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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 35 of 177)
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to make an examination of all the collieries in Fifeshire
twice a year P — The examination they could make under
circumstances such as that would be very much superior
to what is in practice now.

23266. It would be better than the present ?— Yes,
yery much better.

23267. I am afraid it would not enable them to make
the examinations which you want made. With regard
to the inspection under Rule 38, you are aware that the
men have a right to appoint two persons who are
practical miners to make an inspection. The onlr
a Iteration you think that is necessary in this rule is
" are or have been practical miners " P — Tes.

23268. You want the men to have the right to
appoint x>eople who have been practical working miners,
and who at the moment are not employed P — Yes.

23269. You think that that would tend to this rule
being more largely taken advantage of ? — Yes.

23270. And would make the rule more effective. The
men could appoint men who would be independent of
the employer, such as the check-weighers P — Or the
Miners' Union officials.

23271. Whether or not the fear is well founded, there
is a fear at the present time on the part of the workmen
if they make this examination and give an adverse report
that they will be unfairly treated P — Yes.

23272. It would be very difficult to prove that there is
anything in that P — It would be very difficult, although
I have no hesitation in saying that the fear exists and
is the chief cause why it is not taken advantage of.

23273. Do you think that there should be anv change
in the position of the colliery firemen, and that thev
should nold certificates of competency P — Yes, I think
they should.

23274. Do you think that the best class of man is
elected at the present time for those positions P — No.

23275. What wages do they pay the firemen in Fife-
shire P — There are various wages paid. Within my
knowledge they are being paid &om as low as 5s. 3^0.
per shift to 6s. 9d. per shift.

23276. Are they likely to get a good, competent,
intelligent man for 5s. 3id. per shift P — It is absurd to
expect it, when the average wage in the county is some-
where in the region of 78. a day for faoemen.

23277. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do those figures include
your percentages P — Yes.

23278. {Mr. SmiUte.) We may take it that there are
some excellent men employed as firemen in Fife P — Yes.

23279. It would be an additional security for a good
man if there was an examination for competency and
certificates granted P — Yes.

23280. It would not be a hardship on the employers
other than it might force them to pay a higher wage
than at present P — Undoubtedly it would make for

23281. Even in the interests of the employers them-
selves, an efficient man might be of greater service than
a non-efficient man P — Yes.

23282. Doyou consider that the fireman is the most
important omcial about the colliery so far as the safety
of the mine is concerned P — ^Yes.

23283. Is there any complaint from the employers or
the mines inspectors so far as your cotinty is concerned
as to want of discipline amongst the workmen P Are
they a wild class of people P — ^No.

23284. You have no foreigners down there P — We have
a few.

23285. Not very many P — Very few.

23286. How is it possible that you can have discipline
in your pits if you have a large number of foreini
workmen who are not amenable to discipline P Is the
Fife miner amenable to discipline P — Yes, but I cannot

can be amenable to
a knowledge of the

Mr. WUUam

13 June 1907

see how the foreign workmen
discipline when they have not
EngHsh language.

23287. You have not many, and you do not know P —
Any we have know a sufficient amount of English to
make themselves understood.

23288. They have probably drifted from Lanarkshire
into your direction P — Possibly.

23289. Have you many prosecutions for breaches of
the Special Rules or Goal Mines Regulation Act P — We
have had a few within recent times : more than used to
obtain within the last two or three years.

23290. As your mines develop and become more
dangerous it will be more necessary to them because
there are more rules to observe? — ^Yee.

23291. You do not object to prosecutions where
miners have been guilty of a serious breach of the Coal
Mines Regulation Act P — No.

23292. Your union does not defend persons charged
with a breach of the Coal Mines Regulation Act P — No, I
unless we have good reason for believing that the parties \
charged have not been guilty of an alleged breach of /
rule. ^

23293. You never think of defending a person whom
you thought was guilty P — No, the very opposite, we have
advised them to go and plead guilty.

23294. Do you do youi* best as an official of a trade
union to encourage the men to carry out the rules pro-
vided for their safety P — Yes.

23295. Do you think it would improve discipline to
have a system of fines established so that workmen
might be fined Is., 5s., or £1 by arran^ment with the
manager rather than be prosecuted? — I am entirely
against that — I mean against the employer having any
such power. I do not think that would lead to efficiency
or in any way create an enforcement of discipline.

23296. Do you think that prosecution where an
offence has been committed is the most effective way of
preventing such a thing taking place a^ain P — Yes. '^

23297. What do you mean by a systematic method of *r\-^^^
timbering being rigidly enforced by competent men P I ^^^
Do you mean that the men at the face should be
compelled to timber in a certain way, or that the
employer should employ some person to do the timber-
ing P — ^An effective system of timbering could be done
in either of the two ways that you have suggested, but
personally I think that the men at the working face
should do the timbering, to(l"tEat the" working face
shoidd be in charge of an experienced miner.

23298. And be under the supervision of a competent
person whose duty it was to see that it was done. Have
you any particuLEu* systematic method of timbering
which you would suggest, such as putting up props at a
certain distance, 2 ft., 3 ft., or 4 ft. from each other. Is
there any other method of timbering you can suggest
which would prevent accidents from fsJls P — Where the
men are digging the coal P

23299. Yes, either longwall or stoop and room. —
Where the men are cutting the coal with a pick I would
suggest that the system that should be adopted there
womd be in accordance with that provided for in the
additional Special Rules. Where the coal is being cut
by machinery, I mean by a coal cutter, I would suggest
that a special method should be adopted there, that
method being straps with a hole needled in the coal and
one end put there and a prop on the other end. When the
machine had cut the line oi face there could be a second
prop put on the in-end of the strap. This is what I
wot^d look upen as an effective system of timbering
where the coal is cut by machinery.

23300. There has been a large development in coal-
cutting machinery in Scottish mines P — i es.

23301. Does that apply to Fife too P— Yes.

23302. Is it likely to be much greater in the future P
— It is likely to be gjreater in the future.

23303. So that our accidents from falls at the coal
face will in the future be largely accidents at machine
wall faces ? — Yes.

23304. Have you experience of machine-cutting your-
self P — ^No, I have no personal experience.

23305. Have you been at the coal face when the
machine was cutting ? — I have been there and examined
the machine, and the face, and the operations.

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Mr, WilUain 23306. Are you awai-e that they cannot hear the roof
Adamsan. working. Supposing it is dangerous you cannot hear

any sounds of roof working where the machine is

13 June 1907 cutting ? — That is why I propose this special method
" of timbering.

23307. You think, in order to prevent accidents at
the face, that method would require to be adopted ? — It
is absolutely necessary if safety is to be preserved.

23308. At the face where men are cutting and getting
coal do you think the present system of having a prop

according to the rule ? — At such distances as the

management thinks fit, and is provided for in the
additional special rules.

23309. That might be done by the men themselves ?
— Yes, in fact I favour the men themselves doing it.

23310. They are supposed to do it, but they do not
always do it at the present time ? — They are supposed to
do it at the present time.

23311. As a matter of fact do you know that it is not
always done T — Yes.

23312. Many accidents arise from it not being done ?
— Some accidents, at least.

23313. I think you fear that the number of accidents
will increase at the machine walls in futiu*e as the
development goes on P — Yes.

23314. This method which you propose seems to be
effective and should be compulsory ? — Yes.

23315. A strap should be put across P — ^Yes.

23316. Over 4 ft. or 3 ft. P— I should leave a power in
the hands of the management to fix the distances that
they considered necessary. Just as in the other case
where the coal is being got by the men with a pick.

23317. One end of the strap would be over the coal,
and the other end would be supported by a prop
before the machine came along P — One end oif it would
be needled into the coal and the other end supported by
a prop.

23318. And when the machine passed you would put
another prop to the inside end, because the coal would
be coming down P — Yes.

23319. That would be your method of protecting
the workmen at machine walls P — Yes.

23S20. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) By machine cutting do
you mean holing under ? — Yes.

23321. You are not cutting the face but holing ? — Yes.

23322. {Mr. Bmillie.) Some of the machines undercut
to the extent of 3 ft. in P— ^ome, generally 4 ft.

23323. The cuts are 3 to 6 ft. P— Yes, in addition
to that I would suggest that the inspection districts
under the chaj*ge of m^men should be made very much
smaller than uiey are at present, so that the firemen
could have a closer supervision of the men and compel
the propping td be done in a moi'e efiicient way than it
is done at present.

23324. Do you think that the fireman should devote a
large paii of his time to ensure that this system of
systematic timbering is being canied out ? — Yes, I
think that the whole of his eight hours, if eight hours
is to be his shift, ought to oe taken up in making
inspections ; he ought to be going round the whole of
his time. I do not think that it suould be possible for
a manager to take away firemen to do other duties
that can be done by the ordinary shift men. Inspection,
in my opinion, means inspection all the time a man is
on duty.

23325. His whole time should be devoted to looking
after safety — ^ventilation, timbering, and genenu
inspection of places ? — Yes.

23326. Is his time taken up by anything else just
now P — Yes.

23327. What do they have to do in addition P— They
have to do aU classes of oncost work, that is, day's wage

23328. Bedding falls, laving roads, looking after
getting out the trams and tubs, and pony driving ? — Yes.

23329. Is the larger half of their shift taken up with
looking after this P — Quite one-half.

23330. That generally applies in Fife P — Yes, in a lai-ge
number of collieries.

23331. You say that you think their districts should
be made much less than they are, and that their whole
time should be devoted to looking after the workmen
lather than to the genex-al management of the colliery P


23332. Would you be favourable to any precautions
being enforced by Act of Parliament, which it was
admitted might lead to safety so far as haulage accidents
are concerned P — Yes.

23333. You think that anything which is admitted
to be a precaution against accidents, or a preventive of
accidents, should be included in the law P — Yes.

23334. So far as haulage inclined planes and all other
kinds of mechanical liaulage are concerned P — Yes.

23335. Are you troubled in Fife with underground
fires more than in any other place P — More than in any
other part of Scotland, so far as I know.

23336. I will leave that to Dr. Haldane to deal with.
You say that safety lamps ought to be introduced into

all mines where the Grovemment inspector thinks that /
there is danger of an explosion. That would mean >/
where the Government inspector is of opinion that
safety lamps should be introduced because of danger
from firedamp, that he should have the power to enforce
their going in ? — Yes.

23337. He has not that power at the present time P —

23338. Do YOU think it would be safe and wise to
leave that in his hands P — Yes.

23339. You are satisfied that the Fatal Accident
Inquiry (Scotland) Act has conferred sufficient power on
us, so far as inquiries are concerned. It is reasonably
satisfactory P — Yes, so far as om* experience goes. I
mar say our experience is short as yet, but at present it
is mirly satisfactory.

23340. We have considerable power imder that Act,
and genei-ally that inquiry is satisfactory to us P — Yes.

23341. There might be a serious explosion or accident
which would justify us in asking for a second inquiry P —
t think that we should have that power in special cases
such as you mention.

233(2. That is one thing which is claimed by our
Bill P— Yes, that is so.

23343. {Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) ^ understand that you
ceased to work in the mine four years ago ? — Yes.

23344. The working in Fife is likely to be extensive in
future P — Yes.

23345. And likely to be carried on under conditions of
greater danger ? — Yes.

23346. You think that more care would be reqiured
on the part of the manager and the officials, and, I
suppose, you also think that more care would be I'equii'ed
on the part of the men P — Yes.

23347. Are you doing anything in the way of instruct-
ing the men as to this, that they should take more care
under the new conditions P — Do you mean personally,
or the association that I represent?

23348. I mean personally. — Yes. I take advantage of
any opportunity tnat comes in my way to impress that
upon the men.

23349. What opportunities are thei-e you take advan-
tatre of P — Mainly m convereation with the men.

23350. Do you attend many meetings and give many
addresses P — I attend a few meetings.

23351. At these public meetings do you impress that
upon the men P — 1 have not done much as yet at the
public meetings.

23352. But you intend to do so P — I think that may
be pai-t of the duty of the leaders of the men in the

23353. You think tliat they should do that— take
opportunities when they give addi-esses to the men, of
impressing upon them the necessity of precaution and
care in their work. Gk)vemment inspection, you think,
should be once in every six months at each mine P —

23354. Will you tell me what you mean exactly by an
inspection P — ^I mean that every part of the mine where
men are working ought to be inspected when the
Government inspector comes along.

23355. Supposing the Government inspector knows
the pit, do you think he could form a sufficient opinion
to satisfy your views as to the entire condition of the pit
by sampling a specimen, inspecting a part, and seeing
the conditions under which it was worked. Do you think
that he would )ie justified in assuming safety was pro-
vided for thi-oughout the whole pit P — I do not think
that would satisfy me. I think that the whole of the
mines ought to be systematically inspected,

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23356. Do you think that two inepeotorg in Fife
whero there are over 20,000 miners could make a
sufficient inspection to satisfy you? — The inspection
would be very much superior to what it is now,

23857. To satisfy you that would mean one to each
10,000 men P— Yes.

23358. You consider that would he sufficient inspection
in order to secure safety ? — I think it would go a long
way to secure safety anyway. Of course experience
would teach whether they were able to cover the
ground in an effective way, if my suggestion was given
effect to.

23359. Supposing they could cover the ground, and
each colliery was inspected as much as you consider
necessary, once in six months, as far as inspection is
concerned that would satisfy you in the direction of
securing safety? — Experience would show whether it
would be entirely satisfactory or not. ^

23360. Your present opinion is that is all that you
woidd require, so far as inspection is concerned ? — Yes.

28861. You do not seem to think that these firemen
who are engaged are competent for their work. Do you
think that the possession of a certificate would improve
their competency ? — I think so.

23362. What certificate is in vour mind which they
should possess ? — ^I think that the cei-titicate would be
under rules made by the Secretary of State.

23363. It would be a Home Office examination? —

23364>. Would a second-class certificate, now, meet
your views P — I think it would ; but I think the examina-
tion ought to include ambulance training also for the

23365. I daresay you are aware in some cases, although
they do not make it a necessarr qualification for a
certificate, they say it is desirable that a certificate
should be obtained P — I am aware of that, but I think
it ought to be one of the necessary quaUficationB and
parts of the examination.

23366. yor a second-class certificate ? Do you approve
of the suggestion which has been made that when once
the fireman is appointed the management should not be

^entitled to discharge him? — I think that at least the
attention of the Government inspector should be drawn
[ before the fireman is dischai^ged.

23367. There is no other official about a colliery who
is in that position now ? — I look upon the fireman as
being the most important official.

23368. There is no other official in that position? —

23369. Would you make the fireman the only man
who should not oe removed at the will of the manage-
ment ?— Yes, as far as I see.

23370. What is the manager to do before he can
remove him ? — I would suggest that he should report
the matter to the Government inspector, and if, in
the opinion of the Government inspector, there was
not sufficient i*eujBon for dismissal, that the Government
inspector should have the power to ask the manager
to retain the services of the fireman.

23371. In point of fact, that he should not be en-
titled to dismiss him without the sanction of the
Government inspector P — That is so.

23372. If the inspector said, "I do not approve of
your dismissing tliis man," and the result of his being
retained is an accident, would you relieve the manager
of the responsibility of that accident ? — ^If that method
was in operation the fireman would be more under the
charge of the Government inspector for the district;

23373. 1 should like you to answer the other question?-^
I would not be entirely prepared to relieve the
manager of his responsibility.

23374. Do you think it would be right that the control
of the officials should be taken from the manager and
placed \xpon the Government inspector, and still that the
manager should be held responsible P — I do not mean
that the entire control should be taken from the

23375. You mean the entire control as to whether he
should discharge him or not ? — What I said, of course,
was, that the matter ought to be reported to the Govern-
ment inspector, and that the Government injspector
should be made aware of all the circumstances, and he
and the manager could talk that over.

13 June 1907


23376. I think your scheme must go further than that Mr,*^ William
to be of any use. I understood you to say unless the Adamson,
Government inspector approved of it he should not be
entitled to dismiss him. Supposing the Government
inspector says, " I do not approve of your discharging
that man," and his retention is the cause of an accident,
is the manager still to remain responsible for that
accident, or the Government inspector, or who is to be
responsible ? — I would not be prepared to say that the
manager should be entirely relieved of his responsibility.

23377. Do you think it fair upon the manager that he
should be put into that position? — Of course I am
giving you a suggestion which, in my opinion, would lead
to greater safety than at present prevails.

23378. I want you to tell me, do you think it is fair
that a manager should be placed in that position ? — I
think it is fau- if it leads to greater safety.

23379. Do you think any manager who is worth his
salt would accept a position of that sort? — I may
say frankly that I have talked that matter over with
some managers in my county, one of whom was
Quite favourable to the fireman being put more under
the control of the inspector tlian they are at present.

23380. Have you found any manager who would accept
the position I have suggested to you who would like to
be put under such a scheme, to be held responsible and
still have no control over the fireman ? — ^He would still
have a certain amount of control.

23381. He has practically none. He cannot discharge .
him without the sanction of the Gk)vemment inspector ; f
have you found a manager who would consent to remain \
responsible and give the Government inspector control i v/
over his fireman P — Of course, that is a question which I I
have not asked them.

23382. It wants a little more consideration, does it not ?
With regard to inspection under Rule 38, as far as safety
can begot byj inspection, Iiknow what satisfies you. You
want General Rule 38 extended so that persons who are
permitted now to inspect should do so as a matter of
right?— Yea.

23383. Am I right in supposing that this inspection
under Rule 38 is intended to satisfy the men of the
safety of the mine ? — Yes.

23384. The gentleman who gave evidence before you,
Mr. Brown, said he was the sort of man that ought to be
eligible to make an inspection. That gentleman had not
worked in a pit for 21 years — ^perhaps it was not Mr.
Brown : it was Mr. Wikon, I think. Do you think an
examination by such a man would be more likely to
satisfy the men of the safety of the pit than an ex-
amination by two of their own number working in
the pit — two of their mates ? Put out of your
mind for the moment the fear of reprisals. Taking it
merely as a question of satisfying the men, do jrou think
they would be more satisfied with an examination of two
of their colleagues who were undertaking the danger — If
there was danger — than by a gentleman whose experience
underground is 21 yeai's old ? — If the alteration in the
law was such as 1 have suggested, what would be the
more likely to happen would be that the powerful associ-
ations at least might see their way to take two men from
the working face now and appoint those men to make
inspections on behalf of the workmen.

23385. That is not an answer to my question. We
wiU consider after as to the men being afraid, but put
that aside for the moment. With the object of satisfying
the men that the place is safe would not they be more
likely to be satisfied with a report from two men
who were to be subject to the danger (if aiiy) them-
selves, than that of a man entirely out oi danger
and whose exi^erience below was 21 years old ? — Very
much would depend upon if that person was keeping
himself in close touch with the imderground work#
ings. I may say, speaking for myself, I have been
four years out oi the pit, engaged at other work apart
from being a miner, but I frequently, in the discharge
of my duties, go underground— in fact I was there

23386. If you say you do not know, I vnll not pursue
it any further. This is the state of things. The men in
the pit are afraid the place is not safe. Two of their
number, who would be subject to the same danger if they
make a mistake, make an examination, and thej report
whether this place is safe or not. Do you think that
the men would be more satisfied with a report of that
sort than they would be likely to be with that of a man
Bent to haye a look round whose experience underground

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Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 35 of 177)