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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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Mr. WiUiam

13 June 1907

ifl 21 years 6idP — I think the men would have more
confidence in an insnection made by one of the union
officials or checkweigner.

23387. Will you please forget the union. I am
talking about inspection to satisfy the men of the safety
of the mine. The man says, " I am subject to the
same danger; if I am satisfied you will be satisfied."
Would not that satisfy the men P They probably would
be union men who made the inspection. Is that not
more likely to satisfy the men than to send a man down
whose expeiience is 21 years old P

{Mr. Enoch Edivards.) He is rather suggesting that
they want the right of appointment, and that it should
not be limited.

23388. {Mr. Batdtffe EUia.) I want to see if the object
of this is to satisfy the men. I want to know, first of all,
whether a report by men undergoing the same danger on
the face of it is not more likely to satisfy the men than
bringing a man in who has not worked underground for
20 years, and who is not subject to such risk ? — I believe
the men would have moi*e confidence in the party who
could give an independent report.

23389. {Chairman.) Ton tliink that they ought to
have the fullest power of choice, and that the men
ought to determine whom they desire to send down.
If Mi\ Ellis's view is correct they wonld send
down men working at the pits, but other people take
a different view, and in other mines men might prefer
your view and say they prefer a man who was not
working at the pit, but who had, and who had had
experience in many mines, and whom thev thought
would be better than any man they could send down for
the moment in the pit ? — And he would be clear of the
fear of any future consequences that might happen
from the employer.

23390. (Mr. Batdiffe EUia.) With reference to the
question of fear, have you any reasonable ground for
supposing that if there was a report made to a manager
that there was something in the pit unsafe, the men
would be discharged or put at some disadvantage P — I
have no reason to say that they would be, but I say
that there is- a fear in the minds of the men that such a
thing would occur.

23391. They think there might be P— Tes.

23392. Do you think that is a reason why this power
has not been exercised ? — I believe that is the chief

' reason.

23393. At times there are disputes between the work-
men and the employer as to the conditions of theii* work
tmderground P — Yes.

23394. At the present time if they want the agent to
go down he has to get the permission of the manage-
ment ? — Yes.

23395. If you had this alteration that would not be
necessary P — No.

23396. He could go down whenever he thought fit P

23397. And make any enquiries he thought fit. There
would be no limit upon that right ? — He would make an

23398. Do you propose that there should be any pre-
cautions taken that he should not use this right for any
purpose except for the purpose of making these
inspections P— I would be quite prepared to say that if
it was used for any other purpose it would be an offence
under the Act.

23399. A Government inspector has specific instruc-
tions given to him as to what he is to do and what he is
not to do by the Grovemment P — Yes.

23400. There would be no such control over one of
these inspectors P — No.

23401. Would you be in favour of having provisions
made similarly controlling him as to the use of the
power he is to be given P — Yes.

23402. You think them reasonable P— Yes.

23403. Now with regard to safety lamps, you say that
the Government inspector should put them in whenever
he thought fitP — Yes.

23404. Do you find any difficulty with the men in
getting safety lamps inP — No. We have had a very
uiort experience of safety lamps in my paii of the
country, but I find no ditticulty, as far as the men are
concerned, in getting them i:i if they are recommended.

23405-9.' Is there an additional payment made when i
the safety lamp is introduced P Do the men require ^
additional payment P — Yes. I find the men are paid a
little extra.

23410. Is there a charge made for the lamps P — Yes.

23411. How much is that P — Id; per day in one colliery ^
I know of — for one class of lamp.

23412. That includes oil, trimming, and keeping the
lamp in order, and the cost of the lamp P — Yes.

23413. So far as your experience goes there is no
objection bv the men to the introduction of the lamps P
— No, if it IB considered necessary.

23414. Is that if the inspector considers it necessary P
— Yes.

23415. Now, with regard to the special inquiry, you say
that your Fatal Accident Enquiry Act in Scotland gives
vou pretty mu^^h what you want, but that there might
DC cases in which you should be able to have a special
inquiry afterwards P — Yes.

23416. Who would be the persons to apply for that P
— The persons inttirested.

23417. Who are they P— The relatives of the deceased.

23418. If they were dissatisfied with the decision they
should be entitled to apply. Supposing a manager is
censm'ed or committed for manslaughter, would he be
entitled to have an inquiry, too? Is he a person
interested P — Yes, I think so. I think it would be only

23419. {Mr. Enoch Edtoarda.) In your first paragraph
you suggest that in making additional appointments
practical experience ought to be one of the chief
qualifications P — Yes.

23420. What sort of practical experience do you
meanP — I mean practical experience of all classes of
undergroimd work — men who have been actually
engaged in most classes of underground work,
particularly face work.

23421. Do you mean to say must have been a collier
working at the face P — I should say he would make a far
better inspector if he had had that experience.

23422. Is it possible for many men who are practical
colliers, men who work at the face, to have the necessary
technical qualifications for this position P — I know a
considerable number of men who at present hold first-
class certificates and who have had experience at the

23423. They have now? — Yes, they have worked at
the face ; some are working now as ordinary workmen.

23424. Do you consider this to be a qualification P If
the occupation of a man previously was assistant
surveyor, assistant colliery manager, or chief surveyor
to a colliery, do you think those would be sufficient
qualifications for cnief inspectors P — ^I do not. I do not
consider it is desirable to have that class of man

23425. (Dr. Haldane.) Do you mean to say you do not
think the experience of being an assistant colliery
manager is sufficient ? — No.

{Dr. Haldane.) In practical experience you mean P

23426. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) You do not think that
would be sufficient P — No.

23427. {Dr. Haldane.) Surely a man who has been an
assistant colliery manager, and who has had very con-
siderable experience of every sort of underground work,
is, as a rule, sufficiently qualified ? — I know a consider-
able number who have not had sufficient experience to
undertake — at least, in my opinion — the duties of an

23428. It is a matter of what that means. It is a matter
of what experience he has had as assistant manager, is
it notP Many managers I know have gone through
every kind of work tmit is done in the colliery by the
colliers P — I know a considerable number who have not
gone through every grade of work.

23429. It might or might not be a sufficient qualifica-
tion. Is not that what you would rather say P — No, I would
make practical experience one of the chief qualifications
in making this appointment.

23430. This may imply very considerable practical
experience. You could not say, from this statement on
paper, which Mr. Edwards has quoted, whether these
qualifications are in yom* opinion sufficient or not. You
would want to know what the man had done in this case
in the way of practical experience P — If I understand

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Mr. Edwards' (question aright, be said a man who had
been an assistant surveyor or assistant colliery

2S4S1. (Mr. .K»oc^i?dtoard8.) And then chief surveyor?
— Yes. I do not consider that these qualifications
are sufficient.

23432. (Mr. Smillie.) An assistant colliery manager
might have had a very great deal of experience, but ^ou
would require to know what his experience as a coUiery
manager was P — Yes. He may have actually worked at
the face.

23433. (Dr, Haldane.) Presumably he had, I should
say, if he has had a proper training? — There are a
number I jcnow who have not. I do not consider that
class of man woidd make good Government inspectors.

23434. (Chairman.) The mere fact that he has been an
assistant colliery manager is not sufficient qualification.
You must go behind and ascertain what he nas done as
an assistant colliery manager ? — Yes.

23435. (Mr. Enoch Edward».) I gather, after thinking
this matter over, what the witness means is this : in your
experience among men and the ways of dealing with
thmgs, you think a Grovemment inspector, ^though he
has had a thorough technical training, it is all the more
desirable that he should have a practical training ? — Yes.

6. And you think if he has not had a practical
training he should not be appointed P — Yes.

23437. (Dr. Haldane.) You would include in the prac-
tical training working at the face and real practical
experience P — Yes.

23438. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Will you broaden that
a little. If he has not worked at the face, but worked
in a pit from boyhood and been of studious habits,
having done all sorts of work in a pit, had, say 15
years of it, seen pit life and understood it, can set
timber and understands the question — would you think
that would be a qualification ? — Well, I should rather it
was a man who nad a practical experience of all classes
of mine work, including face work.

23439. He must have actuallv cut coalP — Amongst
other classes of mine work I thinK he should have train-
ing in cutting the coal.

23440. Are there many men who cut coal who qualify
themselves for first-class certificates P — Yes, there are a
considei*able number.

23441. I do not know what subjects are necessary to
qualify for the position of manager in Scotland, but I
know the natiu^ of the subjects in England, as one of
the managing board, and it seems to me that he would
require to be a man of very studious habits and a con-
siderable amount of intelligence, and to have an oppor-
tunity for training as weU as cutting coal before he
could pass an examination in England. — ^I know a con-
siderable number of men who have had to make their
opportunities, who have not had many opportunities
Iving at hand, but who have studied and obtained first-
class ceHificates, and in my opinion they would make
very good Grovemment inspectors.

23442. That would apply to some of us here, who
never went to school after nine years of age. That is
the position. You think he would be better qualified if,
in addition to his technical knowledge, he had pi'actical
experience at the working face ? — Yes.

23443. (Dr Haldane.) You would go further and say it is
essential that he should have practical experience P —
Yes, if he is to make a good Government inspector.

23444. (Mr. BatcUffe Ellis.) You would not appoint any
inspector out of that class P — I mean to say if a man is
an applicant for an inspectorship and there were men
who nad these qualifications I mention, if I had to make
the appointment the appointment would go every time
to that class of man.

23445. Do you sav the law should be that no inspector
shoidd be appointed except from that class P — I think I
woidd even De prepared to go that length.

23446. (Dr. Haldane.) From men who had gone through
practical work at the face P — Among other classes of
mine work.

23447. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Mr. Adam son suggests
whatever practical experience a man may have, he must
be otherwise technically qualified, but he must have this
experience too ? — Yes.

23448. You say that preference should be given, all
thinffs bein^ equal, to the man who has worked at the
facer — Decidedlv,


23449. (Mr. BatcUffe Ellis.) Would you annlv that
also to a manager*s certificate P — I think I would be pre-
pared to apply that to the qualifications necessary for a
manager's certificate being granted.

23450. That it should not be granted to a man who
has not those qualifications P — No.

23451. You would go as far as that P — I mean it
should not be granted.

(Mr. Enoch Edwards.) 11 the number of people apply-
ing for certificates are equally trained and educated, you
think that the preference in all cases should be given to
the applicant who has had a practical training, and that
until an applicant who has had no practical training can
show he has had it, he should not be given the certificate.

23452. (Mr. RatcUffe Ellis.) You will not give a
certificate to anv manager except to that class who can
show that they had the experience which you consider
necessary to qualify an inspector P — Yes.

(Dr. Haldane.) Is there anyone here who is on an
English examining board P

(Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Yes.

(Dr. Haldane.) Do you not insist on looking into a
« man's practical experience, to' see whether he has actually
worked underground P

23453. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Many men get first-class
certificates in England who have very little practical
knowledge of worfing at the coal face, but not in the
sense Mr. Adamson has put it. They have worked in
the pit in some form. If he is a surveyor he is in and
out of a pit P — You mean he has knocked about the pit.

23454. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Yes. With reference
to the question of inspection under Rule 38, Mr. Ellis
put a series of questions upon this. What you mean is,
that either persons who have been employed in the mine
should be appointed or others. You mean that the
workmen should have the i-ight to appoint whom they
thought fit, whether in that mine or in another mine, or
out of the mine P — Yes.

23455. That is what you mean P — Yes.

23456. You would have regard to the experience they
had in the mine P — ^Providing he has been a practical
working miner.

23457. And the choice should not be limited to that
pit or the men working in other pits P — Yes.

23458. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) On the question of firemen,
how do you explain the fact that the owners appoint so
many incompetent firemen P What is the reason for
that P — One of the chief reasons I have already given.
I do not think the pay in this part of the countiT is a
sufficient wage to get the best class of workmen. I look
at this question personally from my own practical
experience as a working miner. I could have been a
fireman on more occasions than one. My chief reason
for refusing was that I could earn about 2s. a day on an
average as a miner more than the employer was prepared
to pay me as a fireman.

23459. You will admit that the manager who asked
you to be a fireman was a man of ^^t judgment, he
wanted to get a good man in you P— That may be so.

23460. Your point is that the men are not well enough |
paid P — That is one of the chief reasons ; I have other |
reasons, of course.

23461. Is not that very short-sighted onT the part of
the manager, because, after all, he is responsible. If
anything goes wrong he is responsible for the wrong-
doing of his officials in any serious accident P — ^I should
say it is a short-sighted policy.

23462. I cannot understand the managers, who have
all the responsibility, constantly appointing incompetent
men. That is the thing that puzzles me. You think
they do P — Not always. I know some very good men
who are firemen.

23463. You do not put it forward as a general
thing?— No.

23464. Did I understand you aright to say that you
are in favour of more inspectors being appointed ? —

23465. Was I right in understanding you to sav that
however many more inspectors were appointed they
should be all of the same class ? You woidd not have
two or three different grades of inspectors P — Whatever
additional appointments are to be made, I think it
woidd make for greater efficiency if practical experienoQ
was regarded as one of the chiei qualificfitions.

Mr. WiUiam

13 June 1907


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Mr, WiUiatn 23466. I was not sure whether I caught what you

AdatnaoiK said. However many more inspectors are appointed,

_- ____ yon think that they should all pass the same examina-

13June^907 tionP— Yes.

23467. Will you tell me why the timbering of his
place is not always done by the coal getter ? I think
you stated that it should be done by him and is
generally done, but there are cases when ho does not do
it when he ought to do it. Will you tell me why ? —
So far as oui* district is conceraed there are very few
cases in which it is not done by the coal getter.
There are a few of the collieries, whei-e machines have
been introduced, where they have a special set of men for
doing the timbering, apai't tvom the men in chai-ge of
each of the faces, but I am not favom-able to that method
of timbering.

23468. You told us frankly that you thought the
collier was the best man to do the timbering ?— Yes, with
experienced men in charge of the working face, in
conjunction with a limitation being put on the area
under the supervision of the fireman, so that he could
give closer supervision to the operation.

23469. And that he should have more time to look
round and see that the colliers have the timbering ^
necessary for their safety ? — Yes.

23470. You said sometimes they do not do as much as
they might do for their safety. What is the reason that
they do not do it ? — One of the chief reasons is, that they
are paid by results instead of by so much per shift, and
in their anxiety to earn wages sometimes they forget the
more important duty of attending to their safety.

23471. Do you suggest that the fireman, having more
time at his disposal, could keep them up to the mark, so
to speak, by looking round the faces more often and
seeing that they do what they ought to do ? — It would
remedy matters. *

23472. It is the anxiety of the collier to get as much
coal as he can — he is paid by results— that sometimes
makes him take risks that he otherwise would not do P —
Yes, that is so.

23473. {Dr. Haldane.) In your district the coal is
subject to spontaneous fires to a considerable extent P —

23474. Do those often lead to fatal accidents ? — We
had one accident whereby six lives were lost in 1891, and
we had one accident last year whereby two lives were

23475. Is there much destruction to coal through these
fires? Have districts to be shut off? — Considerable
areas in some parts of the coimty have to be shut off in
consequence oi undei'ground fires.

23476. Are these districts often pennanently lost —
I mean these areas of coal P — Parts of them are.

23477. Have you ever had any experience of working
at one of these underground fires yourself P — No.

23478. You are of opinion that life-saving apparatus
should be provided with a special view to these fii-es P

23479. Is that a general opinion among the men ?
Have you any reason to know about that in Fifeshire P
— A considerable number of the men consider that.

23480. Are there no appliances of that sort used in
that district P Are there no smoke helmets or anything
of that sort P-»-Not up to the present time.

23481. Never ; in dealing with fires or buildinc up a
gob fire are they used, so lar as you are aware ?-— No,
not to my knowledge.

23482. You are of opinion that they would be uselPul ?
Is that in the way of saving life or of saving property P

23483. The gob fires are fairly fi-equent, and there
would be fairly frequent occasions to use these
ap^iratuses from fire alone, apart from explosions P

23484. With regard to lamps, I see that you suggest
that three of the best kinds ought to be scheduled, and
that the manager should be left a discretion as to which
of the three will be best for use in the mine under his
charge. I suppose you do not mean to say tliat only
three should be scheduled P You suggest that the
Home Office should pass types of lamps just as they
pass types of explosives P — Yes.

23485. There should not necessarily be only three for
the management to choose from. Why do you limit the
number to three P Do you mean, at least three P — I



think I would limit the number to three of the best

23486. It is very invidious to say which is the best
kind. If they all pass a certain test by the Home Office
Inspectors, or whoever has to deal with it, it is very
difficult to say which is the best. The makers send up
lamps wliich pass the Government test. Why should
you limit the numbers available at any colliery P — ^It is
with a view to avoiding accidents as much as possible
by possibly having an inferior class of lamp in use.

23487. So far as accidents are concerned it is surely
possible to make all lamps thorouglily safe, and to
allow no lamps to pass that ai<e not thoroughly safe so
far as it is possible for human ingenuity to maVe them
safe ?— It would meet may view if they were tested by
the GroVemment officials and scheduled.

23488. You would not necessarily limit the number
available. Some lamps might give better light. There
might be advantages in one lamp over another in certain
seams. You do not mean that necessarily you would
liwit them to three or to a small number P i ou would
allow the manager to pick any of the tjfes which had
passed the Government test ? — Yes, I think I would be
prepared to do that. What I really meant was that
they should be tested and scheduled by the Govern-

23489. That is a recommendation we have had
from several sides. With regard to ankylostomiasis,
are there any mines to your knovrledge that are both
deep and wet in Fifeshire ? , Are you aware that it
i*equires damp as well as heat to propa^te this disease P
— Yes, there are some pai-ts of the mmes in Fifeshire
where thev are over 300 fathoms, and where there is a
consi'ierable araoimt of water.

23490. These mines would be places where the disease
might propagate if it was introduced ? — ^And where the
tempei'ature is in some cases 70 degrees.

23491. Have you observed that there is mess about
in Fifeshire — human excrement P Ai-e the mines fairly
clean ? — In the main they are, although I think that, in
view of the fact that the temperature in some parts is /
fully 70 degrees, a recommendation should be issued
from somebody in authority drawing attention to the j
danger, with a view to steps being taken to have
sanitation as fairly reasonable as possible, prevention
being, in my opinion, better than cure.

23492. Do the men make use of the goaf for sanitary
purposes ? — That is the general practice.

23493. If that is so, I suppose there is not much mess
by that method. I suppose it is buried in the doaJ and
dust very soon P — Yes, although occasionally it is done
in other pai'ts.

23494. Are there many ends, and places of that sort,
which get dirty to your knowledge P — There are some I
have seen.

23495. I suppose these are the worst places in the
mine ? — Yes.

23496. Do you think it would be a good thing if
sanitary conveniences that were regularly emptied were
emptied at places of that soH? — Or, rather, if it K
were recommended that where men have to answer the |
call of nature they should do it in such a safe place as I*
the goaf, where it could be buried.

23497. Do you think it possible to arrange that in i.
most of the Fife mines, because I think it is excellent if '
it could be carried out ? — I think it could be fairly well * .
carried out if the men were convinced there was a real

23498. (Chairman.) Fines can only be inflicted by
agi'eement between the men and the mining officials P —

23499. Supposing an official said to a man, " We want
to fine you for a bi-each of discipline," and the man said,
" I will not submit to a fine; if you want to prosecute
me you can ; I do not believe I am guilty ; I want to
have my case tried in a court of law ; ** do you think
any notice would be taken of that attitude. Would it
entail dismissal or reprimand or any unpleasant con-

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 36 of 177)