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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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there were statistics to prove that the percentage of accidents
was greater with men who worked by themselves who were
unskilled, and, I £hink, you said you did not know any
statistics ? — I do not attach any importance to statistics on
this question. I attach importance to what I ascertain
when an accident has occurred from that source, and if
there is a possibility of pt eventing the rocnrrence of these


Mr. Joseph

27 June 1907


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Mr. Joseph accidents, I think it is worth consideration : that is a
English. sufficient reason for me to make these suggestions.

27 June 1907 25220. I understand you to say with the coal hewer at
the face that clause has worked satisfactorily ? — Yes.

25221. You suggest to the Commission that the same
clause should apply to men engaged in continual working
in ways, and where men are engaged in setting and drawing
timber the same rule should apply ?— The last accide it we
had was exactly through a man of that de^^cription. He
had been 12 months and knew little about the working of
the mine, and was sot to work by himself, and the conse-
quence was he did not sufficiently protect himself and it
came down on him and crashed him.

25222. {Mr, F. L. Davis.) With regard to this question of
lamps, your complaint, I understand, is that y u can only
detect the gas, and it does not shew the other noxious gases
which are injurious to health ? — No.

25223. You know what Rule 1 say^ about an adequate
amount of ventilation, that it " shall be constantly pro-
duced in every mine to dilute and render harmless noxious
gase^ to such an extent tliat the working places of the shafts,
levels, stables, and workings of the mine, and the travelling
roads to and from those working places shall be in a fit state
for working and passing therein " ? — Of course they are not
always in a fit state : we find frequently they are unfit.

25224. Your complaint is that Rule 1 is not properly
carried out ? — ^There is not a sufficient quantity or air con-
ducted round the ventilating districts.

25225. The reason for that may be because your mines
are not very gaseous — not very dangerous ? — They are not
very dangerous.

25226. Not with inflammable gas ? — No.

25227. Do you consider that what you say is a very
general state of things ? — Yes, I should say it is. If there
IS a good force of air it keeps the sty the in the goaf. If
there is not a good force of air, this styth? comes back on
to the working places.

25223. Do you think that the state of things obtains
generally in Northumberland ? — Yes, we have frequent
complaints in all directions in Northumberland for want of
proper ventilation.

25229. What is the sjrstem of ventilation ? — Mostly fan.

25230. If this was a general state of things in your
district, have you not drawn the attention of the Mines
Inspector to it ? — On some occasions we have.

25231. What has been the result 7 — There has been an
improvement for a short time.

25232. Do you know in what way improvement has
taken place ? Has the fan been moving quicker or have
there been more revolutions, or an alteration in the system
or what ? — A better system of conducting the air from the
face and into the workings. When I worked in gassy
mines we had a system of wood brattice taking the air in
by the wood brattice, but now where there is no gas there
is no S3^tem whatever. The air just has to come in any
way it can, and is conducted in an imperfect manner
around the face.

25233. I do not quite understand the position. You
have spoken to the inspectors and in some cases it has been
improved for a time T— Yes.

25234. Do you say, really, that the same state of things
generally obtains now although the inspectors have been
spoken to about it ? — Yes, it very frequently happens :
whenever we find a change of atmospheric conditions we
find it frequently.

25235. You are constantly approaching the inspectors
then ? — No, not constantly. In every case that occurs we
should not approach the inspector. K we did we should be
continually approaching him.

25236. You do do it ? — Yes, in some cases, but not very

25237. It occurs to me if the thing is so general and so
serious, that it would be your duty to hring this very
forcibly before the Mines Inspector? — We get more relief by
appointing our working inspectors every three months,
when every place in the mine is inspected by the working
inspectors appointed on behalf of the workmen, and if they
find any defect in going round the workings it is their duty
to enter it in a book kept for that purpose at the mine
offices, and that book is sent to the Government Inspector
for inspection. We frequently have reports in that book
where certain places in the mine are short of ventilation
The Government Inspector can examine that book when-
ever he cares to do so, and there is a proper record kept

every three months, f very place is examined by the
working inspectors.

25238. That I know, but apart from your workmen's
inspections have you called the Mines Inspector's attention
frequently to this ? — I could not say frequently.

25239. You could do so by anonjmious letters. We
have been told by inspectors that they get a large number of
anonymous letters. The men are not penalised in any way
for doing that ? — There is a hesitancy on the part of the
workmen frequently. It is a serious thing, senaing for the
Government Inspector, in the eyes of the management.
The men who are dependent for their work and livelihood
hesitate very much before they take that course. If a man
interferes and is the cause of a Government Inspector
coming, he can look out, because when the first opportunity
arises he goes.

25240. You do not understand me : there is no reason
why the man should be found out. The inspector does not
say he has had a letter. He comes without notice, or only a
few hours' notice to the manager, to inspect the mine be-
cause he has had an intimation that thin^ are not as they
should be. He does not tell the manager that ? — But he
goes to the place that the report is sent from, that particular
place that may be bad, ana the management have curious
ways of getting to know these things.

25241. My impression is that he would be a foolish man
if he went straight to that place. That is my view, and my
experience is that they do not generally do so ? — We have
the experience of knowing what a workman has to contend
with when he looks after the interests of those around

25242. Surely it is not to the interests of the Mines
Inspector to let the management know that he has had a
hint that things are not right. He does not want the men
to suffer if things are not right : he has to see that they are
put right, and he does not want the people who have drawn
attention to it to suffer. I do not think that the Mines
Inspector will let it out in any way if he has had private
information ? — It is str nge how the management get to
know persons who make complaints.

25243. Your complaint is that Rule 1 is not properly
carried out T — ^That is it, and we want the duties of carrying
that Rule out imposed on the overman. In the Special
Rules other officials' duties are set forth, and it ought to be
set forth in them that measuring the air is the overman's

25244. That is what you said to Mr. Ellis, but I do not
understand that. Your mines, generally speaking, are not
dangerous from gas ? — No.

25245. You said that the sparking of the coal-cutting
machines was dangerous where there is gas ? — ^Yes.

25246. That is not in many places even in your district T
— Where there is no gas it is not dangerous, but where there
is gas it is dangerous.

25247. You have not much gas ? — ^No, I am speaking
generally, when I am speaking of the spar^ emanating
from the coal -cutting machines.

25248. You said that you have noticed that accidents
were increasing where machines are used T — I do not know
whether I said " increasing " : I said they were frequently

25249. I understood you to say that they were increasing,
but I may be wrong. Have you any figures or have you
any statistics yourself to ascertain whe^er that is so ? —
We had three accidents within four months. One accident
occurred where the man was actually only five yards in
before the machine, timbering — putting timber in, and
taking timber out, and five yards from that machine the
accident occurred, and another man was working at the
bottom, only 22 yurds away, and he could not hear the
stone fall, and the man at the machine did not know that
the accident had occurred until his machine was stopped.

25250. That is a fall of the roof ?— Yes. There were
five gears broken down, and if the machine had been
stopped they would have been sure to have heard that
stone working.

25251. That is the real cause, in your opinion, of the
extra danger — I mean the noise of the machine 7 — ^Yes.

25252. That is the chief cause for more accidents
using the machines ? — Yes.

25253. That is why you suggest a stoppage of two
minutes every quarter of an hour, or a stoppage of some
kind, to hear what is going on ? — There is no precaution
at present for preventing accidents by coal-cutting mach-
inery, and we think that there ought to be some precaution.

the I

by 1'

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and that is why we make the suggestion. We are in
favour of coal-cutting machinery, and we think that every
encouragement should he given in that direction, hut it
is in order to prevent accidents arising from the use of
these machines that we are anxious ahout it.

25254. Do you consider that those machines are ad-
visable, because they work coal that otherwise would not
be worked ? — Yes, we can get an average produce of six
tons, whereas we could not get 2| tons by hand. The
seams could not be worked by hand that are worked by
the machine.

25255. Generally you want to impress upon the Commis-
mission that since these machines have been introduced,
there are not sufficient precautions taken for keeping the
top up ? — ^Yes.

25256. With regard to overmen, your great point about
the overman being responsible for ventilation. I see in
the Special Rules, No. 7 : * * He shall examine the baro-
meter and thermometer at the bank before going down
the pit, and register their indications ; and caution the
deputies when any sudden or unusual change has taken
place " ? — ^That is part of his duties defined here. We
want the other part of the duties defined, that he shall
also have the charge of the measuring of the air in the

26267. * * He shall inspect such parts of the mine as
may be reported to him uifeafe and in any way needing
his attention, and so far as practicable remedy any defect " ?
— ^We want inserted there to be responsible for measuring
the air in the different splits.

26268. Paragraph 6 is : * ' He shall, under the direction
of the manager or under- manager, have the daily super-
vision and responsible charge and control underground of
the mine or portion of the mine, and when by nomination
and appointment acting as under- manager he shall perform,
in addition, the duties of under- manager." That does not
go as far as you want it to go ? — I do not see any reason
why his special duties should not be defined, to be respon-
sible for measuriiig air in the different portions of the mine.

25259. Mr. Ellis said you make him responsible, but I
do not see why you take away the responsibility from
somebody else ? — Why specify his duty in one part of the

25260. (Mr. JRatcliffe Ellis.) You want to have a Special
Rule to provide for what shall be done. In Lancashire
there is a Special Rule with reference to the under- manager :
* * He shall see that at least once in every month the quantity
of air in the respective splits or currents is measured and
entered in a book as provided for by General Rule 1 " ? —
They simply have in Lancashire what we want in North -

25261. You want in the Special Rules a provision some-
thing like the Lancashire Rules ? — ^Yes.

25262. (^fr. Smillie.) Kobody is bound to draw up
certain rules of that kind unless it is an Act of Parliament ?
— If it is essential for Lancashire, why should it not be
essential for Northumberland H

{Mr. Batcliffe EUis.) Still, the certificated manager is
left in. control.

25263. {Mr. SmiUie.) What is the general system of
working in NorthumbCTland ? Is it stoop and room or
longwall ? — It used ta be what we call * * board and wall,"
but most of the seams are now longwall working.

25264. Your thin seams working by coal cutting mach-
inery are longwall ? — Yes.

25265. The board and wall system was done some years
ago ? — Yes, larg* ly, and it is much worse to ventilate
than the longwall.

25266. You have some of that still, the board and wall ?
— Yes, seams you could not work very well in any other
way in Northumberland than board and wall — in thick

25267. You have 25 machines ? — Roughly speaking.

25268. Is that 25 collieries at which machines are
engaged ? — No.

25269. In one colliery there are five or six ? — A very
large colliery, but I could not exactly say the number.

25270. You have not worked at a coal cutting machine
yourself, but you have been down examining the workings
for the satisfaction of your own Association as to their
safety and what provisions will be required ? — I worked
at the pit where they were frequently used and I was very
often in.

25271. Although not a workman at the machine, you
were in ? — Yes.

Mr. Joseph

25272. Is it possible for a person to hear another person 27 June 1907
speaking when a machine is cutting ? — ^No.

25273. Supposing anything went wrong with a person,
or they recognised that there was some danger and they
shouted at the top of their voice, it is impossible for the
men behind the machine to hear ? — ^They could not hear.

25274. The noise is deafening T — ^Properly deafening.

25275. You said one man went before the machine to
set timber and another one came behind to set timber as
it went past. There must be a clear passage between the
coal face and the timber for the machine to get up ? — 2 ft. 6.

25276. If there are any props set in that way, a person
going before the machine removes them, and puts the
props in a line in order to get the machine through ? — ^Yes.

25277. In long\^'all working, where it is not done by
coal- getting machinery, or in any otiher method of mining,
the experienced miner depends largely on his hearing ? —

25278. You guard against falls of roof ? — ^Yes.

26279. Sometimes even in the breaking of the roof, not
only does he hear the sound, but little bits fall on the floor
and warn him ? — It is very seldom that the stone will
come down unless it gives a certain amount of warning,
and if he hears that warning he may escape an accident.

25280. If two or three men were working at the coal
face, and one of them heard a sound that he thought to be
a warning, he would at once shout to his mates to keep
quiet until he could ascertain what the nature of the roof
was ? — Yes, and get out of the way as quickly as possible.

25281. Provided he hears the warning, it is all right.
The crazing, we know, is the sign of danger from a fall T —

25282. The machine starts at one end of the ran, and
unless something goes wrong it continues to the other end,
three or four hours J — They are generally on a system of
cutting 90 yards in eight hours.

25283. They do that continuously, providing nothing I
goes wrong ? — They are introducing this new system of 1
conveyors. I do not know whether you understand that. I

25284. We have not had any evidence with regard to
the conveyors, that is, conveying coal to the road head,
where it is filled by macliinery ? — Just Hke a screen, it
runs about 90 yards, and is about 2 ft. 6 wide. The dis-
tance for the machine, added to this, makes the face
nearly 5 ft. from the timber.

25285. It also, being worked by machinery, gives rise
to a considerable amount of noise ? — Just about the same
as the machine.

25286. If the method which you have stated is the
method of timbering in some parts of France were adopted,
steel straps, with a prop under one end and the other end
put over the cool head, it would minimise to some extent
the danger from falls ? — Yes, it would increase the safety
and reduce the danger from falls ? — ^Yes, it would increase
the safety and reduce the danger.

25287. Would you suggest at what distance these beams
or straps should be set — 2 ft., 3 ft. or 4 ft. ? — They should
not be above 3 ft.

25288. That would largely depend on the nature of the
roof ?— Yes.

24289. Are you satisfied that Rule 38, which gives you
the power to appoint two persons who are working miniBrs,
is sufficiently strong ? — ^Yes, providing oar suggestion is
carried out that it is the duty of the manager to send one
of the officials.

25290. That is a different point. There has been
considerable amount of evidence given here with regard
to this question. The persons appointed by the workmen
must be working as miners at the time of their appoint-
ment ? — ^Practical miners.

25291. They must be working at the time of their
appointment. Have you no objection to that in North-
umberland ? — ^No, I think it is better than having— of
course you could increase your Government inspectors,
but I do not know whether it would be wise to make a
special claas of inspectors for that purpose.

25292. It has been suggested that this Rule might read
persons who were or have been practical working miners
might be appointed by the workinen. How would North-
umberland miners feel towards that 7 — ^We have not put


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MINUTES OF evidence:

Mr. Joseph \ t^t point before them, because they are fairly satisfied
English. \ with the present arrangement. The county that has most

I taken advantage of that Rule has had it in operation ever

27 June 1907 Isince it was established.

25293. Tou are satisfied with the present Rule, provided
the management were bound to do what they do in your
county — send an official round with the examiner T — ^Yes.

25294. That is all right if you are satisfied with that.
You stated that workmen did not care to make any com-
plaints of bad ventilation to the mines inspector because
of the fear of dismissal ? — Yes, we have had more than
one case where that has occurred.

25295. How do you square that statement with your
statement that you take full advantage of Rule 38, that
the workmen appointed are not afraid to make an adverse
report ? — ^Not generally. There may be some. We have
not found that, but the management regard sending for
the Government Inspector as a serious question, because
they run the risk of losing their certificates should the
Government Inspector find that there is neglect in the

25296. Where you appoint two men to examine a colliery,
if they find any fault with the ventilation, or point out any
dangers, they are bound to enter them in a report at the
colliery, and the manager is bound to send them on to the
Mines Inspector. Does not that have the same effect ? —
No, I do not think they are as anxious ; at least, they do
not take action with regard to the workmen as far as that
inspection is concerned, but they regard sending for the
Government Inspector as a serious matter.

25297. It is imnecessary for a workman to send to the
Government Inspector. Could he not be sent for through
the checkweigher, or through your General Secretary,
Mr. Straker ? Would not a complaint to Mr. Straker at
once have the Government Inspector sent for ? — ^Yes.

25298. That would not bring the workmen into it ? —
We could bring him any time by sending a note to the
general office or the working office, but it is looked upon
as a serious state of affairs when you l^ve to bring in the
Government Inspector.

25299. Is Rule 39, which provides that a person must
have two years' practical experience at the coal face before
he can take charge of the place, generally carried out T —
As far as the coal-getters are concerned, that is carried out.

25300. If a manager put three or four unskilled persons
under the charge of one skilled person at a longwall face
in your county, do you think that would be carrying out,
this clause of the Act ? — ^No.

25301. Supposing two unskilled persons were going to
work at the coal face, in your opinion would that cany out
this clause ? — ^The only way, in my opinion, of carrying out
the clause of that Act is for the unskilled man to be accom-
panied by someone, it does not matter whether two, three,
or four. If he is working with skilled men for two years
he is a skilled man.

25302. Do you not know the clause says "shall not
work alone " ? — ^He does not work alone.

25303. Supposing two unskilled persons are together,
they are not alone ? — ^They are not, but they are unskilled.

25304. But they are not working alone ?— They are
working together.

25305. If you were told that the Law Courts have held
that two unskilled persons working together are not working
alone, and, consequently not brea^ng this clause, you would
tlunk that an alteration was required ? — You are not
getting clear of the Mines Act by having them together.

25306. You do not think that is the intention of clause
39 of this Act T — My idea is the intention of that clause was
that an unskilled man must be working with a skilled man.

25307. That he should serve an apprenticeship to take
care of himself T — That is the intention of the Act.

25308k Can you say whether the deputies' districts in
your county are small enough to enable the deputies to
carry out their work under the Act of Parliament ? — Under
the present system I think the number of men a deputy
has to attend to, and fire shots where he is required to fire
shots, are too many. He could not do justice to the work.
I think about 16 men is the number a deputy is to look
over, but if he has to fire shots for these 16 men ho could
not do the duties satisfactorily.

25309. Is the number limited or fixed by Special Rule ?
— Fourteen to 16, I think. It is about an average of 14
to 16.

25310. It may be more or less aooording to the nature of
the district, perhaps T — ^Yes.

25311. The first duty of the deputy should be to look
after the ventilation and the general safety of the men
employed at the face ? — Yes ; we look upon him as the
man to look after the safety of the men.

25312. Is it the opinion of the Northumberland miners
generally that the position of a competent person to fire
shots and the position of deputy should be two different
positions ? — We have not had that matter discussed. We
have privately thought about it, but I think if the number
of men he had to attend to was reduced that that would
meet the case.

25313. As a matter of fact, you think the district or the
number of men they have to look after should be fixed at
a point, so that the deputy could devote his whole time to
looking after their safety ?— Yes.

25314. Has the deputy any other duty with regard to
haulage, or taking out the coal, or is he called upon to put
on tubs in the road ?— Yes, that frequently occurs. If
anything happens the first man they send for is the deputy.

25315. He might be employed at the face putting in
brattice, or doing other safety work, and he would be called
out, and his first duty would be to go ? — ^Yes, any time he
is called away to go away, probably out of sight of the flat.

25316. Do you think that it p advisable that the deputy
should be called away from his real duties^ to do work of
that kind ? — I do not think it is necessary. It is not
desirable in any way.

25317. If it could be prevented it would be wise ? — Yes.

25318. With regard to haulage accidents, there is a
considerable number of accidents arising from haulage 7

25319. Have you a method of hand-drawing by a single
tub in your county ? — Endless rope, that is single tub.

25320. Is there any such thing as workmen conveying
single tubs from the face to a lye ?— Yes, lads.

25321. All horse haulage or mechanical haulage T — Pony
haulage mostly.

25322. You have no hand-drawing at all ?— We have in
some places.

25323. Even on a horse road where a lad is driving a horse

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 50 of 177)