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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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relieved from that duty ? — Yes.

24856. And that your duty should be confined to the
proper duty of inspection? — Yes, unless it is a case of
extreme urgency.

24857. You consider that your duties are too great at
the present time and too numerous.? — ^Yes.

24858. Do you think that the safety of the men would
be better secured if the deputies had less to do ? That is
what it all means, does it not ? — Yes, it is a question of

24859. You would be prepared to do all the duties you
have to do now if you had the time to do them ? — We are
quite prepared to do them. Take myself, after 31
years, more or less, and the son of an overman whb had

35 years' experience, I think I have at least a fair know- Mr. Samuel
ledge, and I have read my rules, and the question of safety Coulthard,
has been a very important item with me. You have to _ — ^-
apply to the overman that you have too much work to do, ^ June^lWT,
and sometimes they are not ready to give you redress.

24860. There is no other person in t^e mine, official or
workman, except the deputy, pdrhaps, to be put in the
position to have a right to appdal te the Government
inspector against the decision of the management ? — ^No.

24861. Do you think that the deputy should be put in
that exceptional position ? — I think as deputies that we
should have a court of appeal.

24862. You would not extend that right to any other
persons employed in the mine ? — ^No. We stand in rather
a peculiar position. We have the men on one side and the
masters on the other, so that we stand really between.
Our duty is to protect life and limb, and that is on one
side, and on the other side it is our duty more or less to
protect property for the management, so that we stand in
a very peculiar position.

24863. The duty of a deputy is so exceptional that you
think he ought to be treated exceptionally in that way !
— Yes, we think so.


Thiirsday, 21th June, 1907.


Wm. Abraham, Esq., m.p. (Rhondda).
F. L. Davis, Esq.
Enoch Edwards, Esq, m.p.
Thomas Ratcuffe Elus, Esq.

Lord MoNKSWBLL {Chairman).

John Soott Haldanx, Esq., f.r.s.
Robert Sbollix, Esq.

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

Mr. Joseph E^qush, called and examined.

24864. (Chairman,) I understand you appear here on
behalf of the Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident
Association ? — ^Yes.

24865. How many members are there in that associa-
tion ?— 26,000, nearly.

24866. Out of a total of the Northumberland miners,
of how many — about ? — There would be about 33,000
engaged in the mines.

24867. The greater number then of the Northumberland
miners belong to this association ? — ^Yes.

24868. What is the object of your association ? — A
general trades union to look after the safety and protection
of the members of the association.

24869. What do you mean by *' Mutual Confident
Association " ? — ^We combine in a mutual confident
association to protect each other, the same as in ordinary
trades unions.

24870. You have hi your association the very great
majority of the Northumberland miners ? — ^Yes.

24871. May we take it that what you tell us to-day is
what you have been deputed to say, to a great extent at
all events, by your association ? — Yes, I am the president
of the association, and compensation agent.

24872. I suppose you have had meetings, and you have
put before the association what you propose to say, or the
gist of it, and therefore you can confidently say that they
are of your opinion ? — It is not necessary to put it before
our members ; but they frequently have deputations to
the managers in order to try, if possible, to get similar
suggestions carried out.]

24873-4. You can say from your own personal knowledge
that the suggestions you are about to make are suggestions
that commend themselves, at all events, to the great
majority of tiie members of your association ? — ^Yes.

24875. I understand you would like to begin with tlie
General Rules you wish to be amended and take them in
their order ? — Yes, if you would like me to adopt that course
of procedure.

24876. I think you would like to begin with General
Rule 1, par. 2?— Yea. The Rule at present is: *'Th© If
quantity of air in the respective splits to be under the '^
control of a certificated manager.'' We wish it to be
altered to read thus : ' * The quantity of air in the respective ca
splits to be under the control of the official in oharse of the ||
split." At the present ume it, is no ones special auty to
see to an adequate supply of air ; and our idea is that
instead of it only being under the responsibility of the
general manager it ought to be the duty of the official in
that part of the mine to measure the air.

24877-8. By the "official" in any particular part of the
mine, I suppose you mean, for instance, the fireman ? —
The fore overman, and in the absence of the fore overman
would be the back overman.

24879. You want to add on to the second part of
General Rule 1 a provision that each split should be sepa-
rately looked after, either by the fireman or some other
competent person ? — Either the fireman or the official in

24880. You say some official, at all events, should be
deputed to look after each separate split ?'Ye8 ; as it
stands at present there is no one responsible for the doing
of that work.


Mr. Joseph
27 June 1907

Digitized by



BONUTEs OP evidence:

Mr. Joseph




24881. You would like that to be added on to the General
Rule 7— Yes.

24882. You wish to say something on General Rule 4 ?
We work the double shift system, and the inspection
takes place in the morning. There are two continuous
shifts, the fore shift and back shift, working on an average
1\ hours each. A place may be inspected in the morning,
but if the fore shift man is absent, the place stands 1^
hours : it is not re-examined, and the back shift man goes
in without that place being examined.

24883. If there are two shifts is it not examined for each
shift ? — If the fore shift is off work there is no more
inspection takes place, the back shift man goes in, and
where there is gas it many accumulate in the interval.

24884. (Mr, F, L. Davie.) Hew do you mean, if the man
is off work ? Surely someone must inspect ? — The place
is examined in the morning, according to this rule, two
hours before the workmen enter, but if the fore shift
workman does not come out that day, the fireman is not
bound to make a second inspection before the back shift
man goes in, because it is looked upon as a continuous shift.

24885. He always examines for the first shift 7 — ^Yes,
but not for the second shift.

24886. Never ? — No. A continuous shift means one
shift, according to the provisions of this Act.

24887. (Chairman.) And you object to that T— Yes.

24888. Is there any other Rule you wish to give evidence
about ? — The next one is Rule 9 with regard to safety
lamps. We think that there ought to be some test with
these safety lamps in order to prevent men running risk
of getting into stythe which is very injurious to health.
By the latest inventions with respect to safety lamps men
can work in foul air with these lamps where it is not fit
for them to work. I know a case where one man got in
with a lamp and he had to crawl out as the air was not fit
for a human being to be in. At the present time, with the
new safety lamps, it is quite possible for a man to get in
without his lamp going out where it is not possible for
him to live for any length of time.

24889. Then vou think there has been retrogression in
f the matter of safety lamps, and that the last type of safety

lamp is not so safe as the former type ? — They are per-
fectly safe* so far as an explosion is concerned, but with
them they can get a man into a place where it is not fit
for a man to work.

24890. Then it is not a question entirely of the type of
safety lamp ? — No.

24891. You merely say that the safety lamp is sometimes
in the nature of a trap ? — That is so.

24892. People think they are perfectly safe with a safety
lamp when they go into a place where they ought not to go
into, and where they ought not to work ? — Yes.

24893. How would you prevent that? — By having a sort
of test with regard to tne lamp, to see whether it would be fit
for a man to live in a place where these lamps will bum.
The Park Lane lamps are all right ; but there is a ne v in-
vention which bums with paraffin oil and a double burner,
which is a very good lamp, although I do not know the
name of it.

24894. You think that shows gas much more easily than
the other lamps ? — It detects gas more easily, but it will
burn when it is not fit for a man to be in there. My idea is
that there ought to be some test with regard to these lamps.

24895. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do you mean that the air
is foul ?- The air is foul and yet the lamp may still burn.
There is a disposition to get the places worked, and con-
sequently these lamps are invented. Of course, they are
perfectly safe so far as an explosion is concerned ; yet it
is dangerous to health to work in such places. The con-
sequence IS, the men's health suffers a good deal from stythe.

24896. {Mr. Rateliffe Ellis.) What you mean, I think, is
that there is no gas to do any harm, but the air is so foul it is
not fit for the men to work in it 7 — Yes, no explosive gas.

24897. Because the lamp does not detect the gas he can
work there without knowing it is unsafe 7 — Yes.

24898. It is perfectly safe, so far as gas is concerned, but
the air is not fit for the men to work in 7 — That is so.

24899. (Chai man.) There is a false sense of security, be-
cause by the safety lamp sometimes, although the ventila-
tion may be injurious to health, a man may work in it with-
out being aware of that fact 7 — Yes ; it may ensure safety
from explosion, but it is injurious to hoalth at the same

24900. How would you get over the difficulty ?^These
lamps should be inspected, and if they render it possible for
a man to get ii where he ought not to work, then, I think
they should be condemned.

24901. (Mr. Rateliffe Ellis.) You want the lamp to in-
dioate hot only gas, but foul air, where a man should not
work 7 — Yes.

24902. ( Mr. Wm. Abraham. ) I take it you would stop the
use of a lamp that lives in an air which a man ought not to go
into 7 — Yes. I think there ought to be something done in
that direction, because the men are injured very much
and suffer in their health in consequence.

24903. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do you suggest that with
another lamp this atnmsphere would put the light out 7 —
Yes ; the Park Lane lamp would not burn where these
would burn.

24904. (Chair min.) There are certain lamps which will
go out when the atmosphere is foul 7 — Yes.

24905. You know of those lamps 7 — Yes.

2490(5. You think the rule which you suggest should be
made c3mpulsory 7 — Yes.

24907. (Mr. Smillie.) Improvements in lamps enable
them to work in places where previously a lamp would not
burn ; consequently, although the lamp bums and shows a
good light, the men are being poisoned 7 — That is it.

24908. (Chairman.) You say the later lamps do not give
the same indication of an impure atmosphere that some of
the other safety lamps used to do 7 — The point I \iish to
bring forward is tha*: these lamps can burn in foul air
although they may not indicate gas.

understand i

of lamp you knew of that would show foul air as well as gas 7
— It would not bum, and so it would indicate the presence
of stythe.

24910. It would show foul air as well as gas in some way 7

That you have said several times, and I quite
I it ; but I thought you also said there was a type

24911. You say you know of such a lamp, and the use of
that lamp ought to be made compulsory 7 — Yes.

24912. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) In your opinion that lamp
is safer than the newer kinds of safety lamp 7 — Yes, so far
as the health of the men is concerned.

24913. (Chairman.) You say that some of these new
safety lamps, so far as the health of the miners is concerned,
are not so satisfactory as lamps you know of which were
used before 7 — That is so.

24914. What lamps would you prefer 7 — The Park Lane
lamp is a very useful lamp for that purpose.

24915. You suggest that would be a good lamp 7 — Yes.

24916. Rule 9 would hardly deal with questions of that
kind, would it 7 — I think it would.

24917. That rule is : " Wherever safety lamps are used,
they shall be so constructed that they may be safely carried
against the air current ordinarily prevailing in that part of
the mine in which the lamps are for the time being in use,
even though such current should be inflammable. " That
only deals with gas, and not with foul air. I understand,
whether you think the General Rule could be altered or not,
at all events you are of opinion that a certain type of lamp
ought to be used instead of the type of lamp at present in
use ; and you have an opinion as to the kind of lamp you
would like to see used 7— Yes.

24918. What is the next rule you want to call our atten-
tion to 7 — Rule 22, as to timbering. This is very unsatis-
factory in our district, and, I think, it is the general com-
plaint right through other districts. The present rule says :
** Where the timl^ring of the working places is done by the
workmen employed therein." I need not read any more
than that. What we want to insert there, is ** Where the 1 1
timbering of the working places is done by the workmen 1 1
employed therein in the absence of the deputy.''' Our reaaon 1 1
for that is that the deputy many times goes into the places,
and he considers he has no right to do it. According to the
Act the workman is responsible for setting his own timber,
and the deputy simply walks out of the place without setting
any timber. According to the Act he is not compelled to do
so, and, therefore, we wish those words inserted.

24919. Making it neoessaiy that it shall be the duty of the I .
deputy to see that proper timbering is done 7 — It shall be . t
the duty of the deputy to properly secure the place, and in •
his absence the workmen to be responsible for tiie timbering )
of the place. \ i



Digitized by




24920. You say it should be the duty of the deputy to do
this, and he is to be made responsible for it by Act of
Parliament ? — Ye?.

24921. (Mr. F. L, Davis,) This rule applies to the whole
of the coal trade. We do not know what *' deputies '* are
in our part of the world, where we have a different custom
altogether. The men do not have anyone to do the tim-
bering for them, so that if you put it in this rule we shaU get
thoroughly mixed up T — I foUow that.

24922. {Chairman,) Do you mean that now the deputies
contend they are not responsible for putting up the timber,
but that it is the duty of the workmen ? — Yes.

24923. I thought the deputies were responsible in North-
umberland for putting up the timber ? — But the present
Act does not make them responsible.

24924. It does not make them unresponsible if they
undertake the duty. Surely if they undertake the duty
they are responsible ? — The '%hole of the responsibility,
according to the present Rule, faUs on the workmen.
There is nothing in there to put the responsibility on the

24925. (Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis,) In Northumberland ?—
Yes, even in Northumberland.

24926. Special Rule 46 does not conflict with anything
in the Act of Parliament, and it is perfectly binding :
'* Each deputy shall be responsible for having ready and
putting into or near to every working place under his
charge a sufficient quantity of suitable timber," and they
shaU report any deficiency ? — Yes, that is placing the
timber in a position where it can be got by workmen.

24927. " and (except as provided in Rule 92) for setting
sufficient timber to afford the greatest possible safety to the
workmen employed." If there is a rule to say the deputy
is responsible, surely he is responsible T — There is nothing
in the Act of Parliament that I can see to contravene that
— tiie term *' deputy " is not in the Act of Parliament.
We want it inserted in the Act that the deputy is respon-

24928. (Mr. Raicliffe EUis.) General Rule 21 is : " The
roof and sides of every travelling road and work'ng place
shall be made secure." Rule 22 says : " Where the tim-
bering of the working places is done by the workmen
employed therein, suitable timber shall be provided at the
working place." In Northumberland the Special Rule
says that the deputy is to do the same thing ?— We want
to put in the words '* by the workmen in the absence of the

24929. (Mr. Wm. Abraham,) It is a dilfferent system
altogether, and they want the deputy to be made respon-
sible in the general Act 7 — If you look at the Special Rules
you will se*3 they may apply to some particular colliery.

24930. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUis,) Those Special Rules apply
all over Northumberland ? — No ; different collieries have
different Special Rules.

24931. Do I understand that Special Rule 46 is i#iat you
want in the Act ? — Ye'.

24932. Supposing it was made general, it would meet your
wishes T — Yes.

24933. (Mr, Smillie,) It would be as well to look at the
rules. Rule 46 is : " Each deputy shall be responsible for
having ready and putting into or near to every working
phce under his charge a sufficient quantity of suitable
timber, brattice, sprags, and other materials ; and (except
as provi:^ed in Rule 92) for setting sufficient timber to
afford the greatest possible safety to the workmen employed,
and he sha3l report any deficiency of timber, brattice, sprags
or other materials, to the overman or back overman."
llien Rule 92 is : " Should the working place of any man or
boy become unsafe, from any cause, he shall discontinue
working in it, and immediately send or go for the deputy ;
but if unsafe from want of timber being set, then, in the
absence of the deputy, there being sufficient timber of
proper lengths in or near to the place, he ihall set it, in
order to keep himself safe, or shall cease to work and retire
therefrom, and report the same to the deputy or other
official ; and in all cases where necessary, he shaU spra^ his
jud." You want that to be of general application ? — Yes.
In Northumberland — and I take it the same thing applies to
other counties-— each colliery has Special Rules, and the
consequence is that there is no one responsible for the tim-
bering. They place the whole of the responsibility upon
the workmen, and we want that responsibility removed
from the workmen.

24934. (Chairman.) Do you want to say anything more
about that rule ? — ^I think that is all.

24935. What is the next rule you want to give evidence
upon ?— -The next rule I want to speak about is No. 34.
*' Where persons are employed underground, ambulances
or stretchers, with splints and bandages, shall be kept at
the mine ready for immediate use in case of accident."
We wish that to be amended, and to read that they should
be kept at the face or at the deputy's chest.

24936. Where they would be more handy T— Yes. The
working place may be a mile and a half or two miles in, and
the injured persons have to be brought to bank before they
are able to obtain relief by the use of splints or stretchers^
carbolic oil, or anything of that sort. A man may almost
bleed to death before he gets to bank.

24937. Have you any form of words which you wish to
be inserted in the rule in order to carry that out ? — ^That
stretchers, splints, bandages, carbolic oil, &c., should be
placed in and be kept in the deputy's chest.

24938. In every deputy's chest ?— Yes. It is done in
many mines now. I also think that a deputy should pass
the Furst Aid examination, and have a First ^d ambulance

24939. Have you anything else you wish to say in respect
to that rule ?— No.

24940. Have you anything to say in respect to Rule 38
as to the inspection by workmen ? — ^Yes, At the present
time the workmen may appoint two of their number, accom-
panied by an official, if the manager thinks fit to inspect
the mine. This inspection periodically by the workmen,
I think, is one of the best means of preventing accidents we
possibly can have ; but it is left entirely 'to the option of
the manager whether he will allow any of the officials to
accompany the workmen. We contend that there ought
to be one of the officials specially provided for by the Act
to accompany the workmen^s inspectors when they are
inspecting the mine.

24941. Have you known cases where the workmen's
inspectors have gone over a mine and have not been able to
get an official of the mine to go with them ? — ^I do not
think I could mention such a case, but there is that
option on the part of the management.

24942. You think that ought to be done away with 7 —

24943. That the management should be obliged to pro-
vide some sort of official to go round with the men T — Yes.

24944. Would you say it should be either the manager
or sub-manager ? — ^One of the officials.

24945. Is that the only suggestion you have to make as
to Rule 38 ?— Yes.

24946. Have you anything to say as to Rule 39 7 — ^Yes.
At the present time a man is not allowed to work alone
as a coal or ironstone getter unless he has been two years
in or about the face. The man who has just commenced in
the pit can go into the face and do any other work, but he
cannot be a coal or ironstone getter. However, it fre-
quently happens that he may be set to timbering work by
himself, and we have had various accidents occur to men
who have been inexperienced going to work in these places

by themselves. We think no one should be left to work 1 ^
by himself unless he has been two years in and about the *

24947. You think it should not be restricted to coal
getting ; but he should not be allowed to work at the face, or
anywhere ? Do you mean that ? — In the face.

Mr. Joseph




24948. That is, he should not be allowed to put up
timber, or do anything at the face ? — That is right,

24949. Should he not attend to loading the trams, or
anything of that sort ? — Yes, of course we make that
exception — that is, the hauliers.

24950. (Mr. Baidiffe EUis,) Do you apply it to hewers
and say that no hewer should be empk)yed at the face
unless under those circumstances 7 — It applies to hewers
now, but we want it extended.

24951. To what other men ? — Shifters, wastemen, and
stonemen, and any other class of man who has to work in
the face.

24952. Independent of the hewer 7 — Some have to take
down stone, renew timber, &o.

24953. Do you say he should not be employed at all
unless he has been engaged in that particular work for a
year. 7 — ^Not alone — that he should be accompanied by
some other workman until he becomes experienced.

24954. One man in the gang should always have that
experience 7 — One man working with them.

19 a


Digitized by




Mr. Joseph

27 June 1907

24955. If there was one man of
you limit the number of the gang ?


experience would
-Provided he had
someone with him who had the experience.

24956. (Chairman.) Would you be inclined to limit the
number of unskilled workmen who might work under the
supervision of a skilled workman, or would you allow 10 or
12 unskilled men at the face to work under the supervision
of only one skilled man ? — ^I do not think I would.

24957. How many would you say? Would you say
two, or not more than one, ought to work under the super-
vision of a skilled man ? — The present Act has worked
very well with regard to the coal-getter, and I do not see
why it should not work very well with regard to the other
class of men, if applied to them.

24958. You could not have more than two or three men
at work at the face at the kind of work to which you refer ?

24959. (Mr, Enoch Edwards.) You could not have 10 or
12 men working at the goaf, for instance ? — ^No.

24960. (Mr, TFm. Abraham.) Your point is, as I under-
stand it, that no unskilled man should be allowed to work
alone at anything ? — Yes.

24061. (Chairman,) That is to say, every unskilled man
must be under the immediate supervision, within a very

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 47 of 177)