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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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knowledge of the engine, to begin with, and his ability to do
the work.

21348. Freedom from accident during a certain period
of time ? — ^I do not know that that would apply.

21349. That is the difficulty. I do not see how you
could do it. I want to know what sort of certificate you
suggest. I am told that these men ought to be certifi-
cated, but I have not yet found out how they should be
examined, or what examination they should pass ? — I
could not go into detail as to the method of examination
only in a general way, that we are of opinion than an
engine-keeper, because of the nature of his work, ought to
be certificated as a competent man, and that there should be
some means for carrying that out. I believe through the
Engine-keepers' Association that practical means can be
devised for that, but not being one, and not having the
practical knowledge, I could not go into those details.

21350. Under the present system there are very few
accidents ? — ^That is to say, comparatively few.

21351. Then as to having a set of men who are not
capable, is that at all due to restriction in the employment
of the enginemen ? — ^No, probably the trades organisation
when a dispute is on advise their members not to accept
employment.

21352. Restrictions are put on to prevent a man coming
into the employment ? — ^If there is a dispute on at the
colliery.

21353. Without that ? — ^I do net think the engine-
keepers are able to prevent that as a rule. They do try to
restrict the number of enginemen to see that the labour is
not in excess of the demand. There are a considerable
number of men, officials in other capacities, who do get to
leam how to wind an engine ; at every colliery there are
men who have a smattering of the work.

21354. They put on a certain amount of restriction for
that purpose — ^I mean the enginemen ? — ^I understand that
they do. I am not in touch with their organisation.

21356. I thought you complained that owners had to
employ men who were not sufficiently practical ? — I should
think there is a sufficient supply of practical men for
ordinary purposes except in cases of dispute. ^

21356. You say that you are of opinion, where the em-
ployer is responsible to engage men specially to do the



work of timbering and free the working miner as much as
possible from this work, that the accident rate would be
greatly reduced. Then, you say, " That only men who
were duly qualified by certificate of efficiency should be
appointed to cany out the duties defined in General Rule
4, and that those men should be responsible only to the
Glovemment for ihe due discharge of Uieir duties." The
firemen ought to be responsible only to the Government 7
— Yes, those men could be utilised for making a system
of daily inspection. We are of opinion^ if they were left
independent of employers and men, they could cany out
their duties in a far more efficient manner.

21357. The Government ought to employ firemen at
every colliery to make these inspections 7 — ^That is our
solution of the difficulty. That these men ought to be
employed by the Government and paid as they are pud
now at the expense of the colliery owner. ^

(Mr, lUUdiffe ElUa,) You are not speaking of the same
thing. Sir Lmdsay Wood is talking of ordinary firemen.

{Mr. SmiUie,) The Witness is talking about the firemen.

{Mr. RaicUffe EUis.) You cannot mean that 7

{Mr. SmiUie.) He does.

{The Witness.) I understood you were asking on the
question of inspection under General Rule 4.

21358. {Sir Lindsay Wood,) I was asking about the fire-
men ? — ^We hold that the ordinary fireman should be a
Government official. That has been our opinion for a long
time.

21359. That would increase the number of inspectors
very largely which the Government would have to employ 7
— ^les. I think, however, under the Government inspectors
that that could be carried out without any difficulty. They
could be under the control of the inspector of the district.

21360. Under General Rule 4 of the Act, that means those
men who have to examine all the working places before the
men go in every morning 7 — Yes.

21361. All these men would have to be under Govern-
ment employment 7 — Yes.

21362. That would mean a very large number of men 7 —
Yes, it would.

21363 Do you think that ought tc be done 7 — ^In our
opinion it would tend to safety, at any rate. It might be
difficult to carry out, but it would be a very big step
towards reducing the number of accidents.

21364. Who would be responsible for any accident
occurring from these men 7 The managers of the mine
would not be responsible ? — ^They would be liable to
punishment if it could be shown .

21365. The manager of the mine could not be responsible
for any man employed by the Government 7 — ^If the
Government official did not carry out his duty, I take it,
you could in altering the Mines Act insert a provision
punishing the fireman, who would then be a Government
officiaL

21366. {Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) It is in the Mines Act now.
Sir Lindsay Wood asks you whether you would relieve the
manager from the responsibility of the fireman's negli-
gence 7 — Undoubtedly. I do not see how you could hold
the manager responsible if the fireman wore not under the
control of the manager.

21367. Would that be in the Mines Act 7—1 think it
would. The manager would report any dereliction of duty
on the part of the firemen to the inspector.

{Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) It would take a long time before he
could prevent him doing anything of the kind.

21368. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) So far as the working of the
mine is concerned the responsibility would be on the Home
Secretary 7 — ^Yes, on the Government inspector. We
recognise this as being a very big question, arid it may not
be ripe for solution yet. We have discussed it at our
oorxf erenoe pretty frequently.

21369. {Mr. RaicUffe EUis.) Upon the question of the
inspectors, the present provision of Section 39 of the Mines
Act provides : " A SeCTetaiy of State may from time to
time appoint any fit persons to be inspectors (under what-
ever title he may from time to time fix) of mines and assign
them their duties and may award them such salaries as the
Treasury may approve, and may remove any such in-
spector." That would enable the Home Secretary to
appoint any number of inspectors he thinks fit 7— That
is so.

21370. Have you any fault to find with the calibre of
the inspectors now appointed 7 — None whatever with the
inspectors so far as I ^ow in Scotland.

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21371. Do you want to make any legislative alteration
in that, or would you be satisfied if the Government
appointed more inspectors T — ^We think that it would be
more satisfactory if the assistant inspectors were drawn
from the ranks of practical men, men who had gone through
all the grades of mining.

21372. Which class down the pit do you suggest that
they should be selected from, the men who work at the
face or the men who work at the roads or the firemen ? —
I should think that either of these men would be quite
capable.

21373. Do you think a man who has worked at the
face and is a thoroughly experienced, practical miner is
the best man to appoint to be an inspector ? — ^Yes ; I
believe there are hundreds of those men who have qualified



to be appointed as inspectors.
213:



21374. Would you say that the qualification should be
that the miner has worked at the face 7 — No, that he has
had a general practical experience of mining. *

21375. For how long 7 — ^The time that is specified in
the Mines Acts.

21376. Five years 7— Yes.

21377. What objection have you to any class of persons
who have got that experience being eligible for these
appointments ? — I should think in going round inspecting
the working place that the workmen would be more ready
to give all mformation to a man they knew had practical
experience than they would to some of the men appointed
as things stand now.

21378. Do you think that any workman would withhold
information necessaiy for safety upon that ground,
because he was not one appointed from their class ? —
Statements have been maoe that workmen are afraid to
report danger to the inspectors. I do not know that it
has any foundation, in fact, but there is a general feeling
that if a report is given to an inspector it somehow or
other reaches the colliery manager.

21379. Do you think there is anything in that which
requires serious consideration ? — I do not think there is
much in that objection. I believe that instances may
have occurred.

21380. If a man has had five years' practical experience,
which he must have to get a certificate, you would not
exclude that man from the position of inspector because
he belonged to a particular class ? — ^No, but X should think,
in appointing inspectors, that it would be an additional
qualification if he had practical experience in general
mining.

21381. Do you know any inspector who has worked at
the face with whom you have no fault to find 7 — Yes, one
in Scotland has worked at the face.

21382. Who is that 7— Mr. Pearson.

21383. Mr. Bonaldson has not worked at the face 7 — ^No.

21384. Nor Mr. McLaren 7—1 think Mr. McLaren, the
present chief inspector, has worked at the face.

21385. We should agree, if a man has had thorough
practical experience, it does not matter what class he
belongs to 7 — No, that is so.

21386. You do not think that inspection now is suffi-
cient 7 — I am convinced of that.

21387. Your two inspectors disagree with you in that
view. Mr. McLaren was asked a question : ''Do you con-
sider you can do justice to your district in the way of inspec-
tion — I mean that it is not too large 7 (A). So far as the
coal mines are concerned, I think, probably the inspection
is quite sufficient, but it is utterly impossible to do fuU
justice to the quarries. (Q). ITien what would be your
suggestion with regard to the quarries 7 — (A). The only
thing would be to provide another assistant, il that were
possible." There is a later question : " As regards the
coal mines, do you consider that the underground inspec-
tions that you and your assistants are able to get through
are sufficient 7 — (A). Last year we were able to manage
for the first time to see all the mines, and to make under-
ground inspections in all the mines," and that he considers
sufficient Mr. Bonaldson was asked similar questions :
(Q). "Do you consider that you and your two assistants
are competent to inspect the mines as mucH as you think it
desirable they should be inspected 7 (A). Yes. (Q). And
your inspection is as thorough as you think it is desirable
it should be 7 (A). As thorough as it is desirable tiiat it
should be, that is to say, of course people have divided
views as to what * inspection * should be— according to
our ideas of Government supervision I think it is quite



sufficient." That was the view of the two inspectors, but
you do not agree with them 7 — I do not agree with them.

21388. How often do you suggest that a mine should
be inspected 7 — I should think once a month would not
be too much for a general inspection.

21389. There are about 3,000 collieries in the kingdom 7
—Yes.

21390. It would want a large number of inspectors 7 —
Yes, undoubtedly it would.

21391. A suggestion has been made by your friends that
once in six months would be sufficient 7 — I do not agree
with that ; I do not think that would be sufficient.

21392. {Mr. Raidiffe Ellis). You do not agree that
inspection should be every six months 7 — ^No.

21393. Do you agree that the responsibility for the
carrying out of the Act should primarily rest upon the
management 7 — I agree with that.

21394. Do you think that the managers throughout the
kingdom are so incompetent that they require to have '
somebody every month to see that they are carrying out
their work 7 — A great many of the managers themselves,
just like mine inspectors, have so many duties to perform
that they are not able to be underground every day.

21395. Do you think it is possible to have too much
inspection ? — ^It might be possible to have too much
inspection.

21396. What do you think would be too much 7 — I do
not think once a month would be too much.

21397. {Chairman), 1 see in the Bill under Section 6 it
says " In every district an inspector shall make a complete
examination of every mine and every part thereof at least
once in every six months " 7 — Yes, " at least." I think
it is very moderate.

21398. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) With reference to inspection
by the workmen in Scotland, do you know any reason why
the men should be more afraid of their employers than in
other parts of the kingdom 7 — ^No.

21399. In Northumberland and Durham are you aware
that these inspections are frequently made by the men 7 —
I have no knowledge of that.

21400. Would that alter your view as to what is the
reason in Scotland 7 — I do not know. In Durham and
Northumberland the system of working is different.

21401. You think the reason the men do not make the
ikiBpection is because they are afraid of reprisals 7 — ^We
have not always found men to undertake the duty, although
we pay for it.

21402. It is suggested by some of the inspectors that
there is another reason. Mr. Ronaldson says at 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. I do not say that is the general feeling,
but that is the reply which has been given when we have

oken about the matter " 7 — I have never heard such a



21403. You do not agree with that 7 — No. In our case
I never heard a reason of that kind being given.

21404. You want Government inspection once a month 7
— ^Yes, I think generally once a month.

21405. What is this inspection by the men to be for 7
Is that in order to do something which the Government
inspector neglects to do, or in order to satisfy the men 7 —
It is to do both things.

21406. Do you think a Government inspection once
a month is not enough to secure safety 7 — No, a general
insX>^tioti.

21407. An inspection 1^ a Government inspector,
perhaps I ought to say 7 — Do you suggest that should do
away

21408. I am asking, if you got your inspection by the
Government inspector every month, what is the object of
having inspection by the men 7 — If we get a daily in-
spection by the men, it might not be necessary to have so
frequent Government inspections.

21409. Do you suggest that there should be an inspection
by a Government inspector once a month 7 — ^Yes.

21410. What is the object in having, in addition to that,
the right to have an itinerant inspector appointed, or two,
by the men, to go through the different mines in the same
district 7 — IE we had the Government inspectors appointed.



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that would do away greatly with the necessity for having
both things. We would not require so much local pit
inspection if there was systematic Government inspection
once a month.

21411. Is the object of Bule 38 to secure the safety of
the men or to satisfy the men that it is safe 7 — It is to secure
the safety of the men and to satisfy the men also.

21412. Do you not think for that purpose under Rule
38 that the best persons to inspect it would be the people
who are actually working in the mine ? They would know
more about the condition of the mine than anyone else ? —
There is Uie objection which I have mentioned to you, the
difficulty of getting those men to carry out the work.

21413. Subject to our getting rid of this terrible fear
of consequences, do you think that those would be the
best men for the purpose ? — ^Yes.

21414. Do 'you think that there is such a fear that
reprisals might be made that you could not get the men
at the mine to do it ? — ^We have difficulty just now in
getting the men to do it.

21415. Do you not think you could get men working
at another mine to do it ? — ^If they are working at another
mine, information may be sent if they make themselves
obnoxious. The managers may assist each other, and the
workmen may be interfered with at another mine.

21416. You are saying first of all that the owner of the
mine himself would do something serious to the men if
they were in his employ, and if they were working in
anybody's else employ the owner would communicate
with that employer and induce him to make reprisals
on the men ? — No, not the owner, the management.

21417. Well, the management. Have you any reason
for thinking that is so ? — If I were a colliery manager it
would be reasonable to expect it if a workman inspected
the pits under my charge and made a point of going very
minutely into the matter and showing up every point of
danger : I think human nature would be such that I could
not avoid having such feeling.

21418. That is what you would do ?-'Probably.

21419. We will put it that probably the manager might
not do it ? — ^I do not think it is probable.

21420. You propose that there should be what I call
itinerant inspectors appointed, not necessarily men
engaged in practical mining, but people who may at some
time have been down a pit ? — ^That the workmen should
have the right to select practical men who have the quaUfi-
cations specified in the Coal Mines Act without being
limited to selecting men at present working as miners.

21421. Who in your mine would be selected, and who
would select them ? — ^There might be the men's repre-
sentatives.

21422. You would not propose that the men at each
pit should select their own representatives ?— There might
be checkweighers appointed, tor instance.

21423. The idea is that the Miners' Organisation should
appoint some of their officials to make this inspection ? —
No, that the workmen in a mine should appoint somebody
they were satisfied with.

21424. I suppose that your mind is running on check-
weighmen ? — That is one class of workmen at present
in my mind.

21426. The checkweighman is the miners' agent. The
miners' agent would be appointed for this work ? — A
checkweighman is not a miners' agent.

21426. Very frequently I think he is ? — ^He may be.

21427. There are certain things he cannot do as a miners'
agent, but assuming it is a miners' official, it would be an
official of the miners' union 7 — ^That is the only class that
they can be drawn from.

21428. Assume a checkweigher or some official of the
Miners' Organisation. "There are not infrequently questions
arising as to wages and other things between the manage-
ment and the miner 7 — ^Yes.

21429. You have said what you would do as a manager.
I will put this to you ; if you were a manager, would you
think it right that a miner's agent should come down the
pit at any time he thought fit, and make any inspection,
and have every facility afforded to him without any
responsibility to anybody except the Miners' Federation 7
— Not at any time of course, that he wanted, but within
a reasonable time.

21430. How often should he go. Your Bill puts no
restriction upon the time he is to go there. He can go



whenever he likes : " Such examiners may at any time Jjf*". -D.

examine the mine or any part thereof or any old workings Qiltnour.

shafts machinery or apparatus connected therewith and n * u^-

every facility shall be afforded for any such examination ^ • ^'^^^' ^'

by the owner agent and manager of the mine." Do you

think it would be reasonable to impose upon a manager

the obligation to allow the miners' agent at any time he

thought fit to come down that mine under pretence of

coming to examine, when he might have many other

things in his mind 7~Putting it that way, I do not think

that was what was contemplated.

21431. I put it in that way. Is that a f air thiiJ| to ask v^
a manager to agree to 7— No, I should admit that it is not.

21432. What restriction would you put upon it that
he should not use this power which is given him to the
detriment of the employer, or for any purpose except
bona fde examination into the safety of the mine 7 — ^I do
not see how he could use a power of that kind to the
detriment of the owner. If he made an untrue report,
that would be to his own detriment.

21433. I am not talking of a question of safety ; I am
assuming he goes down and there is a dispute on, and. to
put it plainly, that he makes mischief. He is not under
any restriction, as a Government inspector is, not to use
the information he gets. He is not responsible to anybody
or to any Government Department, and he is xmder no
obligation to the manager to refrain from using the in-
formation which he gets. What restriction would you put
upon that 7 — ^We h&ve no experience of that kind in
Lanarkshire. I should say that in 95 per cent, of our
collieries the management at the present moment would
have no objection to the miners' agent going down the pit.

21434. But the 5 per cent, might have a very great
objection to it, and what you are proposing to do is that
he should go there as a matter of right whethBr the manager
likes it or not. Again, I call your attention to the pro-
posal in this Bill that the result of his examination he
must communicate to the workmen, and, if dangerous, to

the inspector. There is no obligation on him to communi- /
oate the result of it to the management 7 — I thin^ that is s/
a mistake ; there should be.

21435. Do you think, that this clause as it is in your Bill*
wants very considerable revising 7 — Yes, I think it would
be open to revising.

21436. And this further, that this power should not be
given unless it is subject to restrictions similar to those of
a Government inspector, that the information should not

be used to the detriment of the employer except on the y
ground of safety 7 — ^It would be unfair that it should be ^
used for any other purpose except safety.

21437. Now I want to ask you about the firemen. I see
Mr. Ronaldson does not agree about these firemen. He
thinks on the whole that they do their work pretty well,
and he was asked if it was necesssary that they should
have certificates, and he said they woidd not be the worse
for having them, but that he did not think it was necessary
to make them compulsory. That was his view about it.
Do you think generally that the firemen do their work
sati^actorily 7 — ^I have said so.

21438. It is only exceptional that they do not do so 7 —
Yes.

21439. The men who do the work satisfactorily now
are not certificated workmen 7 — ^No.

21440. Why do you think those men would be improved
by having a certificate 7 — Because in one individual case
an incompetent man might be employed, and a serious
accident result. We should all agree that we should have
some protection against that.

21441. If a man is employed who is not competent, the
management are responsible 7 — ^Yes.

21442. Is that not a sufficient protection 7 Do not you
think for his own sake a manager would employ a man
at any rate whom he believed to be competent7 — Generally
speaking, I think he would.

21443. It would be very exceptional Do you think
those very exceptional cases justify legislation such as
you have suggested, that no man should be qualified unless
certificated 7 — Only upon the ground that it would give
greater safety.

21444. With reference to the area, that could be altered.
If the areas are too big they could be reduced 7 — Yes.

21445. And further, that the work of the firemen
should be confined to the purpose of inspection. That
could be done without legislation at all ?-— Yes.



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21446. Do you think that in both those respocto improve-
ment might be made ? — Yes, I think if that was done it
would be a great improvement.

21447. Do the coal-getters often go from ooal-getters
to firemen ?— I should think they do. Generally a large
percentage of the firemen have been ooal-getters. The
coal-getter is a young man as a rule, and later on they may
put him on to on-cost work, and then to be a fireman.

21448. When coal-getting becomes too hard work he
becomes a fireman ? — That is very often the case.



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 19 of 177)