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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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examiners very much as the assistant inspectors, and
should be examiners all their lives ? — I do not suggest

21165. On page 8 of the BiU: "Workmen employed
in any mine may from time to time appoint any persons
who are or have been practical working miners to be
examiners of the mine in their behalf. Such examiners
may at any time examine." I want to find out whether
you are of opinion that it would be a good thing that these
examiners thould be, so to speak, permanent in some
way as the assistant inspectors, or men appointed from
time to time as they now are ? — I do not suggest that they
should be permanent.

21166. They should have power from time to time to
appoint persons for a particular job ? — For a particular

21167. For how long should they be appointed ?
What I had in my mind was this, that we could appoint,
say, two men to cover the whole area of Fife, and after
that was finished

21168. Their duties would be terminated 7 — The
appointment would be over.

21169. When they have gone through a district the
appointment is over, and they might or might not be
re-appointed. As to that you nave no opinion, and that
should be as the men choose ? — Yes, that is so.

21170. You say, for the safety of the mine, no more than
one unskilled man should be allowed to work with a
skilled man at the face. Your Bill goes a great deal further
than that, because it would not allow any unskilled man
to work at the face at all. If you have a law to enact that
only one unskilled man should work under a skilled man
at the face, do you think it would be necessary for a man
to have three years' experience on the roadway before he
should be taught to b€KK)me a hewer by an experienced
man ? — That is more stringent than my proposal.

21171. You would be satisfied with your proposal that
no skilled man should be allowed to teach more than one
unskilled man at a time. He should be allowed to teach
anybody he liked ? — That is so. This Bill^ indicates
that they have to have some experience before they go
to the face.

21172. Three years on the roadway ? — ^What I have in
my mind is to prevent young men going into a mine and
going straight to the face at 20 years of age, for example.
Iliey should at least have two years under a skilled work-

21 173. Under a skilled workman at the face or anywhere?
— At the face.

21 174. I understand, under your Bill, that you would not
allow any man, even one single man working under another
single skilled man, to go to the face at all until he has been
in the mine three years. I want to know whether you
think that is desirable. Supposing you have a law to
enact that a skilled man should ti^e one unskilled man
to teach him his business at the face, is there any reason
why, if he thinks the man is strong and capable of making
a good hewer, that he should not take him to the face
at once under proper precautions — say his own son ? —
I do not see any reason tf he is under proper supervision.

21175. You would be inclined to tlunk, if precautions of
another nature were taken. Sub-clause 17 of Clause 11
might be unnecessary ? — It probably might fit into certain
districts where they must, in the ordinary training, be
engaged in the roadway to begin with.

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Mr. J. Weir. 21176. As a general rule a man would be engaged on the
llJu^l907 roadway T-Yes, as a drawer.

(Mr. Batcliffe EUts.) It would be considerably limiting

the available Ubour in mines.

21177. (Chairman.) There are two things you have been
asked no questions about which you mention in your state-
ment. First about safety lamps : is it the custom, as I am
told it is in Wales, that the hewer gets more if he works with
safety lamps than naked lights ? — I am informed so.

21178. Therefore the men themselves would have no
objection. It is not so pleasant working with a safety
lamp, but at the same time, if they get the equivalent in
wages, they probably would raise no objection ? — I have
never had any objection raised by the men at all.

21179. You say that safety lamps should be introduced
into all mines where the Government inspectors think
that there is the slightest danger of explosion. You would
leave it in the hancb of the Government inspector without
any appeal on behalf of the manager to the Home Secretary?
— I think such a serious matter as the danger of explosion
should be left to the Government official.

21180. That is not in your Bill. About obtaining a
fresh enquiry, you make rather a drastic recommendation
on the last page of your statement. You say: " Where, how-
ever, a serious accident has occurred, and where there may
be doubt as to the searching character of the enquiry, it
should be open to those interested to claim and obtain
a fresh enquiry." What do you mean as to the searching
character of the enquiry. Do you mean at the inquest ? —
Yes, that is the public enquiry, the Fatal Accidents Enquiry
in Scotland.

21181. Where there has been a fatal accident anybody
who feels that there is any doubt as to whether all the
circumstances have come out, and who is an interested
party, might obtain a fresh enquiry. What do you mean ?
Do you think one person interested ought to claim, as of
right, a fresh enquiry ? — I should think in the matter of
fatal accidents the representatives of the deceased should
be the parties most immediately interested in making
a claim of this kind.

21182. In your Bill application in writing must be signed
by six workmen requesting the Secretary of State to make
an investigation. Do you think six workmen ought to be
the proper tribunal to decide ? — ^The men employed in the
mine where the accident has occurred, I think, are interested
partly, as well as the representatives of the deceased,
and they ought to have a right to interfere in matters of
this kind.

21183. Supposing there are a large number of persons
working in that particular pit, 1,000 people, for instance,
or something of that sort, do you think it ought to be
sufficient if six said there ought to be an enquiry? — I think
it ought to be representative. That is quite enough to
burden a document with, six men, if representative in their

21184. Supposing the other workmen in the mine were
to express themselves as satisfied with the results of the
enquiry, would you allT>w a counter-petition to the Secretary
of State ? — We could not help that.

21185. They might, of course, petition if they like.
Under this Bill that petition would have no effect, because
the Secretary of State would be bound to act if six men
asked for an enquiry. It would be a serious thing to have
an enquiry if it was not necessary, because men would have
to go as witnesses, which would be a nuisance, especially
if the great majority of men were satisfied ? — I presume
this clause is purely to protect the men where an enquiry
has taken place, and a source of danger is still continuing,
and at that enquiry the facts have not been eUoited so
fully as to bring out that source of danger and bring about
its being done away with.

21186. I was suggesting whether it was not rather a
considerable power to put in the hands of six men, to
compel the Secretary of State to have an enquiry over
again into all the circumstances of the accident ? — It is
undoubtedly a big power.

21187. (Mr. Batcliffe EUia.) Supposing the Coroner^s
Jury censured a manager, would you allow him to have a
further enquiry 7 — ^There would be no objection if he felt

21188. If he was committed for manslaughter he would
have a Court of Appeal ?

21189. We should have a Criminal Court of Appeal
established. In Mr. Ronaldaon's evidence with reference

to lamps he is asked at Q. 6,089 : " Do you try to
persuade the owners and the men to use safety
lamps ? — Do you try and combat the prejudice of the
men against safety lamps?— (^.) There is a prejudice.
(Q.) Do you try to combat it and talk to the men about
it, and try to get them in a more reasonable frame of
mind with regard to safety lamps ? (A,) 1 cannot say
that I talk very much to the men about it, but I
know it is a fact that they do object to them. As
a rule if safety lamps are introduced the men expect
2d. per ton more on their coal, and the owners
naturally object to it, although I must say that where
safety lamps are introduced they put out as much coal with
the safety lamps as with the nak^ lights." Do you agree
with that ? — As to the men having a prejudice against it ?

21190. He says they have a prejudice and require 2d.
a ton more although they put out just as much coal with
safety lamps as without them ? — As to that I cannot form
an opinion, as to whether they do it or not. We have in
our district something like 1,000 lamps in use, but we have
never had any difficulty about deduction from the extra
price paid for the extra work, or anything of that kind.

21191. The extra price has been paid when it has been
asked for ? — I understand it is always paid, and it has
been paid.

21192. (Mr, SmiUie,) With regard to the increased
number of inspectors, I suppose you have in your mind
quite a number of collieries in your own district which you
feel do not require the same inspection as other collieries ?
— That is perfectly true.

21193. Colliery inspection and mining legislation
generally have been msbde necessary because of carelessness
and indifference in some cases, and not from universal
carelessness or indifference ? — It would be a pity if it had
been universal carelessness.

21194. I mean some mines might require to be inspected
four or five times a year, while others would not require
to be inspected at all, because of their nature and the
management thereof ? — ^That is true. If the manager is
negligent and does not carry out the regulations of the
Coal Mines Regulation Act, and there are complaints made
against him, inspection would have to be frequent, and
would be frequent.

21 195. The miners and you do not propose that periodical
inspections, half-yearly or yearly, must be made whether
or not there is any occasion for them to be made ? — No.

21196. We might take it a large number of mines would
not necessarily be inspected more, merely because you
increase the number of inspectors ? — Not necessarily.

21197. If you had more inspectors it would make sure
that an additional number of surprise visits would be made
to the collieries ? — Undoubtedly that would be so, because
you would have a greater staff of men to make them,
and if these additional inspectors were making surprise
visits there would be less need for inspections under
Rule 38.

21198. Do you think that one inspection by the
Government mines inspector is of far more importance than
two or three inspections by the workmen's representatives ?
— I think it has a greater effect.

21199. You frankly think increased mines inspection by
Government inspectors would lead to greater safety ? —
I do.

21200. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) In answer to Mr. Smillie
you said some mines would not need to be examined as
often as others. Is not that so ? — That is so, well-con-
ducted mines.

21201. Why not ? — Because well-conducted mines are
not so much in need of being looked after as mines which
are not well-conducted.

21202. Under the present sjrstem of inspection we get it
that an inspector can only examine on an average each
mine once in a year. Therefore the sample of inspection
of these good mines must have satisfied him everything was
all right ?— Some inspectors are easily satisfied.

21203. You yourself say that some mines would not
require to be examined ? — That is so. Some mines require
more attention, so far as inspection is concerned, than
others. I am going back now probably about 17 or 18
years ; there was one mine that we discovered that was
very bad, and I gave instructions to have that examined
by the men. The management pleaded with us to allow
that to stay over a fortnight until they put the mine right.
They did so, and we found after the examination was made
that mine was in gpod order. I say this mine ought to

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have boon inspected by the Government inspector and
not by the men.

21204. The present inspectors act upon that principle ?
— If we make a complaint they will.

21205. They know themselves the mines that require

more inspection or more frequent inspection than others ? Mr. J, Weir,

""^®®' llJvme^l907

21206. And they visit them more frequently for that

rea<K>n ? — I do not know whether they do or not. I could
not say as to that ; I could not telL

Mr. David GiLMOUBy called and examined.



21207. (Jfr. iSmiKte.) You are at present the Secretary
and Agent of the Lanarkshire Miners' Association ? — ^Yes.

21208. Previous to your appointment to that position
you were working underground ? — I was.

21209. And consequently you have a knowledge of
underground mining ? — I have.

\ 21210. Has your experience led you to think that the
I number of inspectors for mines is not sufficient at the
j present time ? — It is totally inadequate for systematic
i inspection.

2121 1. You are anxious that there should be an increased
number of inspectors appointed, and that they should be,
so far as possible, drawn from the ranks of practical men ?

21212. Is that the general opinion of Scottish miners, so
far as you know ? — The univeroal opinion, so far as I know.

21213. Is there any regular or systematic inspection of
mines at the present time ? — There is not that I know of,
apart from the ordinary morning inspection, and the
ordinary inspection carried out by the fireman.

21214. Is there any regular or systematic inspection
attempted by the Government inspectors at the present
time ? — None.

21215. If there is anything called to their attention in
reference to carrying out the Act, they attend to it ? —

21216. And in the case of a fatal accident, or explosion,
they examine the part of the mine in which that has taken
place ? — ^Yes, and a considerable amount of time is taken
up in attending to that, and giving evidence before the
court in such a case.

21217. So that you feel that the inspection by the present
I staff of Government inspectors is not satisfactory ? — It
\ is not.

21218. And you are favourable to the appointment of an
additional number of inspectors, and that they should be
drawn from the ranks of practical working miners ? — Yes,
and I think if that were done the number of accidents
would be reduced.

21219. You are conversant with General Rale 38, which
gives the miners the right to appoint inspectors from their
own ranks to inspect the workings ? — Yes.

21220. In connection with that, you say that they
should have the right to appoint persons who are or have
been practical working miners ? — ^Yes, and my reason for
that is this : that if the workmen in the colliery appoint two
of their number to make a local inspection, those men are
dependent upon the colliery company as a rule, and if they
discover danger and put it into the report book, it carries
with it the fear that they might lose their employment by.
and-by, and that influences the men to a great extent in
carrying out the local inspections. The same thing applies
to local inspectors who may be drawn from some other
pit. The feeling the men have is that if those inspectors,
drawn from some other pit, make it too difficult for the
manager of the colliery company, then information can
be sent to interfere with their employment ; and as there
are so many things in respect of which a miner can bo iater-
fered with, whilst it is a comparatively good thing as
matters stand at present, I say it is very far short of carrying
out the work which we believe to be necessary.

21221. I suppose, if persons who had been appointed as
inspectors and made an examination were dismissed
because of an adverse report, action would be taken at once
by the trades union to protect them ? — Just so ; but the
difficulty is that men can be dismissed sometimes on
frivolous grounds which a trades union cannot get at ;
there are so many ways of getting at a worlonan in con-
nection with a coal mine that it is impossible almost to
protect him.

21222. Persons might be unfairly dealt with up to the
point of leaving the employment without any direct

dismissal, and it would not be easy to protect them in a j^^. 2>.
case of that kind ? — That is so. Gihncmr,

21223. And there is a fear of that kind at the present
time ? — Undoubtedly.

21224. The Lanarkshire miners some time ago decided
to pay for the inspectors' loss of tune and wages. Has
that been taken advantage of largely?— Not universally,
but it has been taken advantage of to a greater extent
than any previous movement of that kind, I think, in

21225. Have you had reports sent to you from those
inspectors ? — ^We have. I may say it is a condition of our
scheme in Lanarkshire that they must send reports of every
inspection which is made, so that we have the reports of
every inspection mside in the county by local inspectors.

21226. You are aware that where any fault is found with
the condition of the mine, that the colliery manager must
send that report on to the mines inspector T — In the first

C^e the local inspector must put that report in the report
k at the colliery ; and if there is any report of danger in
that, then the onus falls on the colliery manager to send on
the report to the mines inspector. I have found, in several
cases, that has no^J^een done. Only the other day I had
to call the attenu^ of the mines inspector to one report
in which danger had been reported, and he replied to say
he would attend to the matter, which was quite as much
as to say he had not heard of it before. One would assume,
therefore, it was in the books, but it had not reached the
inspector apparently.

21227. May we take it that during the past six months
you have had sent on to you the reports of pit inspectors,
in which in six or eight cases there has been fault found
with the condition of the mine, or some part of the mine ?
— ^Yes, at least that number.

21228. Principally as to ventilation f — ^Ventilation com-
plaints are very frequent.

21229. And dangerous stones in the main roadways ? —
In the case I referred to a moment ago the complaint was
twofold : first, with regard to a dangerous stone insuffi-
ciently propped, and secondly, that the ventilation was
insufficient in three or four sections. That is my memory.

21230. Has that been attended to at the present time ? —
I had a reply saying it would be attended to at once, and
since that I have had no further report. That was nearly
four weeks after the inspection had been made.

21231. You think that generaUy this inspection does
good ? — Yes.

21232. And the scope of it should be extended by
enabling the miners to appoint persons who are or have
been practical working miners ? — I do.

21233. That would give an opportunity to the men in the
district of appointing two persons who could examine ? — ..
Men should be got who would not be dependent upon the ((
coal owners in the district for their labour.

21234. Then as to the inspection by the firemen, the
miners assume that the colliery fireman holds a very
important position ? — They do.

21235. I think your district is in what is known as a fiery
zone, where the collieries are wrought with dosed lamps ?

21236. The position of a fireman there is a very im-
portant one in view of the fact that there may be accumu-
lations of gas from time to time 7 — That is so.

21237. Have you any idea as to whether or not the
greatest care is taken in the selection of the men to fill that
X>08t f Is the best man alwavs selected, so far as your
opinion goes ? — Generally I believe the best men are
selected ; but there are cases in which that does not apply.
My attention has been drawn to the case of men having been
appointed as firemen who had none or very little previous
loiowledge of mining at all in the Hamilton district ; but
I should say that generally the employers employ men that
are able to do the work.

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Mr. D. A
Cfilnwur. \



21238. Generally speaking, the firemen are competent,
skilled, experienced persons ? — That is so.

21239. But there is nothing at the present time to
prevent the manager appointing persons who are not com-
petent ? — Nothing at alL

21240. With the exception of this, that the Act says " a
competent person appointed by the manager " ? — Quite so.

21241. Do you favour the examination of firemen for
a certificate ? — I think it is only a sensible reform
which there can be nothing at all against.

W 21242. Have you any idea as to the extent of the district
to which firemen are appointed and upon which they have
to report ?— Generally, I should put it that a fireman has
more to do in his morning inspection particularly than he
is able to do thoroughly. For instance, he may go down
the colliery at four o'clock in the morning, two hours before
the miners have to descend ; he must have his inspection
completed, and very often he has a very wide section to
inspect. In many instances it ia absolutely impossible
that he can perform his work in a proper manner. The
afternoon inspection is different, because he is on duty all
day, and he can make his own time for that inspection.
For the morning inspection I do not think he is able to
carry it out properly, as things stand at present, in many

21243. Do you remember what his duties are under the
Act for his morning inspection ? — To examine the whole
of the roadways in the workings particularly referring to
gas, to certify that the places are free, that the travelling
rQads are free within his section, and as a matter of fact
everything — both the timbering and the general safety
of the workings it is his business to certify before he
allows the miner to go to his working place.

21244. So far as you know it is not possible for him
to make the statutory inspection under the act in the time
at his disposal ? — ^I do not think in the morning it is pos-
sible, in a great many instances.

21245. Are the firemen's duties in Lanarkshire generally
confined to ventilation and looking after the men at the
face ? — ^No ; that is the exception. The fireman's time
18 taken up very largely in doing other work. There are
some cases in which the firemen do nothing but look after
the ventilation, but that i» the exception I should say.
The rule is that the firemen would do other work in the
course of their ordinary occupation.

21246. What class of work ? — ^Timbering, for instance,
and any odd jobs that may be necessary in the c^e of

21247. Have they anything to do with the supervision
of the pony driverg ? — ^Yes, they are put as overseers, as
it were, over the drivers to see that the men get what we
call *' cleek," and that the tuba are kept going gradually.

21248. Are they held responsible for the output of some
of their sections ? — In some cases they are, but I would
not put it that they usually are.

21249. That interferes with their duties in looking after
the safety of the workmen at the face ? — Yes.

21250. {Dr. H aidant,) Do you mean that the firemen
themselves are really supposed to do timbering sometimes ?

21251. Not merely to supervise it ? — To do it themselves.

21252. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUie.) In the face or in the roads 7
— Anywhere — to do any odd work that may be necessary
in the mine.

21253. (Mr. SmiUie.) Is it in the face or the roadways ?
— ^Not at the working face, in the roadways, what we cah
on-cost labour.

21254. I suppose there is a considerable amount of
meohanical haulage in your district ? — Yes.

21255. There have been a number of accidents arising
from breakage of couplings and haulage ropes all over the
county ? — Yes ; not very frequently. There have been
a number, but they are not very numerous.

21256. It has been suggested that in the case where
trains and tubs are carried along by mechanical haulage
there might be a continuous chain, or some method by
which there should be something over the top of the
hutches, or along the bottom, to prevent their running
back in the case of anything breaking. Do you think
that that should be compulsory ?— (>rtanily ; I think

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 17 of 177)