidence ? — ^Yes — if he w^ Oonscious of what transpired
at the place where the accident occurred.

36232. (Mr, Ratdiffe Ellis.) I understand >ou say he
should have a right, but is he to go at his own expense ? —
If he was a Government inspector he would be paid by
th9 Government.

36233. {Chairman.) This is not applicable to a Govern-
ment inspector ? — ^This is the inspector appointed by the
workmen. In every case where the workmen have
appointed the man, I should expect the workmen to pay

36334. That he should be obliged to appear and that
the workmen should pay him ? — That is over and above
the Government inspector appointed by the Government ;
but the workmen should still have a set-off at their own
expense if they thought it well to examine the pit, and
also to appear and give evidence before the coroner.

36335. Are you confident you represent the opinions
of the men on that matter ? — I feel confident I do.

36336. You say in your statement to us that these
inspectors appointed by the men should have the right
to appear, and you say you think they should be com-
pelled to appear and the men should be compelled to pay
them if they do appear ? — Yes, that is what I mean.

36337. As to inspections by officials under General Rule
4 you say to ensure that examiners are efficient they
should be examined by the mines inspector of the district
before they are appointed as to their knowledge of explosive
gas in mines, ventilation, first-aid, ambulance, and how
they would act on finding gas in their district ? — Yes.

36338. Would you consider it sufficient if an examiner
had a first or second-class certificate ? — Yes.

36339. That would satisfy you ?-— I think also it would
be wise if in future he should have knowledge of first-aid

36340. So that if a man could show he had a knowledge
of first-aid ambulance, and that he had also passed a first
or second-class certificate examination, you would exempt
him from any further examination ? — So far as I at present
know, I would.

36341. Would you put it in the power of the mines
inspector if he was satisfied from personal knowledge
Uiat a man would make a good examiner, to appoint
him an examiner notwithstanding that he had not gut
a fir^t or second-class certificate ? — Well, I do not know.

36342. At all events if he had a first or second-class
certificate, and had passed in first-aid ambulance work,
you think that would be sufficient to qualify him ? — ^Yes.

36343. You think the mines inspector should fix the
size of the district each examiner is responsible for ? — I do.

36344. Have you much to complain of as to the size
of the district ? — I do not want to individually complain,
but I think generally tiie districts are too large, according
to my experience.

36345. You will not say all districts are too large ? —
I do not say so.

36346. But in many cases the districts are so large
that the examiner cannot perform fully the duties assigned
to him ? — ^That is my finding in my mining life. I think
in many cases that is so.

36347. You say, as a reason for the Government appoint-
ing so many inspectors and there being so much Govern-
ment inspection, that the inspectors appointed by the men
are very much under the power of the managers, and are de-
pendent upon the managers for their future to a great extent
and you are afraid that in some cases they do not care
to give quite an exact report as to what they have seen
if anything goes wrong ? — I do not make complaint of
any particular case, but I think the natural l^rend of
things is bound to be that way.

36348. Do you say you have known many cases where
the men have had reason to believe that a man has suffered
in consequence of giving a true and unfavourable report ?
— I hold it as a general opinion that the man feeling his
bread and butter is dependent upon the employer whose
pit he is examining, it tends in the nature of things to
prevent his giving such a report as he otherwise would do.

36349. Could you point out to the Commission, without
mentioning names if you like, any instances ? — There is-
no specific case I can give ; I only give it as the general
impression that has been made upon me.




Digitized by





36350. With regard to discipline and its enforcement
by fining or prosecution, you think the practice of fining
is bad ? — I decidedly object, from my experience, to
a magistrate's office being fixed on the pit bank. It
is one of the most pernicious things I know of. In some
cases the manager takes to the fining of men, and of course
there are managers and managers — but I have a strong
objection to a deduction from mens' wages at the caprice
of any manager.

36351. Do you think there should be only three ways
of dealing with it ; either warning him not to do it again,
•or dismissing him, or sending him before a magistrate ? —
I do. Take him before the law^dis miss him, orwamjipn.

3635*2. In no case would you have fines imposed even
by agreement between the manager and the men 7-^-1
would not.

36353. You are pretty sure you represent the miners
in that opinion ? — ^I am sure I represent the miners in that

36354. With regard to accidents from falls of roof
and side, and haulage accidents, you are strongly of
opinion that the primary object for the getting of coal
to the pit bank being individual profit, it results in pressure
being brought to bear both on the workman and the

"N official, and is adverse to the best forms of safety to the

^ r workmen ; and, as a means of counteracting that and

I reducing such accidents to a minimum, you strongly favour

I l^e nationalisation of mines, and you think that would

^ I -exclude the element of private gain and be an important

I iactor for good ? — Yes.

36355. How would the nationalisation of mines affect
that ? — If the pressure on the men was less than it is
now, I believe many accidents would be averted. If that
measure of pressure that comers naturally without any
ill-intention on the part of the owner, and comes from
the effort to obtain private gain, were eliminated to that
•extent, I believe that the accidents would be reduced.

36356. Is not the principal reason why a man wishes,
perhaps, to work under conditions that may possibly cause
an accident generally due to the fact that the men are paid
by the piece and, consequently, that they want to make as
much money as possible 7 — In the coaUield I come from
I do not suppose more than one-half are paid by the piece.
We have a large number of day men, and even men on coal
— a large number, many hundreds of them — ^are not able
to earn more than what we call their day wage. But

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 151 of 177)