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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 3 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 3 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the trams. The practice \b that a shackle is sent into the
mine and until it breaks it is used. I think there should be
some periodical inspection, aod that all the shackles should
be taken out and put through some process to find out
whether any fracture or weakening has taken place.

19733. You think there should be some testing ? — Yes.

19734. Do you know if there is any testing in the case of
railway wagons ? — I do not.

19735. (Mr. SmiUie.) There is a periodical examination,
and if the shackles get worn they are taken off ? — I do not
think there is even that in connection with the shackles in
a colliery ; they are made and sent in, and, until something
happens to them, no one thinks of examining them.

19736. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Are you suggesting that
applies to horse haulage as well as to mechanical haulage, or
more especially to mechanical haulage ? — To both haulages.
There have been a number of accidents with horse haulage
on 6t«ep gradients in ccHisequence of the breaking of the
shackles. A shackle may be damaged ; it is the same
shackle which comes down with the mechanical haulage,
and the same shackle is used to take the trams into the
working places, and. horses have to totke them up steep
gradients.

19737. (Chairman.) Under General Rule 5 "A com-
petent person or competent persons appointed by the
owner, agent, or manager, for the purpose, shall once at
least, in every 24 hours examine the state of the external
parts of the machinery, the state of the guides and con-
ductors in the shafts, and the state of the head-gear, ropes,
chains, and other similar appliances " — which would in-
clude shackles ? — I am afraid it does not. That applies to
the machinery in connection with the shaft itself — that is
the rendering of it, anyhow.

19738. " And other similar appUances of the kind which
are in actual use both above ground and below ground."
You read that in connection with shafts T — That is the
rendering of it.

19739. (Mr. liatcliffe EUis.) The words are " and other
similar appliances of the kind which are in actual use both
above ground and below ground " ? — That might be in-
tended to apply to it.

19740. It is more honoured in the breach than the
observance ? — Honoured absolutely in the breach. I have
worked nearly 20 years in a mine, and I have never known
an inspection of shackles to take place.

19741. (Chairman.) You urge upon the Commission the
necessity of an exhaustive inquiry into the best method of
dealing with coal dust with the view of minimising the
extent of any explosion. We are doing that, I may say.
You say you do not wish to say anything about watering
and other scientific methods, but you suggest that a closed
tram, filled only to the level, would considerab^ reduce the
amount of dust made by the transit of coal We have had
a good deal of evidence about those trams, and, I think, no
one has suggested that it would be praoticable to have
trams with closed tops, although many persons suggested
you should have all four sides closed, so that no dust oould



Mr. T.

Richards^
M.P.

29Mi^907.



Digitized by



Google



6



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE ;



i 1



Mr. T. escape ? — I »ii£rgest th&t the ooal, should not be packed

RichardSt above the level of the tram. The practice in South Wales

M,P. is to pack the coal above the level of the tram altogether.

j^ - — 7 We have the coal piled up a foot, half a yard and two feet

^' *' above the level of the tram.

19742. You think that results in a considerable quantity
of dust being scattered over the haulage road ? — It must
do, I think.

19743. And you think that might be easily avoided with-
out any great expense ? — Yes ; it is only a question of
improvement in the type of tram. They should get a tram
high enough to carry the coal closed sides and end.

19744. And made as high as the coal now goes up ? —
Yes.

19746. You say a number of collieries make no provision
for preventing the dust from the surface screens going down
the shaft !—Yo3.

19746. You suggest such provision should be made ? —
— I do not Imow what the engineering difficulty is about it,
but certainly, the colliery screens, in some instances, are
situate very close to the mouth of the down -cast shaft,
and some of our coals being very dry, clouds of dust
appear every time a tram is tipped, and a big percentage of
that must find its way down the shaft. As I say, I do not
know what the engineering difficulty is, but I am told that
steps are taken at some collieries to prevent this dust going
down.

19747. We have had a good deal of evidence on that
point. One suggestion is that on the opening of new pits
the surface screens should not be placed near the shaft,
but should be some distance off ; and where they
must be near the pit, then some system of collecting the
dust by currents of air, or something of that sort, should be
resorted to, so that it does not find its way down the pit ? —
I think so.

19748. You say that the rule with regard to safety lamps
requires alteration. Would you suggest that the type of
lamp should be tested, say, at headquarters T— I think so.

19749. And the quality of the oil ? — Yes. I may
say I have read several times the Report of the
Commission which reported, I think, in 1886. There
were very many important recommendations by that
Commission which have not been attended to, I
think. If I remember rightly there was this one ; the
Commission reconmiended a permanent investigating
Department, or a department for research with respect to
these matters. I may not be accurately quoting what they
recommended, but they certainly recommended something
which has never been attempted or done, so far as I know,
since that Report was issued ; and we are still going on
allowing each manager to select his own type of lamp.

19750. In some mines they have a type of lamp that
permits the workman to put the flame up and down,
and in some mines that is prohibited. Do you think
there is any danger in a lamp that enables a workman to
put the flame up ? — Yes ; I think it is better that he should
be deprived of any opportunity of interfering with it at all —
if you have a lamp which can as easily serve his purpose.

19751. (Dr. Haldane.) He cannot test for gas then ? —
We say the ordinary workman ought not to test for gas at
alL

19752. {Chair tnan.) That should be restricted to the
persons with first-class certificates ? — No, to the firemen —
those are the men I attach the greatest importance to in a
colliery.

19753. I thought you said they should have a first or
second-class certificate ? — ^Yee, I did ; and they should
have fewer duties to attend to than they have at present,
and be confined to examining for gas and assisting the
workmen.

19754. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Do you suggest a lamp that
does not need trimming 7— Yes, if you can get one, and, I
think, there are some in use at present

19755. But not capable of lasting the whole time the man
works, I tiiink ? — Perhaps not.

19756. A large number trim their own lamps ? — ^Yes,
they have a kind of wire pricker going up through the body
of llie lamp.

19757. {Chairman,) If he likes he can push it up ? — ^Yes,
he can push it up.

19758. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) What is your objection to it T
Is it safety ? This is supposed to be a safety lamp. What
is the objection to putting the flame up a little ? — ^That
is a point which I did not suggest myself.



19759. Do you think there is any danger in it ? — ^Of
course there is the possibility of a workman recklessly
pushing it up and getting a big flame, but I do not know
that there is any very great danger.

19760. {Mr. SmUlie,) A person of very little experience
with gas or safety lamps, and who did not know the danger,
could put up that flame to a point that would render the
lamp dangerous ? — Yes, if he was working in gas. Of
CDiirse a workman immediately finds out if he gets too big
a flame in the lamp because it smokes and the light is
consequently affected.

19761. {Chairman.) You say you would insist upon the
use of safety lamps in all ventilating districts where
inflammable gas is found, and that safety lamps and naked
lights should not be permitted in the same ventilating
dMtrict ? — Yes. The rule at present is that no nakea
light should be used between the points in the ventilating
district where it is necessary to use safety lamps and the
return airway. I think naked lights should not be used at
all in that ventilating district.

19762. You think there ought to be some General Rule
to that effect ? — A General Rule. If it is necessary to use
a safety lamp at all in any separate ventilating district,
then I do not think naked lights sho.ild be permitted in any
portion of that district.

19763. You think that might be made a General Rule to
apply all over the country ? — Yes.

19764. And you say that firemen should report the
presence of gas if found in their inspection during the
working shift. Is that not so now ? — ^No. I understand
he is only compelled to make a report of his inspection
made before the working shift.

19765. Would he not, as a matter of fact, if he found gas
at any time, report it ? — I think not.

19766. He is not obliged to ? — He is not obliged to.

19767. You think he should be obliged to ?— Yes.

19768. That might be made a General Rule ?— Yes, it
might.

19769. You think that proper ambulance appliances,
splints, bandages, stretchers, &c., should be kept in each
district in the mine and not " at the mine." What do you
mean by " in the mine " ? Do you mean down the pit ? —
Yes, down the pit. I see no difficulty ia each large working
district keeping stretchers, bandages, and splints, which
might not only considerably relieve an injured workman
immediately, but might in some instances save life,
instead of having to send out to the top of the
pit as they have at present. The general inter-
pretation put upon General Rule 34 is that, if they
keep in the colliery office at the top of the shaft, two
miles away often from where the workman might be
injured, sufficient splints, bandages, and stretchers, they
have complied with the Rule. The expense would not be
great, and the opportunity of relieving suffering, if not
saving life, by having the appliances immediately at hand,
I think, is very important indeed.

19770. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) You mean just keep them
stored at the bottom of the pit ? — Some place in the pit.
I do not think there would he any difficulty in keeping a
suitable iron box in each district in the pit.

19771. {Chairman.) The words are " at the mine." The
mine might include a number of pits ? — It might, but I
think the interpretation put is that they must have these
appliances at the office at the top of each pit.

19772. You would say at the bottom of each pit instead
of at the top T — Yes. I do not mean at the bottom of the
shaft, because that is only a matter of a few hundred yards
from the top, and not much saving of time ; I mean actually
near the working face — near at hand.

19773. {Mr. Eatcliffe EUis.) The Rule requires that they
should be ready for immediate use ? — ^Yes, but that is the
interpretation. Speaking as an ambulance medallist, a
man, by having proper splints or appliances to make a
proper tourniquet, might save another man's life.

19774. They ought to be required to keep them in some
place where they could be kept in order ? — Yes, ^at is
an important point.

19775. (Chairman.) It would be rather a trap if they were
kept in places where they were apt to be neglected and
people said, ** Here they are close by and we can get at them
at any time," but when the necessity arose tiiey found
they were not in proper working order 7 — I would relive
the fireman of some duties, but I think there would be no
difficulty in putting this duty upon him : that he should
examine these every day in the same way as he would
examine his district.



Digitized by



Google



ROYAL COMMISSION ON MINES.



10776. You say that provision should be made for dealing
with an explosion at every colliery, and every appliance
possible to assist rescue work kept in readiness, and work-
men trained for the purpose. We are all agreed there, but
I do not know whether you have any detailed views you
would like to put before us upon that ? — No, I have not,
other than this : I want to say that I believe the workmen
generally now are beginning to feel that they have been
criminally neglected in this respect. You get a big explo-
sion, as we have had in South Wales, where a couple of
hundred men have been killed ; there is consternation
at the colliery because no one has any instructions
at all what to do in an emergency. There are no
appliances of any kind ; that is a simple precaution
which might have prevented some of the men losing
their lives who have gone in immediately after an
explosion. I am not prepared to say what appliances
there are which might be used at present, but I
do desire to say this, that all these kind of mechanical
arrangements are only perfected by experiments. Take
the case of the appliances which we have for dealing with
fires in a large town. What would happen if that took
place which alwayB takes place in the case of miners where
there is no apparatus and where they say," There is'nothing
we know of that can be of any service." That is the atti-
tude which has been taken up.

19777. Attention is being seriously called to this
matter of rescue appliances ? — I hope this Commission will
treat it as one of the most important features that they
should give attention to. I believe, to start with, that it
would he possible to train all the men working at the top
of a large colliery. If you have a large place of entertain-
ment, generally the attendants are trained as to what they
are to do in the case of a fire. Here you have a mine with,
say, a couple of thousand men going down every day and
with the possibility of an explosion, but there is not a word
of instruction of any kind, either verbal or printed, or
anything else, given to anyone as to what they are to do if
an explosion takes place.

19778-9. You think there might be lectures given ? —
Yes, and I think that every one of the large number of men
employed at the top of the colliery — the banker, the
engineman, the smiths and carpenters, and other practical
men who are there — might all be trained so as to know his
duty when an explosion takes place. I feel very strongly
about this, I must say. I have said so publicly on platforms,
and I have said so in Parliament. I think the mining
population has been criminally neglected, and that abso-
lutely nothing'has been done. Take the collieries we have
recently had explosions at. At one, a recent big explosion,
I put it to the colliery proprietor himself , " Has there been
anything done at vour colliery which was not done before
the explosion with respect to teaching men at the top of
the pit what to do in case another explosion took place ? "
and he had to admit that when the workmen went in they
forgot about it — everybody forgets about it until another
explosion takes place. 1 was at the top of a colliery within
half an hour after an explosion took place, and the manager,
poor fellow, of course he had rushed down ; we have no
complaint to make in that respect. The manager and the
officials generally risk their lives instantaneously, and it is
a reckless risk of life, and often a useless risk of life. A
large number of practical people were there ready to go
down to see whether it was possible to save life or not, but
there was no one at the top of the colliery to take charge.
The manager had rushed down the pit, and nobody else was
allowed to go, and for two hours nobody was allowed to go
down the colliery to see whether anyone might be saved or
not. Personally, I feel very strongly if a beginning was
made, no matter how simple it was, it would be a good
thing, and by experience we should gain in this matter, as
we have gained in other matters. Of course, if people
dealt with torpedoes, for instance, or submarine boats, in
the same manner as we are 'dealing with appliances for
entering a mine after an explosion, we should have had no
submarine boats. It is because they hung on to the
faintest hope of being able to do this, and experimented
time after tune, that ultimately they were able to produce
a boat to go down below the surface of the water ; and I
say that is the attitude we should take up with tiiis im-
portant industry and the great risk to life which is caused
by these explosions. I do not wish to say any more about
it.

19780. We have been goiog into this question of resoae
apparatus very carefully T — ^What I consider equally
important is that pomething should be done to tf^ach
all conoemed what they are to do if an explosion
takes place, because they are responsible at the top of the
colliery.



19781. With regard to investigation into mine accidents, Mr. T.
you do not consider the present system of cortmers* enquiries Richards,
satisfactory, and in all cases of serious accidents you think M.P,
that enquu-y should be supplemented by the investigation ^ ' — r^^_
authorised under Section 45 of the Act, which says that ^^ Jiay»^^ 7.
where it appears that a formal investigation of any ex-
plosion or accident is expedient, the Secretary of State may

direct such investigation to be held. Do you suggest that
the Secretary of State should have it in his power either to
grant or to veto a second enquiry, or do you think that there
ought to be some power given to a certain number of
men to insist upon a further investigation irrespective of
the veto of the Home Secretary T — Yes, I do.

19782. If, for instance, a certain number of workmen in
a mine were to demand further investigation, you think
that investigation should be granted, as a matter of right ?
— Even preferable to that, I think, if a number of workmen
are killed, as a matter of course, this investigation should
take place.

19783. Does not the coroner's enquiry generally bring
out all the facts of the case ? — No, I thmk not — well, the
facte of the case, possibly, as attendant upon that particular
accident, but there are often cases when questicms are not
permitted by the coroner because he does not see the
relevancy to that particular accident which practical men
can see, and which, we think, would be permitted under
some other court.

19784. Have you yourself had any experience of cor-
oners* enquiries ? — Yes.

19785. Have you attended many ? — I have attended a
large number.

19786. Your opinion is that in some of those cases, at all
events, some fresh facts might have been elicited by a
second enquiry ? — Yes, and in some of those cases, in my
opinion — of course, I may be wrong — I have felt the coroner
has not permitted the questions to be put that ought to
have been put.

19787. You say that from your own experience ? — Yes,
and I think, with regard to the enquiries we have had in
two recent explosions, to name two, the Elba and the
Genwen — at Gen wen the manager has since been prose-
cuted by the Home Office, I understand, and has been fined
£20 for one of the most appalling neglects of duty it is
possible for a colliery manager to be guilty of. T leave that
to the Commission to see from the evidence at the coroner's
enquiry even.

19788. (Mr, F. L, Davie,) What was the breach of duty ?
— There were numbers of them. I do not remember them
now ; I have the particulars here, but I thought you might
see them for yourself.

19789. {Chairman.) How would the case have been
strengthened against him by further enquiry ? You had
this enquiry which brought out that he had been guilty of
neglect of duty. Supposing that there had been a further
enquiry, what more would you have got out in that case ?
— I think the Court should have some power of suspending
his certificate.

19790. That is another matter ? — Here he has been fined
£20, and he continues to be a manager.

19791. That has nothing to do with the second enquiry.
The point at issue is whether a second enquiry is necessary
in order to ehcit useful facts which are not elicited at the
coroner's inquest ? — Perhaps not, in that particular case.

19792. Then you proceed to give an instance which it
seems to me does not bear out your contention. The in-
stance you give is where a manager was convicted of a
very grave oflfeooe. It does not appear, from that mstonoe
you give, that on^ further foots would have been elioited
by a second enquiry. You acknowledge the first enquiiy
did bring out the circumstance that he was guilty of a
neglect of duty ? — No doubt in that case, it did.

19793. But you stiU adhere to your opinion, you do con-
sider that at coroners' inquests the facts are not invariably
fuUy investigated, and that in some cases, at aU events, and
you say, in all cases where a very serious accident occurs, it
would be desirable to have a second enquiry under which a
more complete investigation oould take place ? — I do.

19794. You say that you know nothing of ankylostomi-
asis in South Wales or Monmouthshire, but that you think
there is room for improvement in the sanitary condition of
our mines in the interest of the general health of the miners ?
—Yes.

19796. What have you to say with regard to that ?— I
think everybody is allowed to go largely as they please with
respect to this matter ,^aid, I think, that some instructions



Digitized by



Google .



8



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



I do not think there



iff. T, may be issued to the miners generally.
Richards, is very much cause for complaint.

^•^' \/ 19796. The misers, themselves, would rather resent any
29 May lii)r^®^ elaborate system of sanitary conveniences under -
— i_y\ ground ? — I am afraid they would.

19797. Tou are afraid they would not make use of them ?
—Yes.

19798. You do not lay very much stress on it ? — No.

19799. {Mr, Cunynghame.) I suppose you would not
propose that there should be an enquiry in every case, or
nearly every case, where a coroner^s inquest had been held
already. I will put it this way. What are the fatal
aocidents per annum, 700 or 800 ? — About 1,100.

19800. It would not be necessary to hold a separate
enquiry in the vast nuvjority of those accidents, for
instance, where a man is killed by the improper setting of
a piece of timber, or something of that sort. You would
admit that the whole thins; would be brought out before
the coroner's jury with the inspector to help him, and all
parties represented ? — Perhaps it is the explosions more
especially, that I had in my mind. I think, no matter
how many were killed, whether they were a few or many,
that we should have, after an explosion, a special enquiry.

19801. Are vou acquainted with any case, except one
that occurred last year, where a subsequent enquiry, after
the coroner's inquest, would have really thrown any
additional light on the facts ? Can you name any case
which you have in your mind ? The one last year
resulted in the appointment of this very Commission, I
mean the one in June ? — Yes.

19802. Apart from that, do you remember any case ? —
There was one that we felt very strongly about at the time,
and I think we approached the Home Office by deputation,
met the Home Secretary, and pleaded for an enquiry. I
have not the particulars fresh in my memory at the
moment, but I think it is the Abertysswg, the MacLaren
Pit in the Rhymney Valley.

19803. I should have liked to have had particulars of
that. — I ought to say perhaps one of the Commissioners,
Mr. Smillie, was present at that enquiry, and would be able
to give the Commission more particulars than I can remem-
ber at the moment.

19804. If you were to give a right to a subsequent enquiry
wherever a man had been killed, it would often be asked for
by people who would say, " Let us have the enquiry ; we
have not to pay for any part of it, and we may as weU have
it and see what will come of it." Do you not think it would
lead to an amount of useless expense ? The revenue of the
country is not illimitable, and tiiese enquiries, if hold by
efficient men, cost a great deal of money before they are
done with. — ^If they ultimately result in lessening the
number of accidents it would be money well spent.

19805. I quite agree, but you are aware that in these
cases we have the Report of a barrister who is sent down
specially to look into the case, and also the Report of an



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 3 of 177)