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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 48 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 48 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

few yards of a competent workman ? — ^Yes.

24962. So that that would in itself limit the numbers ?

24963. Would that be a sufficient limitation to the
numbers, or would you be inclined to add that not more
than three or four unskilled workmen should work unless
under the supervision of a skilled workman ? — I do not
think it is necessary to specify any numbers.

24964. Is there anything else you want to mention with
regard to that ? — Not with regard to that part, but I have
something to say with regard to coal-cutting by machinery.
Machines for coal cutting are being largely introduced now
into the North of England. Mr. Straker and I happened
to be appointed on a committee to make special inspections
and enquiries with regard to the working of these coal-
cutting machines, and we found that the sparks emanating
from these electric machines would be very dangerous
where there is gas to be found. Where the electric coal-
cutting machines give sparks they ought to be condemned.

24965. (Chairman,) Have you anything to say about the
^increasing danger from coal dust owing to the use of

machinery 7 It has been put before us that some coal-
cutting machines produce finer and more explosive dust,
and in greater quantities than the ordinary method ? —
The Northumberland coal does not give ofE much dust ; it
is not of a gassy nature, and it is hard, and therefore there
is not so much dust from it. I do not know what they do
in other districts. With regard to these machines working,
there is a suggestion we have which ought to be attended to,
I think. Whentheyare continuously working the ma-^hines
it is impossible for the men with them to pay sufficient
attention to the stone and the nature of the strata, because
there is such a terrible noise coming from these machines.
A man cannot hear if the stone is "working,*' and I
, ''l think that they ought to be stopped two minutes in every
1 1 1 quarter of an nour in order that the men working at the
**' machines might examine the roof.

24966. You would have a rule laid down to that effect ?
— Yes, to have them stopped, in order that the men may
have sufficient time to examine the roof and keep them-
selves safe.

24967. Do falls of roof and side occur very often ? — We
have had various accidents since the machines were intro^
duced. There is not much fear of the sides : it is the roof.

24968. You consider from your experience that falls of
roof are more frequent if coal-cutting machinery is
introduced ? — ^Yes, but there could be that prevention.

24969. With that prevention you think it might be
safely done ? — Yes.

24970. To what extent are coal-cutting machines used
in your county ? — ^I think we have 25 or 30 machines in
Nortiiumberland now.

24971. Altogether, do you mean 7 — Yes.

24972. Or do you mean the mines with which you are
acquainted T — ^Yes.

24973. Which do you mean, in the whole of the county,
or the mines with which you are acquainted? — In Northum-

24974. About 25 machines 7— Twenty-five or 30.

24975. (Mr, F, L. Davia.) That is a very small number 7
But a few years ago we had none.

24976. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Perhaps a description of
these things would enlighten us on the matter. Will you
kindly describe to us how these machines are fastened
in order to put them to work at the face 7 — They are not
fast : they run along the face, and we had an accident
just a few months ago, where a man was killed, and
there was no one near. They could not hear him through
the machine continuously working.

24976a. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) The noise caused by the
machine prevented his being heard 7 — Yes.

24977. (Chairman.) You say that with the use of 25
machines hi Northumberland the number of accidents has
considerably increased 7 — ^Yes, and they may extend.
The company I worked for just previously — I have just
been appointed president of the Northumberland Miners —
10 years ago did not know what a machine was. Now they
have about six, and they are making preparations to have

24978. Have you had an extensive experience quite
lately 7 Have you worked underground at all quite lately
yourself 7 — About three months ago I ceased.

24979. Have you worked in many mines in Northumber-
land 7 — ^I have worked in two. I have worked about 30
years or 35 years, but I have only been in two mines.

24980. You have seen these coal cutting machines in
use yourself 7— Yes, on the Committee of Enquiry we saw
the whole of them in Northumberland working.

24981. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) They are working thin
seams 7 — Yes : there are some you could not work unless it
was by a machine.

24982-3. (Chairman.) It seem^ on tlie whole that falls of
roof and sides at the working face have ffone down in the
Newcastle district 7 — Accidents in the Newcastle district,
according to the returns, have increased slightly during the
last 12 months.

24984. The death rates from accidents through falls of
ground at the working face for every 10,000 persons em-
ployed undergroimd were .47 in 1901, in 1902 .32, in 1903
.39, in 1904 .46, and in 1905 .40, so that 1901 was the
worst jrear. The average of the last five years is .41, and
the AveTAge of the five years before is .50 7 — We get a
pretty fair idea from our Association returns of the
number of accidents caused. I think it is a better gauge
than that.

24985. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) You cover all men
employed in the pit, and you pay for all accidents 7 — Yes.

24986. (Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Have you mentioned all
the points in which you wish amendments to either the
Act of Parliament or the General Rules 7 — ^No; there are
others, if I am not detaining you too much. There is a
point with regard to the back shafts. There are two shafts

to every mine. We wish to have the back shafts fitted up i #
with pfoper appliances and winding gear to be used in the y'
case of accidents. At the present time they have only
the one shaft fitted up so that they can draw men, and
should an accident occur in that particular shaft the men
have to remain down in the mine or travel to an adjoin-
ing pit, if there is one. We have had one where the men
had to travel almost two miles underground to get to
another shaft belonging to the same company. If we
had the back shaft fitted with winding gear we could
have drawn up the men there.

24987. (Chairman.) You must have always two means
of exit from a mine close to one another. In this back
shaft there ought to be appliances for setting the men up
speedily. That is what you think 7— Yes. It would not
entail a great deal of cost, and it would be there in readiness.

24988. (Dr. Haldane.) Is there any means at all of
getting up these back shafts 7 — ^None whatever, only the
return airway. They are bound to have two shafts in our
mines, upcast and downcast, and there is no machinery
whatever in the back shaft.

28989. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Is that general throughout
Northumberland 7 — ^Yes.

24990. The back shaft is the upcast 7— Yes.

24991. (Chairman.) In the Coal Mines Regulation Act
section 16, sub-section 1, paragraph (a) it is provided that
" There must be at least two shafts or outlets, with which
every seam for the time being at work in the mine shall
have a communication, so that such shafts or outlets shall
afford separate means of ingress and egress available to the
persons employed in every such seam, whether the shafts


Digitized by







or outlets belong to the same mine or to more than one
mine." Then paragraph (c) says ; " Proper apparatus
for raising and lowering persons at each such shaft or outlet
shall be kept on the works belonging to the mine : and such
Apparatus if not in actual use at the shafts or outlets
shall be continually available or use." Is that so ? — ^No,
it is not done. Would you read that again — " such appara-
tus to be kept — "

24992. "Proper apparatus for raising and lowering
persons at each such shaft or outlet shall be kept on the
works belonging to the mine." " Each," that is to both
back shaft as well as the other shaft ? — It is not done.

24093. (Mr. RatcUffe EUis.) How do you carry out thai
Bule at your own colliery ? — I have never seen any appara-
tus yet. At some places they may have a gin rope where
they draw one man at a time.

24994. {Chairman,) Have you ever caUed the attention
of the Mines Inspector to the want of proper apparatus for
raising and lowering men in these back shafts ? — ^We have
not. It is a very difficult matter, and if we can manage
without going to the Government Inspector we do : we
never care about going to the Government Inspector if
we can possibly avoid it.

24995-6. If you have these back shafts without any appa-
ratus for raising or lowering the men, that seems to me to
be an infringement of the Act ? — ^Taking the Act as it is
worded, it is so vague that even if they had a " jack -roll "
there to be in reacSness, that would bring them within the
Act. They may have a horse or a crab or something like

24907. It seems to me that the spirit of the Act of
Parliament is at all events infringed ? — ^That is not an
uncommon thing

24998. It seems to me that there is a good case tor seeing
that the provisions of the law are complied with at the
present time Y — ^I am for making the provisions more clear.

24999. (Mr. F. L, Davis,) Do they never raise the coal
from the upcast shaft ?— Very seldom.

25000. (Chairman.) It is a pity when you find that the
jipirit of an act of Parliament is not being carried into
effect properly that you should not mention these things
to the Government Laspector. Why should you object ?
— Our idea is to have them so worded in an Act of Parlia-
ment that they cannot possibly get out of them.

26001-3. I should have thought that it was a clear in-
fringement of the Act, and that if you went to the inspector
and the inspector went to the Home Office it i^ould be
put right. It seems clear to me that according to the
spirit of the Act the mineowner is under the obligation
to furnish special apparatus for raising and lowering the
men ?— Yes.

25004. Is there anything else you wish to say T — ^I want
to say something about the wi nding engine-m en. We wish
that this particular class of labour should go through a
medica l exami nation at least once in six months. There
wasTTcase where the poor fellow only had time and the
presence of mind before he dropped to shut the steam off
and avoid an accident. Where there are so many hves under
the charge of an engine-man, we think that he ought to
i)e medically examined once in six months, to see if he is
fit for those duties.

25005. It is also suggested in some quarters that he
ought to have a certificate of competency. Have you
anything to say with regard to that ? — ^I do not know that
I can say anything so &r as the engine-man is concerned,

I but he certainly ought to be medically examined after he
^4s there.

25006. Is there anything else that you wish to say 7 —
I wish to say something with regard to the travelling ways
down the mine. We had an accident twelve months ago
where there was no travelling way, only the refuge holes,
and we considered that there ou^t to be trc^vsUmgways
by the side of the haulage road. There is no dimculty,
and if that were done many accidents would be avoided.

25007. Travelling ways when they are made should be
kept clear throughout the whole length ? — Yes.

25008. On one side 7 — ^Yes, they do that at some of the
pits, but there are some where they have not these ways.

25009. It has been suggested to us where you have
mechanical haulage and two trams may pass one another on
the same haulage road, that instead of having a gangway

.at the side, you ought to have a gangway in Uie middle
sufficiently wide to make it safe for a man to stand in the
.middle while those two sets of trams go by ? — ^I do not

think that would be very convenient or even practicable
If I had a suggestion to make, I think there ought to be a
way entirely from the haulage road to the travelling roads,
but there is no difficulty to make one alongside of the
haulage road. That could be easily done and would avoid
many accidents.

25010. (Dr. Haldane.) What is your objection to a
travelling way in the middle between the rails ? — I think
it would be more dangerous than by the side. If by the
side, it could be fenced off, but in the middle that could
not be done. In the middle you have two sets to con-
tend with ; on either side you have only one.

25011. (Mr. Smillie.) Supposing a person has a full
train of trams to go out and he is standing on the inside
of the rails, between the two sets of rails, and a train of
empty trams comes in, he has no room to get between?
— No ; if at the side it would be better. There i^ frequently
a protection by fencing for these men who have the trams
to attend to : they are generally protected by fences.

25012. It is common to have a sufficient width between
two rails at a pass-by so that a person could stand between T
— ^Yes, so far as a pass- by is concerned.

25013. (Chairman.) You would not have it throughout
the whole length of the haulage road ? — Right from the
shaft to the face.


Mr. Jos&ph


(if r. Smillie.) The travelling road along the side ?

25015. (Chairman.) Not along the middle, except at
certain points possibly ? — Yes. There is another question
which men think very much about in Northumberland,
and that is, with regard to detaching hooks and safety
catches on cages.

25016. Before we leave the haulage roads, are you in
favour of trailers or something to stop the trams, supposing
they should get detached and run away ? — I do not think
you need make provision for that on the haulage roads.

25017. You have stops of various kinds, stops and
catches to prevent runaway trams doing damage T — ^They
have switches the same as on the railways which stop the
trams for the men.

25018. You are satisfied with what is done with regard
to that ?— Yes.

25019. You want to say something about cages ? — ^The
detaching hooks and the safety catches we think are very
important. That is for overwinding and breakage of ropes,
to hinder the cage going back into the pit. They have been
largely introduc^ in Northumberland and there la a Special
Rule on that point. No. 26 : * ' If in any mine the winding
apparatus is not. provided with some automatic contrivance
to prevent overwinding, then the cage, when men are
being raised, shall not be wound up at a speed exceed'ng
three miles an hour, after the cage has reached a point in
the shaft to be fixed by the Special Rules."

25020. If overwinding is absolutely prevented you need
not have these detaching hooks, because they only come
into operation if it takes place ? — It is the detaching hooks
that prevent overwinding. As soon as the cage goes up
the rope leaves the cage hanging.

25021. I understand that there are contrivances which
some people think better than these detaching hooks,
which prevent the cage going up a certain distance 7 — So
mucb the better if you only make it compulsory.

25022. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) Do you mean safety catches
in the middle of the pit 7— Anywhere in the shaft.

25023. If the rope breaks 7— Yes.

25024-5. (Dr. Haldane.) Are there usually wooden guides
in Northumberland 7— Yes. With regard to timbering wo
wish, whether the place is safe or unsafe, that timbering
should be only a certain distance from the face, and not
above 4 ft. Most of the accidents that occur are through
places being considered safe by the men because they neglect
to put the timber in. There should be a uniform distance.
Of course each county has different Special Rules, and some
have one distance and some another, but we think in
Northumberland that if there were a specified distance
that in all probability a lot of accidents that are caused
could be avoided by that special distance being uniform.

25026. Would you have a system of timbering outside
the faces along the roads 7—1 could not suggest anything
there, but in the face there should be ayme provision made
that it should not be more than 4ft. from the face.

25027. A maximum of 4 ft. 7— Yes.


Digitized by




Mr. Joseph


25028. Is there anything else that you wish to say ?—


26029. (Mr. F, X. Davis.) Is that the supply of timber ?
No, the timber put up. There is another point, the
running planks in the face. They have a system in France
where there is a running plank cfriven in to the top of the
coal, and when the coal is worked it protects the stone.
In a hard seam, when a big shot has been put in, the shot
shatters the stone, and, as soon as the coal gets out, down
comes the stone. Various accidents are caused in that
way. In France they have a steel bar six feet in length on
each side of the barrow-way, and the end notched into
the coal. I think that is very necessary.

26030. {Mr. RcUcliffe EUis.) With regard to the second
paragraph of General Rule 1, that requires " In the case
of mines required by this Act to be under the control of
a certificated manager, the quantity of air in the respective
splits or currents shaJl at least once in every month " T —


26031. Do you think that is often enough ?— Yes,
providing it is properly attended to.

26032. The only alteration you suggest is, that it should
sjwcify who is to make the measurement ? — Yes, and who
is to be responsible for the measurement.

25033. The certificated manager is responsible ? — Yes,
but we consider that he ought not to be responsible, but
that the overman, or the official in charge, should be re-

26034. Do you really mean that you would relieve him
from responsibility in this important matter, and depute
it to an overman ? — Do you mean to relieve the general
certificated manager from his responsibility and place it
upon the overman ? — You could not relieve the general
manager of the general responsibility of the mine, but I
am afraid that there is too much put on the general manager
and not sufficient on the under-managers.
r> 26036. Would you relieve him or make both of them
responsible T— I would make both of them responsible.

26036-8. Who is the man you would make primarily
responsible for this duty ? — The overman in the mine every
day. It ought to be his duty to make the measurement.

26039. You say the overman ought to be primarily re-
sponsible for the examination and the measurement of
the air ? — Yes.

26040. As it is now, it is under the control of the certifi-
cated manager ? — Yes.

26041. He can do it himself or appoint anybody else
to do it. Would you prevent him having that right, and
say that the only man entitled to do this should be the
overman ? — The back overman or the fore overman.

26042. He is a less responsible man than the under-
manager ? — Yes.

26043. Is your idea that no other person shall be ap-
pointed by the certificated manager to do this except this
overman ? — Yes.

26044. Do you think that would be right ? — I think so.
I think the responsibility ought to come on the overman.

26046. You would make this man examine it and no one
else ? — With the under-manager of course. You should
make both parties responsible.

26046. There are two men to be made responsible, the
overman and the under-manager ? — Yes.

26047. The certificated manager could do not it himself,
if he wished ? — How do you mean ?

26048. You say this is the person to be appointed to
make this measurement and nobody else T — To be respon-
sible for the measurement — to be responsible for the
quantity of air.

26049. Is he to measure it himself T — ^Not necessarily.

26060. The certificated manager is responsible. You
want to make somebody else responsible as well as the
certificated manager. Is it the man who is to measure

It whom you want to make the responsible man ? — The
back overman is in the pit in the b. ck shaft. The possi-
bility is that the under-manager is not in the pit at alL

26061. Is it the overman you propose to say must be
the person to make the measurement T — Yes.

26062. And he alone T— Yes.

26063. Do you think that that is an arrangement con-
ducive to safety ? — Yes, I think it is a better arrangement
than the present one.

26054. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Does he do it now at all ?

trol and vt
ment to jl
n conse- I I
Bible ?— ' *

— No. The certificated manager can depute his work to
the overman. The overman may do it, but he is not
obliged to do it.

26056. (Dr. HaJdane.) I think in your evidence it was
not the actual measuring of the air that you wanted the
overman to do, but to have control over me regulators so
as to be able to alter the air regulators if there was not
enough air ? — Yes, if there was not enough in one district
he could take it from one district and put it into another.
We want the overman to be entirely responsible for the
airing of the mine.

26066. (Mr. RatcUffe Ellis.) Do you think it would be
safe to allow an overman to regulate the air as he thought
fit, independent of the manager ? — I do. I think the
manager in many cases is very seldom where he ought
to be.

25057. We agree that ventilation is the most important
part in connection with the management of the mine. Do
you agree that it is the most important consideration for
the safety of the men that the ventilation should be
properly conducted and adequate ? — I do not quite
understand that.

25058. You would probably agree with me that the
regulation of the ventilation is perhaps the most important
point to be attended to in connection with the safety of
the men working in the mine ? — Yes.

25059. Would you place that under the contral of an
overman who is a sort of fireman, independent of the
certificated manager of the mine ? — I would, entirely.

25060. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) You do not mean to lessen
in any way the responsibility of the manager, but because
he is not always there you think that a man who is always
there should be made responsible also T — Yes.

25061. (Mr. lUUcliffe EUis.) Supposing an overman does
this and there is an accident, would you make the manager
still responsible for that T — Ck)njointly with the overman.

26062. If you take from the manager his control and
give the right to the overman by Act of Parliament
alter this ventilation, and if there is a mishap in
quence, would you still hold the manager responoiT

26063. (Chatrman.) I imagine that an overman must
necessarily be under the orders of the manager, and if the
manager gave him certain orders as to ventilation he would
be bound to carry them out ? — Yes.

25064. (Mr. RatcUffe EUis.) That is exactly the position
now. He says, to the exclusion of the manager altogether,
he would place in the hands of the overman the right and
duty of regulating the ventilation ? — There are various
responsibilities placed upon other officials, such as deputies,
what we call Bremen, and master wastemen, and other
officials, although the manager is generally responsible.

26065. It is the manager who places that responsibility
upon them T — Yes.

25066. (Chairman.) Would you absolutely prevent the
manager having power to give orders as to the ventilation
to an overman ? — You could not do that.

26067. (Mr. SmiUie.) You do not propose doing that ? —
No. I may say this : according to this Act there is
nobody responsible for the measurement of the air. It is
nobody's duty to measure the air according to the Coal
Mines Act. We want it to be somebody's duty to measure
the air.

26068. Mr. SmiUie.) Not only to measure it, but to see
that the ventilation is kept T — Yes.

26069. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) At present this is the
position : the certificated manager is required to be there
in daily supervision and control by the Act of Parliament.
He has to depute such duties as he may consider he may
safely depute to other officials, amongst others the over-
men. At the present time he can authorise him, if he
thinks fit, to measure the air, or measure it himself. Do
you want to alter that state of things and say, whether the
overman gets instruction or does not, he must have an
unfettered discretion by Act of Parliament to alter and
regulate the ventilation as he thinks fit ? — We want to say

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 48 of 177)