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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 30 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 30 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

22648. Is there a good supplv of conveniences usually
at the pit'head or about the pit-head 7 — ^There is not

22649. That is not the custom 7 — ^No ; there is usually
a large dirt bin, and as a rule the workmen about the pit-top
go away out to that dirt bin.

22650. {Mr, SmiUie.) Are there any females employed
at the pit bank at your colliery 7 — ^Yes.

22651. What number 7—1 should say about a dozen.

22652. Are there females employed at other collieries
around Eomock and the Hamilton district 7 — I know
there are at Blantyre and Hamilton.

22653. There are hundreds employed altogether within
some miles 7— Yes, round Bothwell.

22654. Do you know whether there are any conveniences Mr, Michael

for the women at the pit banks 7 — ^There is a little wooden
structure at Eamock ; I do not know about other collieries:

22655» Do you think that the employment of women at
the pit bank is a desirable thing from a moral or physical
point of view 7 — It is not.

22656. {Chairman.) Do I understand you to say that to
your knowledge throughout Scotland at present it is the
custom for the management to issue detonators to work-
men 7 — Not the management ; the firemen, who are
specially appointed shot-firers, get the detonators after
going round their district and examining their district
before the workmen descend the pit in the morning. They
have a lamp cabin, and they keep the detonators there in
a box ; and at that lamp station when the fireman is
examining each miner's lamp, he asks them how many
detonators they want, and each is served with the number
he asks for.

22657. The management know that is the practice, I
suppose 7 — ^Yes.

22658. So that the management allow these firemen to
issue detonators to ordinary workfiien, and they allow
those detonators to be handled by ordinary workmen 7

22659. That is a contravention of the rule under the
Explosives Order, which says " Detonators shall be under
the control of the owner, agent, or manager of the mine,
or some persons specially appointed in writing by the
owner, agent, or manager for the purpose, and shall be
issued only to shot-firers or other persons specially author-
ised by the owner, agent, or manager in writing." The
manager would not be justified in allowing him, if he knows
about it, to issue a detonator to an ordinary miner 7 — ^Not
only the manager must know of it, but the mines inspector
must know of it in Scotland.

22660. Do you say the mines inspector must know of it 7 \ \
— ^Yes, he must know it. . ^

22661. It is a strange thing. This order has been in
force ten years, and we have not had a single word from a
mines inspector telling us that it has been infringed. It
seems to me to be a clear infringement. ' I do not know
whether the mines inspectcmi read the order in this way,
that so long as the management give out these detonators
to the authorised person, then the authorised person may
do what he likes. But I cannot read it in that way. U
says " shall be issued only to shot-firers or other persons
specially authorised." The manager might say it was
issued in accordance with that Order to the fireman, who
was the person specially authc^ised, and what he did wi^
it has nothing to do with him. But I should not Uiink
that could be the reading of it. It does not specially say
that no one but shot-fir^s might handle it ; but that surely
would be the corollary, I should think 7 — Well, it is done.

22662. The next rule says ; " Shot-firers and other
authorised persons shall keep all detonators issued to them
until about to be used in a securely locked case or box
separate from any other explosive '^7— That is what the
rule says.

22663. {Mr. Bakliffe EUia,) I understaad from you that
the fireman hands it over to you when he gives you a lamp 7
— ^Yes, in the morning.

22664. That is a long time before the deto^tor is going
to be used 7 — ^Yes.

22665-6. {Chairman,) It seems to be an extraordisxary
thing that this Explosive Order should have been in force
ten years, that the mines inspectors seem to think it is
all right, and that a fireman should be allowed to issue
these detonators at the beginnmg of the work with tho
lamps 7— WeU, it is so.

12 June 1907

12 a

Digitized by





Thursday, 13th June, 1907.
At Edinburgh.


F. L. Davis, Esq.

Enoch Edwabds, Esq., m.p.

Thomab Ratcliffe Ellis, Esq.

Lord MOKKSWELL {Chairman).

John Scott Haldanb, Esq., f.b.s. .y
Robert Smillie, Esq.

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

Mr. John Wilson, called and examined.

Mr John 22668. (Mr, Smtllie.) Are you a miners' Agent ? — Yes.
Wilson, 22669. You are prepared to give evidence to this Com-

mission as representing the Scottish Shale Miners and

13 June 1907 West Lothian Coal Miners ?— That is so, but I give
1- evidence to-day chiefly for the Scottish Shale Miners.

22670. Your practical experience as a miner is confined
chiefly to shale mining ? — Mostly, although as a young
man I have got both coal and iron stone.

22671. You have a considerable amount of shot-firing
in the getting of shale ? — A great deal.

22672. Far more so than in getting coal P — I should say
much more than in the getting of coal.

22673. Are there many accidents arising from shot-
firing P — We have several every year.

22674. Do the workmen generally fire their own
shots P— That is so.

22675. Are there any shale mines which at the present
time are being worked with safety lamps ? — Not to my

22676. There have been explosions of gas in some of
the shale mines P — There have. In some of the districts
there are generally one or two every year.

22677. You propose that the rules with regard to

i shot- firing shoidd be so rearranged that miners should

f\ not go back upon a shot which nad missfired until the

V. following morning P — We discussed that on Saturday

\\ last with the shaJe miners' officials, and they think that is

a wise precaution with respect to shale mines.

22678. I take it the workmen fire their own shots P —
That is so.

22679. Do you know whether or not they are fired
with detonators or with ordinary strum P — They use
strum chiefly.

22680. (Dr. Haldane.) What is the present time limit
for going bock in the case of a misstire shot P — I have
examined into it, and it varies from half an hour to
forty minutes at the present time.

22681. And stUl there are accidents sometimes in
going bock after that time P — That is so. It is dangerous
to go bock in some cases within half an hour, or even an

22682. {Mr. Smtllie). In some cases have shots been
known to go off after an hour? — We were told on
Saturday that men would kindle a shot at 3 o'clock,
and that the engine man two hours after the men have
gone out of the mine has heard sounds which told him
that an explosion took place. Sometimes they just
kindle them and go away and leave them, and the
engine man has heard the sounds of shot-firing two
hours after the men have left the mine.

22683. There are a number of accidents arising in
sinking docks from runaway hutches P — That is so.

22684. A good many of your workings in the shale
district are steep P — That is so

22685. You want some precaution for the workmen
in docks against runaway hutches P — We do.

22686. That is a prolific cause of accidents P — There is
such an accident occasionally. We had one last year.

22687. {Dr. Haldane.) The men are at the bottom of
the dock, and if there is a breakaway they run down
into the dook face P — Yes.

22688. {Mr. SmiUie). There area considerable number
of men working at what we caU the bottom of the dook
face P — Yes.

You think a very simple rule might be applied
to prevent injuries in the event of runaway hutches P —
I do. Our suggestion is twofold : either a strong iron
tree erected below the bottom road, or have open points
so that when the hutches come down to that point they
would run into a sort of cutting which could be made.

22690. You think runaway points would prevent such
accidents P — ^I am certain they would.

22691. Have you been urging that upon managers P —
It would not be strictly true to say that we are on the
point of agitation, but there has been a great deal of
discussion about it. There is no provision in the law
respecting it, and we find there is great difficulty in getting
anything done which is not mentioned in the law if it
involves any expense.

22692. The Scottish Miners have proposed a i^solu-
tion on the subject P- ^


22693. Have you any difficulty about the supply of
prop wood, at the present time, of convenient lengths at
the proper places where it is to be used ? — We have wood
both in shale and coal, and the practice is for the wood to
be kept at the lye ; frequently it is not of the proper
length and when the accident takes place the workman
is blamed for not having proper wood. We think the
right way to meet that would be to change the law
making it compulsorv on the employers to provide the
prop wood at the working face.

22694. The law is that it must be provided of proper
lengths. — It so sta^s, but not necessarily at the face.

22G95. It must be at either the working place, where
the employer is responsible for drawing the material, or
at the point where the workman delivers the material. —
That is so.

22696. You would make it compulsory that in evei-y
case the employer should be bound to have the timber
supplied at the proper place ? — Certainly. Under the
Special Rules at the present time it is incumbent on the
workman to have the timber within 10 yards of the
working face. This is not fair. He cannot have it there
unless he gets it. We think the obligation should be on
the employer to have the prop wood of proper lengths at
the working face.

22697. With regard to the examination of winding
shafts you are aware that must be done now at certain
periods, and, according to the Act, there must be an

Digitized by



examination of the shaft guides, conductors and other
appliances ? — I am aware of that, but unfortunately my
experience is that that examination can take place in a
very perfunctory wav. It can be called an examination
although the pithead man is descending the shaft in the
cage (Uid the cage never stops. I was at an inquiry on
the 20th May of this year, where the evidence showed
that the pitheEidman was in the cage making the
examination and the cage never stopped but went
constantly down; conseauently there was no proper
examination made, with the result that a pipe found its
way into the shaft and the cage came in contact with it.

22698. The usual rule is for the cage to go down
slowly, unless the person examining the shaft signals
for the engine winder to stop P — lea — ^that was so in
this particular case.

22699. You feel that, as a matter of fact, the examina-
tion which takes place at the present time generally is
not a proper examination P — ^From the evidence at that
inquiry I teel it is a sham.

22700. Is not the winding rope examined in the same
way P — I have no doubt at all from the evidence that
that is so.

22701. (Dr. HaJdane,) Are there any cases of the
winding rope breaking P — ^It does not happen so fre-
quently now, but it occasionally happens that the rope
breaks both in the winding sluiit and in the haulage
roads. Of course in shale mines it is very different
from coal mines, because they are chiefly inclined
planes, and the winding rope is a very important
business, and it may be half a mile or a mile in length.
It is a most importaiit thing for the men to know it is
properly examined.

22702. Do you propose, in the case of a winding rope,
either for inclined planes or perpendicular shafts, that
there should be any particular period it should be allowed
to run before renewal P — I could not state what length of
time it would take to wear it out, but I think it ought to
be carefully examined every day before the commence-
ment of the shift to see it is in good working order. In
some cases it might last longer than in others, so that
you could not have a fixed period.

22703. It would depend upon the nature of the
atmosphere perhaps, whether it was wet or dry P — Yes,
and the strain on it.

22704. Have you known cases of broken ropes in
which they have been corroded on the inside, and did
not show any indication of that on the outside P — ^1 could
not say, but we have had cases where it has been obvious
that it was cracked partly before the final break took

22705 (Mr. SmUie.) As to the protection of roof and
stoop sides in hip^h shale workings, are there more
accidents in the high shale workings through falls of
roof and sides than in the ordinary four or five feet
workings P — That is so. The ordinary examination is
not go^ I suggest there should be crowns and ranees
put up every 3 feet in the roof and sides of the travelling
roads. Uuless the crowns are put up reeularly an
ordinary inspection is of no use. A piece of shale falling
on a workman is likely to be very serious.

22706. A small piece of shale falling would be serious
if it fell any distance P — A quarter of a hundredweight
falling but a few feet would kill a man. In some cases
we have seams now going 10 feet, and often there is a
good deal of powder smoke when it is impossible to see
the roof or the stoop 12 feet wide. An ordinary
examination is of no use because a man might think the
thing was safe, whereas if there were crowns placed
every 3 feet from each other, and a prop under them, it
would render it safe.

22707. (Dr, Haldane.) I do not quite understand the
method of working. What is a stoop P — The stoop is
the pillar left in, and the room is the working place.

22708 {Chairman.) Is there any rule with regard to
the distance the crowns must be apart P — There is no
rule. At a working face a man must put in props
every six feet.

22709. Besides the working face, there is no rule
saving what distance the crowns must be apart ? —
Tnere is no rule.

22710. They must be put up every 6 ft. at the working
face ; but do you not keep it up behind you until the
whole thing is allowed to fall down P — That is only a
tree, but I am talking of a crown. The crown going
across would tend to protect the whole roof.

22711. Why should not the shale fall m between the Mr, John
3 ft. space P — ^It is very strong ; it is a good roof and WUaon,

of great height, and pieces fall off the side. By

putting the legs close to the stoop side, there would be 13 June 1907

a guam against a fall from the stoop side, and if you

put the ranees across from crown to crown it would be a

great preventative.

22712. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do they not timber the
roof ? — A timbering is done in a very perfunctory way.
When a fall takes place they send a man to timber it,
but there is no systematic method of putting up crowns
at a ^iven distance — ^it means a little expense, and they
avoid doing it so long as the law does not compel them
to do it. Unfortunately when you do not impose any
exact conditions it becomes a matter of individual
judgment. The roadsman actually stood in the witness

box and said in his opinion he had examined the shaft,
in the case I have called your attention to. If you
leave it to everybody's opinion, it is loosely done.

22713. (Mr. BatcUffe EUU.) You want to prescribe the
way in which it could be kept safe P Just the same as
it is prescribed with respect to hauling.

22714. Do not the timbering rules, adopted a few
years ago, apply to shale mines r— Yes, but they do not
prescribe what I am now suggesting. They require the
manager to prescribe the distance from the place where
the props shall be placed. Unfortunately he is not
down the mine for a week, and it is a difacult job for
an overman to examine all the working places in a
mine — ^I do not think one man could do it— whereas if
the crowns were put in it would not require the present
inspection, because all a man would be required to do
would be to examine the crowns, and if he found them
in good order he would have reason for thinking it was
safe. It should be part of the system of working to
put in the crowns every 3 ft.

22715. In* the drawing roads P — Yes. If they were put
in every 3 ft., and renewed when they were broken, it
would oe part of the system of working, and it could be
easily attended to and rendered safe.

22716. Where you want the crowns put in is in the
miners working place P — Yes. If the law is altered to
make it compulsory the manager has the option of
arranging for its being done.

22717. I want to know where you suggest it should be
done. Is it in the miner's working place where he is
now required to make it safe P — No ; I want it all over
the working roads.

22718. Not the miner's working place P — It will come
to be done there too. I want it there.

22719. You want it to be done in a particular way P —
Yes, one special way.

22720. You are not discussing who is to do it at pre-
sent P — Quite so.

22721. Are you supplied with the necessary timber to
enable you to do it at the present time P — It is not compul-
sory now.

22722. Are you supplied with the timber to enable you
to do it P — Not to carry out this idea.

22723. (Br. Haldane.) You just put in trees P— Yes, at
the working place.

22724. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) The men are not called
upon to put crowns up at the working face ? — If it is a
very bad face they are required to do it.

22725. Would they carry on the same method of timber-
ing 6 ft. from the face as you suggest along the road P —
In some cases if the roof is very Imd they have to do it.
they have to put up crowns to make the thing safe, and
my point is that there is no obligation to do it on the
road sides and stoop sides — it depends only on the
men's casual observation, and that is no good.

22726. What is the gradient in these mines P — Some-
times 1 in 2, 1 in 3, 1 in 4 and 1 in 6. We have them
even more steep than 1 and 2.

22727. (Dr. Haldane.) You say these places are not
kept in a proper condition P — And cannot be imder the
present conditions.

22728. The manager is responsible, is he not, if an
accident happensP— %ut he or his underman say that they
examined the place and found it was safe. But I put it
to you as sensible men, how can a man looking at a place
10 ft. high see by his eye that the whole thing is safe.
If you Sid crowns you could easily detect whether a
place was in a bad condition or not.

Digitized by



Mr. John 22729. (JIfr. BmilHe,) Wliat voti advocate is that it
Wilson. should be made compulfiory in those thick seams to have

' systematic timbering through the method of crowns

13 June 1907 ^^^S P«t "P every 3 ft. ?— Yes.

22730. And you say, altogether outside who has to do
it, whether the workman or the manager, it would pre-
vent a good many accidents which now aiise? — ^I am
absolutely certain of it.

2273X. Have you any idea as to the state of the
ventilation in the shale mines. There is a considei'able
amount of blasting — is it done by means of high explo-
sives or powder ? — Chiefly powder. The ventilation in
many cases is fairly good, but owing to this very heavy
use of explosives, it requires special ventilation to keep the
place clear. The fault X find with the Mines Act is
this : the first rule states that an adequate supply of
ventilation should be ^iven, but it does not define it. I
think it should be obligatory on the Mines Inspector to
see that a definite quantity of air was provided in the
working places. The word " adequate " is very elastic,
and various people interpret it differently. I think they
should say 500 cubic feet, or something of that sort— a
definite quantity — so that anyone examining it, and not
finding that quantity there, would know they were not
doing their duty.

22732. The number of cubic feet would depend upon
the number of men employed, or the number of shots
fired P — According to the working conditions ; but I do
not think the word ** adequate " is of much use.

22733. (Dr. Haldane.) You cannot measure how much
air is going to a working face, for instance, very well ? —

22734. You can measure what is in the main airway ? —
In those stoop and room workings, where you know the
height and the width, I think they can obtain a very
good idea by an instmment as to what is passing every
second. They could see the motion of it.

22735. They would only see that in the main road H—
They would see it in the main air course, and that would
conduct the air round the mine; and they would see
what ventilation was passing along by the motion of the

22736. (Chaimuin.) You suggest there should be
some instrument placed near the working faee which
would show the rate at which the air was going P^What
I suggest is this, that if the Mines Act defined what was
to be kept, under certain conditions, the manager and
overman occasionally — say once a week — ^by an ex-
amination would have a very good idea of what was
passing all along by the stren^h of the current.

22737. You might say that if the current was going at
BO many miles an hour that would show that the ventila-
tion was good ? — Still, the question of cubic feet has
something to do with it. Where the air course is veiy
wide a slower current would take along a much gi*eater
quantity of air.

22738. You then suggest that in an airway of par-
ticular dimensions the current should be so many miles
an hour, and in another airway it should be more, and so
on ? — That is what I mean.

22739. {Mr. Batdiffe EUts.) With reference to the
haulage, I suppose anything that could be devised to
prevent tubs running down an incline, or, if they did
escape, prevent their doing mischief, you would be quite
content to accept P There might be something better
than that which you suggest, might there not ? — I may
state under the present system thev have what is called
a jock, that is an instrument attacned to the end of the
hutches with two prongs attached to it, and whenever a
breakaway takes place, that is supposed to catch in the
sleepers and turn the hutches off the road. We had an
accident arising from that last year - -from the jocks not
being put on — consequently I think if you had runaway
points it would prevent all that.

22740. If there was anything better that could be
devised you would not object to it. You say what is
there at present is not sufficient, and yon want something
to make the mischief as small as poswble if they do run
away P — Yes, the best arrangement that can be got.

22741. You say you liave a good deal of shot-firing in
your mines P — A very great deal,

22742. Do the rules in the Coal Mines Act apply
to the shale mines P — Yes.

22743. Have you anything to suggest beyond what is
provided for in the Act P — The suggestion I make is the
one which Mr. Smilli^ referred to, namely, when a shot

misses the miner should not be allowed to tamper with
that shot until the next day.

22744. You think there should be a fixed time ? —
Yes, and that fixed time should not be during that

22745. That should not be left to his discretion P-^
That is so.

22746. Where the shot is fired is in some man's
working place ? — Always in a working place.

22747. Supposing a shot was fired between the shifts,
and then a working shift comes on after that, is the
man in that plaoe not to do any work the next day 9- —
What I suggest is this : supposing a shot misfired at
three o'clock, then no work should be done in that
place for that day, and by the next morning thera
would be a sufficient lapse of time to have exting^oiabed
any fire in the hole.

29748. That would result in the miner not being able
to work at all on the following day P — Not for that shift.
He would be able to work 3ie following day, because
there would be sufficient time to allow the fuse to go
out. He would have to begin the next morning, and
bore a new hole.

22749. You think it would not be proper to go there
again that shift P — I am certain it would not.

22750. What is the length of time you think a shot
may remain without exploding P< — The men have told me
that they have gone back at the end of an hour in some
cases, and it was quite safe ; but we have had cases of
men going back at the end of an hour and sayiog it mm

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 30 of 177)