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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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then safe, whereas the engine-men have heard shots
going off two or three hours after the men left the

22751. How ai*e they fired P — By a strum or fuse. I
may say the men kindle five or six in some cases, and so
save their having to go back into the smoke again after
each shot.

22752. They cannot examine all the shots immediately
after P — They examine the whole place the next

22753. If they have not examined all the five, or make
a mistake, then one might not have gone off ? — That
would involve their going back in half an hour to see ;
but if they did not go back until the next morning they
then know it hsus eiuier gone off or gone out.

22754. You think it sltould be a rule that if a shot has
not fired it should not be dealt with until the following
shift P — Yes, a lapse of seven or eight hours.

22755. Do you see any objection to firing more than
one shot at a time P — Not necessarily, with practical men.
Supposing the place is so thick with smoke tbat you
couW not see 2 feet before you, if you had to go back
and kindle eveiy shot that would be a very terrible

22756. Are you aware that there are districts where
the height is as great as yours, and probably greater,
and wl^re the system of timbering you recommend is
adopted P — ^I am glad to hear it.

22757. Under the General Rules P - But it is not


22758. The manager is responsible if he does not koep
it safe, and he considers the only way to do it is some*
thing on the lines which you suggest P-^-My reply to that
is that that is a matter of opinion. Whi^ you have a
good manager he will do it, but where you have a man
limiting tiie expense he will not do it-^and it is not
being done just now in shale mines.

22759. (Dr. HaMane.) When there is an inquiry, does
not that matter come up P — It does, but the man is dead
by that time ; there is no change in the law, and it will
simply go on.

22760. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUts.) Has the present system
never been questioned as to whether it is safe or not P — '
Our means just now of rectifying that are very clumsy.
We could not ask the company to do it now ; they are
not boimd by law to do it. An inquiry takes place after
the man is dead ; the evidence then comes out, and it
all depends upon the good sense of the manager and the
employer whether they have a lesson from that inquiry
or not. They are not obliged to do it.

22761. The question is how much detail would you
prescribe. What it requires now is that it should be
kept safe. You do not want to give the management
any discretion as to the means Uiey should adopt, but
you want to say that they should adopt certain means f

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— There is no safety where it is left to everybody's
individual opinion. I want them to adopt the same
rule as with regard to holing.

22762. There is a little discretion there. — Not beyond
6 ft.

22768. You might apply that to almost everything in
the Mines Act ? — I am dealing with cases coming under
my own experience.

22764. (Dr. Haldanc.) The purpose of the new Acci-
dents Inquirv Act is to enable questions like this to be
thoroughly tnreshed out before a jury? — Yes, it is being
done now ; but then these inquiries do not clurnge the
law, unfortunately.

22765. Supposing in the opinion of a jury the method
of working is imsafe, they will return a verdict to that
effect, will they not ? — Yes, if they ai'e asked, they may
do it.

22766. A manager surely cannot go in the face of that ?
-*-They can go in the face of tlmt. They often pay
compensation, but Gompensation does not bring diead
men back to life.

22767. It would be a question of compensation in any
case?— So long as a man can say in his opinion he
thought it was safe, that is sufficient.

22768. (Mr. Batdiffe EUis) General Rule 21 is : " The
roof and sides of every travelling road and working place
shall be made secure,and a person ^all notjunless appointed
for the purpose of exploring or repairing, travel or work
in any such travelling road or working place which is
not 80 made secure." There is no abstract point; it is
a specific obligation, and the manager is b'able if that is
not done. xou want to go further and say they must
adopt a particular way of securing that. Now suppose
the manager does that, and it is not safe, what then ? —
My view is that in 19 cases out of 20 where accidents
occur, they occur from falls of the roofs and sides. You
might think it is safe, and I think it is imsafe.

2276d. You might be mistaken possibly as to your
view of keeping it safe. If the manager adopted your
view he would not be relieved from responsibility if it
was not saJe ? — ^What I affirm is, that il my idea was
carried out the bulk of cases of accidents due ftrom falls
of roof would be prevented. If a man saw a crown was
broken he would know it was not safe; but if now he
looks up 10 ft. he cannot possibly say whether it is safe
or not.

22770. Supposing a manager adopted your view, he
would be responsime if it was wrong and not you P — He
would be responsible ; but if he did what I am suggesting
now he would be relieved from the bidk of the

22771. That may be so or not. You want to prescribe
the way in which it is to be made secure .P— That is so.

22772. Now, as to the timber. Where now is the
timber taken to by the management P — In genei-al oases
the lye, where the drawers get the hutches.

22773. That is the passbye. Where the full tubs are
taken to, and the empty tubs are taken from ? — Yes.

22774. You make a complaint that the timber is not
in suitable lengths ? — My complaint is, that it is not to
be got in the lye always in suitable lengths.

22775. That is an offence against the law P — There is
this to be said about it, when a man has an accident a
quibble arises as to whether there was timber there or

22776. That is a question of fact. If a manager is
summoned for not having timber there, and then if he
says there was timber there, and someone else says there
was not, whoever tries the case has to decide who is
telling the truth ?— Yes.

22777. That is not the point. Where the manager
has to have the timber in sufficient quantity is where
they get the empty hutches P — Yes.

22778. What is the difficulty about thatP— If it was
put where I suggest, the faceman would not have to
blame the drawer— he would go out and get it himself.

22779. It is part of his business, when he takes the
full tub, to bring back the empty tub. What difficulty
is there in putting the timber on the empty tub and
bringing it back to the face P — There is this difficulty :
he cannot bring it if it is not there.

22780. The manager is responsible for that, and I
cannot see what difficulty there would be in his putting
it into the empty tub and bringing it to the face? — The

difficulty is not exactly obvious, but there is a difficulty Mr. John

If a man has a drawer the drawer has to remember to Wilson.

put the wood in of proper length ; whereas, according to

my idea, the Company must have an official in the lye 19 June 1907

who had examined the working face and would know ^— —
there was wood required there, and he would say,
•* There is the wood.

22781. You do not want to have an unnecessary
quantity of timber near the working face — there is no
room for it P — A road the proper width would have room
for the timber.

22782. When the collier sends his drawer he says, " I
want props of such and such a size." The drawer brings
the exact props he wants from the gate-end where
there is a large store of timber. How would you get
over that difficulty P The coUiei* does not know in the
morning exactly the quantity and size of timber he
wants. — I think you are wrong in that about the size.
Crenerally, in 95 cases out oi 100, a faceman does
know to an inch the height of the wood he wants for
the whole of the day. T&ing one day with the other he
would. He would have an adequate supply — ^a liberal

22783. You do not want a store of wood placed outside
your working face ; you want just what you require. Is
it not more convenient for the drawer to go down to the
gate-end and brine in the tub exactly what is the
quantity required, than to have a large quantity of timber
which may not be wanted, and messing up the place P —
I do not agree with you. In stoop and room shale mine
working, a very small place would hold what wood was
wanted for a week. A man will not go more than a
fathom-and-a-half or twofathomsjn one week, and a very
small place would keep sufficient wood for a fortnight.
There are other difficulties. Take, for example, a man
killed to-day in the mine — his drawer may have told
him, " I looked in the lye and there was no wood." By
the time of the inquiry we have the greatest difficulty in
preventing the omcial having people in the witness-box
to say there was wood in the lye on that occasion,
whei-eas we know there was not. Under my system it
would be different.

22784. Would your system make all people truthful P —
The face could be examined at the time of the accident
to see whether there was wood there. The obligation
should be on the company to have the wood there. ,

22785. You would shift the obligation from the drawer
and the collier on to the management ? — Yes, on to the

22786. Do you propose to make any reduction from
the wages for the increased responsibility which you will
put upon the management, and which you are taking from
the collier and drawer P — I think you are joking now.

22787. Indeed I am not. At present they are paid for
doing certain work, which includes taking the wood
there, and they are responsible for it. You want to
relieve them of that responsibility and put it upon the
manager P — My reply to that is this, that that will
adjust itself.

22788. How P*— Under the present system the manage-
ment allow the men to earn certain wages, and when
they find they are paying too high a rate they give them
notice of that, and the end is we find they have to take
something off. That will adjust itself between the
manager and the workmen's agente.

22789. You admit it is a case for adjustment P— I admit
there might be something in it.

22790. That is perliaps aU I ought to ask you to
admit. When you speak about an examination of the
guides, &c., do you mean the ropes P — I mean all the
woodwork, and all the other things in the shaft which
are a fixture. I mean everything about the shaft.

22791. General Rule 20 is : " Where the natural strata
are not safe, every working or pumping shaft shall be
securely- cased, lined or otherwise made secure P** That
pix>vides for the shaft being made secure P — Yes.

22792. Then we have Special Rule 48: "They (the
roadsmen) shall, at least once in twenty-four hours,
examine the state of the extei*nal parts of the
machineiy, the state of the guides and conductors
in the shaft, and the state of the ropes, chains,
and other similar appliances of the mine which
are in actual use below ground, and shall make
a true report of the result of such examination,
and every such report shall be recorded without deky
in a book to be kept at the mine for the purpose, and

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Mr. John shall be signed by the roadsman making the ezamina-
Wilson, tion." Do you want anything more than that, if it is

carried out ? — I want more than that, because you will

13 June 1007 get men to go into the witness-box now to tell you that

they made an examination, whereas they go on the cage

and until they get to the bottom the cage is constancy
in motion, and they have only a naked light to see it

22793. If this requirement is complied with do you
want anything more than that ? — Yes, I do, I want far

22794. Even if this is complied with "At least in
every twenty-four hours examine the state of the
external parts of the machinery, the state of the guides
and conductors in the shaft, and the state of the ropes,
chains, and other similar appliances of the mine which
are in actual use below groimd, and shall make a true
report." — It does not say " properly."

22795. I will assume it means " properly." Do you
want more than that? — I do not want to discuss the

22796. If there is a proper examination made, as
required by the rule, do you want anything more than
that ? — It does not say properly done.

22797. If it is properly done ? — That is a matter of
opinion again.

22798. I want to go by stages. If it is properly
done do you want more than that ? — Yes. If yovf and i
first agree as to what is " properly done," I will agree
with you.

22799. If it is done as you think it ought to be done.
You do not want to put that in the rule, '* If it is done
as Mr. Wilson thinks it should be done " ? — I want that
the cage should stop at every 6 ft. He goes on the
cage and down to the pit bottom and the cage never
stands, and he is just looking round.

22800. There is no way which would satisfy you imless
it is provided that the cajje must be stopped at every
6 ft. r — Yes, and no man m this room coma do it unless
it is done in that way.

22801. If it stopped every foot would it satisfy
you P — That is an extreme statement to make. It would
not be required to stop every foot.

22802. You are not satisfied with this rule unless it
provides how it should be done specifically P — It must
prescribe a specific examination.

22803. You say that youjr method is the best of all P —
I say what I suggest gives one of the conditions of a
sound examination. I do not say it gives all the

22804. With reference to ventilation, how often do
you say the air should be measured P — What I do sav is
that, where the height and the width, and the cubical
area of the air-course is known, an examination of the
current, say twice a week, with ordinary cai-e would
suffice for ascertaining if there was an adequate supply
of air, provided you first define what an adequate
supply is.

22805. Can you define an adequate supply of air P —
I think that is a question for a scientific expert — a man
who has studied the matter thoroughly — ^just as you do
now with school houses and public buildings where a
number of people are working. The space and so on is

22806. You do not feel competent to describe it P —
If I had known you were going to put it in that way I
should certainly nave improved my Jcnowledge before I
came here ; that is not the sort of information I require
every day.

22807. If you had any views it might be useful to give
them to us P — I will be perfectly frank with you ; I do
not pretend to know things I do not know.

22808. There is a provision for the air currents being
examined in General Rule 1 : "In the case of mines
required by this Act to be under the contix)l of a
certified manager the quantity of air in the respective
splits or currents shall at least once every month be
entered in a book to be kept for the pui-pose at the
mine? — I do not think that is a very frequent examina-
tion ; and besides, my point is this, that that does not
provide any guide as to what is to be an adequate supply
of ventilation under the existing conditions.

22809. It says "Shall at least once every month be
measured and entered in a book to be kept for the
purpose at the mine"P — I do not think that is

22810-1. How of ten is it measured in your mineP —
Judging from the reports of the workmen I should say
in many cases it is not once a month, but on that point
I would not like to dogmatise.

22812. {Mr, Enoch Edwards.) Your evidence refers
only to shale mines P — I am prepared to give evidence in
regard to coal.

22813. But now it is given in reference to shale mines
only P — Yes.

22814. You have been asked about measuring the
ventilation twice a week. Do you mean measuring the
amount that goes down the shaft, or measuring the air
abstracted on the working faces P — The working faces.

22815. You say that sometimes they fire five or six
shots at a time ? — Yes.

22816. That would be, I suppose, to cover the whole
width of the face P — Yes.

22817. And they so arrange them that by a longer or
shorter leneth of the fuse a man can go to his pla^ and
clear it. i ou do not work by shifts P — In some cases.

22818. I understood you to say they were fired at the
close of the shift P — Yes, fired at 3 o'clock, and another
shift might come on at 10 o'clock.

22819. So that the tubes are cleared when the other
men confe on P — Yes.

22820. What do you mean by men coming back to
them. Are all the shots fired at the close of tne shift P
— No, there are a sreat many cases in which the men are
firing shots every half -hour in the day.

22821. They occasionally get a missfire P — Yes.

22822. And they may go in too early and the shot ^
off afterwards P — The shot may go off while they are m
the place.

22823. Have you had experience of thatP — Yes, I
should sav every year we have one or two bad cases. I
had a bad case at Ingleston last year where both shots
missed, and the man went back to one and put it right,
and then he went to the second one, and it went off and
kUled him.

22824. (Dr. Haldane.) How long was that after?—
Inside the hour.

22825. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) We have had evidence
already about that. You say in the case of shots fired
during the working of the shift, where two or three are
fired and one happens to miss, there is considerable risk,
and you have had accidents from that ? — Let me correct
this ; it is not the practice amongst our men to fire more
than one shot at a time during the day, but at night
when they are firing shots at 3 o'clock they may tire
four or hye at once, but they do not go back on the

22826. In reference to firing those four or five shots
at the close of the shift, you do not suggest that there
has been any accident to the men going back the next
morning P — Not after seven or eight hours' interval.

22827. You suggest that if this happened in the day
time the man would have to go ? — Yes, and my opinion
is that a man's life is of more importance than his work
— and if it misses fire he should go home. There is no
doubt about that.

22828. In reference to the question of timbeidng, does
the seam run pretty uniform r — I should say there would
not be many faults in it unless it might be one every
100 yards.

22829. There is no great difficulty as to the length of
props required P — Not generally.

22830. Do they sink their props at all in the floor P —
They sink them one or two inches if it is required.

22831. If it is too long that is what they do P— That is
what they do if it is too long.

22832. Is there much complaint about lack of timber P
— Occasionally both in coal and shale.

22833. You say if they are properly timbered you have
a greater guarantee of safety^ than you have if they
are left without timber? — The greatest guarantee
I know — and then it is easy to see under the system I
propose when things are wrong.

22834. When the props are broken you can replace
them ?— Yes.

22835. (Dr. Haldane.) What is it that you think is
specially unsatisfactory about the ventilation P Is it the
prevalence of powder smoke or is it gases in the air ? —

Digitized by




In many cases the ciin'ent is not sufficient, and there is
no sufficient rule. There is just the word " adequate/'
which people look at differently,

22836. What is wrong with the air, is it bad smoke, or
gas, or black damp in it P — That is one fault. In many
cases it arises in this way, that where there is a sufficient
quantity of air going down the sliaft it is not properly
conducted round the mine.

22837. What is wrong with the air at the face ? Is it
the amount of powder smoke or gases arising from
minerals P — You mean its chemical composition at
the face ?

22838. Is it the smoke, or the heat, or the fact that a
light will not hxtm properly that troubles the men ? —
If the air is bad at the face there is an accumulation of
lamp reek, and they see it is in a bad condition ; and
if they are firing shots it becomes in a veiT" bad state,
and in some cases you cannot see 2 ft. before you. If
there was a specitic condition in the law that there must
be so many cubic feet passing per second you could
determine that by measuring the current.

22839. You could easily measure the air into the
split in the mine on the main airway ; but when you get
actually up to the working face it is a very difficidt thing to
examine it with an anemometer. — In the stoop and
room workings they conduct it with a screen-clotn, and
that is brought within 6 ft. or 7 ft. of the working
face. There would be no difficulty in seeing from the
anemometer if there was a good current of air. Men
can see it from the lamp when they hold the lamp out.

22840. You are aware that an anemometer is not a
very delicate instrument ? — Yes.

22841. It takes a fairly good current to move an
anemometer P — That is so, and we want a good current.

22842. {Chair-tnan.) There is a Special Rule about
timbering which seems to apply to Scotland only. The
last Special Rule is : "In addition to a supply of suitable
timber being provided at the workmg place, gate-end,
passbye, siding or similar place (in terms of Genei-al
Rule 22), the miners where the timbering of the working
places is done by them shall keep a sufficient supply of
suitable timber for immediate use at or within ten yards
of every working place where mineral is being gotten by
them, unless where exceptional conditions render this
inconvenient." You say it is very hard that a
workman should be punished for contravention of this
rule, whereas the manager is only bound to provide
timber at the ^te-end, which may be a long way off ? —
Yes, and that is very unfair ; it should be provided at
the face.

22843. It seems in Scotland thei-e can be no objection
raised to that, because you have a Special Rule which
makes it incumbent upon the men, at all events, where
that is not inconvenient to have the timber at the face P
— That is so. There are one oi* two other points I
should like to mention before I conclude, if you will

Hallow me. The firat is this, I think the present
Inspectors are inadequate. We have only half a dozen,
and we think thei-e should be one for every 10,000 men.
The next is under General Rule 38 ; it gives the miners
power to appoint two men to examine once a month. I
think it should be made compulsory on the men to
appoint two men to make the inspection once a month,
and the law should be altered to aUow independent
practical men to make the inspection.

22844. What do you mean by independent practical
men P — A man like myself, or a practical mining check-
weigher, and not dependent upon the employers, who
womd do this work much more thoroughly.

22845. (Mr. Enoch Edwarda,) Would the employers
object to your examining P — Some of them would not,
but the bulk of them would. Further, I think the law

(should be changed so that firemen could be appointed
and dismissed by the Grovemment Inspector, and paid
by the employer. At the present time a fireman is
simply an employe of the employer, and he must
consult the employer when a question takes place;
whereas if he was appointed and dismissed by the
Inspector and paid by the employer he would be a far
more efficient man.

22846. {Chairman.) What you say is that he should
be appointed by the inspector and not by the manager P
— I think the appointment of firemen should rest with
the inspectors.

22847. {Dr. Hcddane.) How are the inspectors to know
his capabilities P — I think the firemen should be subject
to a proper examination, and obtain a certificate to

qualify them for the work. The inspectora would know
the men and have a list of them, and they would know
exactly the kind of men to appoint. They would have
a personal knowledge of most of the men.

22848. {Chairman.) The inspector would have a know-
ledge of them ? — He would ; he would not have an
intimate knowledge, but a very general knowledge, of
most of them. Then, fiu-ther, 1 do not think the Special
Rules should be enforceable unless they are endorsed by
a joint committee representing the employers and the
men. At present it is slipshod. If the manager can
get the Inspector and the Secretary of State to adopt

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 31 of 177)