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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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shire — nothing but directing doors and seeing to the
ventilation through airways and that those things are

25817. They are men able in an emergency to take the
place of firemen 7 — ^We have plenty of them. We hav^
two or three first-class brattice men gaining experience
to become firemen, and so on, up to tihe top of the pole.

25818. You have no objection to this class of man, but
only the method by which the deputies are at present
employed 7 — Yes.

(Mr. PoweU.) I quite agiee with my friend. We do
object, as he has stated, to a deputy examining a part of
the shift of a district and not reporting. That is what you
mean 7

• (Witness.) Yes.

(Mr. Pawdl.) These deputies I told you about do report.
They sign their name on every report they make. If they
examine only one or 10 places they sign for it.

(Mr, Wm, AbrahcMt.) That is perfectly understood.

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TxLCsday, 9th July, 1907.

Lord MONKSWBLL (Chairman).

Wm. Abraham, Esq., m.p. (Rhondda).
P. L. Davis, Esq.
Enoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.
Thomas Ratcuffb Ellis, Esq.

John Soott Haldanb, Esq., f.r.s.
Robert Smillie, Esq.

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

Mr. Wiluam Browell Charlton, called and examined







Statement of Witness.

25819. (1) The evidence I wish to give will be con-
fined to:

What steps could be taken for the better prevention
of accidents from winding and haulage.

The Federation of Enginemen's Associations have for
25 years urged that for the better prevention of accidents
from winding and haulage, the Government ought to
force all persons before being placed in charge of engines,
to give evidence of their fitness by t cpt to e y»j>«jyhfc-
hea ring, that they have no mental or bodily mnrmity,
tESf^feey are of good moral character, and have
a practical knowledge of the construction of engines, and
* that they have had a period of preliminary training in
some kindred employment, thus preventmg accidents
like the following: —

(2) An inquest was held on the death of William
Hutchinson, miner, Hummerb6ck Colliery, Durham, in
April last year. In the verdict the Jury expressed the
opinion t^at the person in charge of the engine was not
a capable bn^esman.

(3) I attach a copy of regulations* enforced by the
Durham Enginemen on all persons seeking membership
and it is generally admitted that such stipulations, as
are here given, have resulted in a very efficient staff of
winding and hauling men being employed in the County
of Durham. The enforcement of those regulations rests
with the Enginemen's Association, and sometimes much
friction and bad feeling is created between the manage-
ment and the enginemen. We urge that the Government
should claim to be satisfied as to the fitness of persons
placed in those important positions.

(4) If keeps were used under the cages while men and
boys were getting in and out of the cages a very prolific
source of accidents would be abolished. If keeps had
been used in the case already quoted the man Hutchinson
would have been spared, for when the cage moved away,
after the first three men got out, the cage would have
reached the keeps and rested level with the getting out
point, but there were no keeps in and the man was
caught and fell down the shaft. If keeps had been used
in the Boldon Colliery, Durham, case in August last,
when three men fell down the pit 266 fathoms, the opinion
of the Jury was, that two of the men would have been
saved. Keeping the cages steadfast while the weight in
the cages are varying by the men getting in and out is
one of the most taxing moments for a winder. If keeps
were used and the cages rested, then, with an adequate
brake, there would be a reasonable guarantee that the
cage would not move until desired.

(5) The practice of persons signalling themselves
away from the shaft bottom, and from seams in the
shaft, is dangerous, for the person must signal the cage
to be taken away before he gets in. In many cases the
engineman has to calculate upon what time should be
s^wed. The danger is increased in those instances
where it is done when enginemen do not know. Usually
this occurs during the night shift between the large
groups or shifts of men being changed, when the datal

men, horse-keepers, men doing repairs, etc., are
passing from one seam to another. This is a growing
annoyance to enginemen and source of danger.

In August last Whitfield Ridley, Bobsido Colliery,
Northumberland, was injured and died immediately
after. He was able to tell his brother that the engine-
man was too quick for him, ho did not give him time to
get in after he had signalled. I remember some time
ago a case where the person had signalled away, and in
stooping to get in the cage after he had signalled, the slot,
which is used to keep the tubs in position, got in between
the collar of his jacket and his neck and detained him
there until the cage went away, killing him on the spot,
no one was near or this could have been prevented. This
is a source of much anxiety to enginemen, who are
responsible for the safe raising and lowering of men and

(6) The shortening of the hours of winding-men's
shifts is imperative S greater care is demanded from
them. In Durham County there is a universal eight /
hours^ day for winders. But in practice the 24 hours is ( r^
divided into seven, eight and nine-hour shifts. The
seven hours cover that portion of the day in which the
b\ilk of the men are changed and the pit is busiest with

coal drawing. The eight hours cover the remaining
three hours coal drawing and changing the men, whereas
the nine hours cover the portion given only to waiting
on and changing men.

After 30 years' experience in winding at the largest
3ollieries in Durham, one thing I know is that no man
can exercise that tension and energy in the management
of winding machinery for 12 hours that he can during
eight hours. The most alarming accidents in overwind-
ing have occurred in the fag end of the 12-hour shift, or
even a longer shift. Winders have no cessation, no
meal times. It is one continuous strain, and, remember-
ing what Sir Lindsay Wood said in 1897 respecting the
work of winding enginemen, it is a little surprising that
some relief has not come in the shape of parliamentary
shortening of their hours.

Sir Lindsay Wood told us in 1897 that there were
550,000 persons emploved underground in the mines,
and he estimated that the cages would make 200,000,000
journeys per year. The speed in some portions of the
shift is at the rate of 40 miles per hour, with a total weight
of 18 tons. There are few trades which are so taxing
and trying to the energies and which make such heavy ^
demands upon the mental powers of workmen as the ^
winding engines at our collieries. This being the testi-
mony of so competent an authority wo urge that the
Commission will enforce an enactment limiting the hours
that winders are to work at eight per shift.

(7) We ask the Commission to do something to pro-
hibit single individuals being sent int3 the mines alone
to attend pumping engines and electric motors, etc.,
during week ends, and at night time when the pits are to
be idle the next day. Men are compelled to go down
often to some out of the way place in the mine to an
engine beyond the possibUity of communicating to any
soul, no matter what may happen.

Mr. W. B.

9 JuiyTldO?.

14. V


See Appendix I.


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Mr, W,B,


^ Jui^l907.



25820. (Chairman,) I understand you are the Chief
Agent, in the Union of the Durham County Enginemen ?
— Yea.

25821-3. You belong to the National Federation of
Enginemen's and Boilennen's Associations of Great
Britain ? — Yes.

25824. You have been employed continuously as a
colliery winding-engineman since 1876 until 1006 ; you
have had 30 years* experience yourself in winding 7 — ^Yes.

25825. You represent this National Federation ? — Yes.

25826. You express the views that ths majority of the
members hold upon this question ? — Yes.

25827. For 25 years your Federation has urged with
the Government that for the better prevention of accidents
from winding and haulage the Government ought to force
aU persons I of ore being placed in charge of engines to give
evidence of their fitness by test to eyesight, hearing, that
they may have no men'^al or bodily infirmity, that they
are of good moral character, and have a practical know-
ledge of the construction of engines, and that they have
had a period of preliminary training in some kindred
employment ? — Yes. The National Federation have done
that in the shape of urging a Bill claiming that all persons
employed as engine tenders and boiler tenders should pass
an examination and give evidence of fitness. Five times
that Bill has passed its second reading.

25828. When did it pass its second reading, what c-ates ?
— I oould not give the dates.

25829. Was it after the Special Report from the Select
Committee on Steam Engines and Boilers (Persons in
CI large) Bill ? — It has not passed the second reading since

25830. The reason being that the Select Committee
reported against your Bill ?— The Bill that was considered
before the Select Committee provided that men employed
at mining engines, at factories, and all other kinds of
engines in the country, should pass a similar examination
and give evidence of fitness. We have drafted a Bill
since then specially relating to collieries. The Bill we
are now urging is relating only to men employed at colliery
engines and boilers.

25831. In the Report of this Select Committee there is
this paragraph : " Your Committee are of opinion that
the provisions of the Mines Regulation Act, 1887, the
f eneral rules incorporated with that Act and the special
rules which are fully detailed in the evidence of Mr. Ellis
(Questions 2210 — 2220) are admirably adapted to secure
the selection of comp tent persons for taking charge .of
engines and boilers, and for fixing the responsibility in
the case of mines." The Committee were satisfied that
the Act and Special Rules went far enough, and did not
propose to Parliament that your Bill should be passed.
Why were you not satisfied with these • provisions ? —
General Rule 24 only provides that the man that is to be
in charge of an engine for the purpose of drawing men
anil minerals from the mine should be a man 22 years of
age, a suitable person in the idea of the manager. If the
manager says a person is competent there is an end to the
question ; the rule reads " In any mine which is usuaUy
entered bv means of machinery, a competent male person
not less than twenty- two years of age shall be appointed
for the purpose of working the machinery which is em-
ployed in lowering and raising persons therein."

25832. There were certain Special Rules detailed in
the evidence of Mr. Ellis which the Committee considered
were admirably adapted to secure the selection of com-
petent persons T — Yes.

25833. Have you read those rules ? — We perceive that
the Special Rules vary in districts. We ao not know
anything in the Special Rules that would result in securing
a more competent man than Rule 24 of the Mines Act.
It does not enforce any stipulation other than the 24th Rule.

25834. These Special Rules were, at all events, intended
to go a little further than General Rule 24 ?— What they
might be intended to do I do not know, but I have not
seen, as one who has observed those thii^s, where it does
enforce from men more than what the Act does.

25835. This General Rule says merely " some competent
person." There is no definition of what a competent
person is ? — To illustrate my point — I just want to be
iinderstoood, that is all— I have submitted the Regulations
in Durham which* the Enginemen's Society have very
fully, shall I say enforced — I say enforced so far as we
as enginemen have been able to. We to-day have a request
before the county owners, and one of the offers made is
made conditionally, and this is the clause — I do not want
to name the concession ; ** This concession to be subject

to the condition that an agreement is Come to by which
enginemen will undertake to teach any man whom the
owners may select for that purpose." This is our point,
and it will perhaps illustrate the matter now under con*
sideration. We think that competent winders ought to
have a preliminary training that will make them ready
to effectually deal, not only with anything that may take
place in his engine, but if any matter intercepts his efficient
working from the boilers which are immediately near, that
that man would be competent by reason of his prior
training to take in at once what is the matter in regard to
steam failure or any other interruption coming as the result
of forces outside. We have made it imperative that a
man seeking to be a winder, a colliery engineman, shall go
through this preliminary training that he may be easily
competent to grasp anything that may take place.

25836. Have you succeeded in enforcing your rules in
the County of Durham ? Are only members of your
Association employed ? — Very largely so. It has oeen
accepted now mutually between us and the owners. We
do not train anyone, neither can we, except the manfiiger
or the engineer nominates and signs a permission, so that
in that respect it is mutual ; but some of them resist it.

25837. Do you wish to keep this Association in any way
a close corporation ? Would you leave it to the managers,
with the consent of the men to be taught, to settle the
number to be apprentices ? — We say that is an aspect
that may be reasonably got out of the assumption, and
that is why we are urging that the Government should
undertake to be assur^ that the men placed in those
charges are competent men and not the Durham Engine-
men's Society.

26838. That is my point. Mr. Ellis will, no doubt, bring
it out afterwards, but the suggestion on behalf of the
owners is that you would make engine winders a close
corporation ; you would seek to limit the number of
apprentices ? — I will say this in reply ; I do not know a
single application that has come jointly from the manager
and the men at the colliery that has been refused by the
authority tiiat now has this matter in hand. During the
last 18 months we have given permission to 75 men in our
county to be taught to wind, and 63, I think it is, to be
taught to haul underground ; that is the whole of the

25839. You have not yet refused any applications 7 — No.

25840. Are you satisfied with the state of things in
Durham ? If what is the practice in Durham was carried
out throughout the mines of the United Kingdom would
you be satisfied without a Bill, or do you still think the
Bill would be desirable ? — I only put this forward as show-
ing the direction in which we are seeking a guarantee of
fitness. I do not put that as the full measure that should
be applied, but it would certaioly be a considerable improve-
ment upon what we have, if it was sanctioned by the

25841. What do yoa mean by "sanctioned by the^
Grovemment " ? Do you mean the Government should
say nobody shall wina unless he has this certificate from
your Association ? Is that what you want ? — No, unless
he has a certificate of that kind from the Home Office.

25842. I thought your Association, under the Durham
Rules, did give certificates 7 — Yes, we do, and we should
like it if the Government would undertake to make it
imperative that all men that have to be appointed at
colliery engines should obtain a certificate after an exam-
ination, as we do in Durham in our little way, but rather
more technical and in a larger way.

25843. Do you propose that the examination should do
anything more than test the physical fitness of a man for
the work 7 The examination you require would merely test
the physical fitness of a man. He must be of good moral
character, steady habits, and possessed of ability 7 — Yes.

25844. Do you propose to test by anything but a medical
examination and certificate of character 7 — Those claims
are certainly imperative, but a man could not be a winder
if his hearing was defective or his eye-sight was defective.
We have hcMi instances before us like this, that a man
without medical examination has been accepted and a
certificate granted, and after two months' practice it has
been found that he was defective in hearing, and we have
had to remit his fee and \^ithdraw his certificate. Our
only means is by a committee of enquiry. A medical
examination would be necessary.

25845. Do you propose any examination except a
medical examination 7 — What we urge is that a man who
is accepted to be examined should l>e a man who has had


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prior qualifications — who had as a preliminary been
employed as a stoker or boiler-minder, or kindied em-

26846. That is not a question of examination T— No.

25847. I was askiig you as to the examination. You
say there ought to 1^ an examination to test physical
fitness. I understand your suggestion as to a test of
physical fitness, and that he should be of good character,
but I am not certain whether you think it would be advisable
to force him to go through any other kind of examination
except for physical fitness and good character ? — Why I
have named that is that it is made imperative so far as
our examination is concerned. We would not examine
any man unless he had this preliminary training. What
we desire the Government to do is to ascertain whether
the man's knowledge of the construction of an engine
technically, and his practical knowledge of winding, are
such as they would regard him to be a fit man to be en-
trusted with the engine. That is all.

25848. Do you give any written examination before you
certify that a man is a competent brakesman or hauling
man T — ^No ; the only thing is the manager at the colliery
and the men under whom he has learned testify that by
practice he is an efficient winder, a competent winder, and
has wound for 12 months, and then we give a certificate.
That is as far as we can go.

25849. You suggest the Government should go further,
and institute a test as to whether a man knows the theoiy
of winding and the theory of haulage 7 — Yes.

25850. That is your suggestion, at all events ? — You
will pardon me, but I do not know what may be meant by
" theory."

25851. I will use your own words if you like : understand-
ing the mechanism of the brakes, and so on — not only
understanding what you are to do to haul a cage up and
down, but understanding the whole mechanism of the
engine, so that if anything goes wrong he should know
how to set it right, or ask assistance in seeing it was set
right ? — You do not mean such a theory as would enable
every man to work out the horse-power of an engine ?
We do not mean that.

25852. You go on to the question of keeps for making
the cages steadfast. A good many accidents have hap-
pened owing to the cage getting into motion prematurely ?

25853. Whilst men are getting in or out the cage goes
up or down, and accidents have happened, and you
suggest keeps should be used ? — I may say in my ex-
perience, and generaUy. We have not very much to
complain of in this respect, but there are times. Take,
for instance, at week-ends and during night-time, when
we are not drawing the coals ; often the heapstead is left
without an attendant, and, as I have said here, except a
man has a very reliable brake to his engine, keeping the
cage suspended by gently appljring steam while the load
at the top is lessening, it may be the load at the bottom is
increasing, because while men are getting out at the top
others may be getting in at the bottom, and you can have
a lessening load at the top and an increasing load at the
bottom, thus making it a difficult matter to keep his
stage stationary whSe that was being done. If keeps
were there the cage could be kept at rest.

25854. You suggest that keeps should be made com-
pubory ? — We do.

25855. What is the usual practice with regard to keeps ?
Are they used or not used ? — They are used : that is the
usual practice.

25856. Sometimes cages are let down without any
keeps ? — The keeps are always there. Usually the keeps
are balanced, so that when the cage comes up each deck
passes and they fall in, and you come back on to them.
At night time, before the attendant leaves he brings the
lever up and latches it up to keep the keeps out of the way.
^Vhen the bulk of the men are changed, after the pit is
done they will do this. When the full shift of men come
to go down an attendant will come in with them, and from
that time they commence to a^ them again for the next
day, but incidentals, shift men, and repairing men, are
often left without an attendant and without keeps.

25857. What is the object of putting these keeps back
so that they do not act during the night 7 — It would be
impossible to have them used without an attendant.
If a workman comes on to the bank top to come down
he calls to the winder to bring the cage up : he gets in
and calls out the seam he wants to go to, or the bottom.
He could not use the keeps himself : he must get in while
they are out, or the cage could not go by.

25858. How do you propose to deal with that point 7
— I think that the Mines Act very largely deals with it ;
I do not say that I could drop on it exactly. The sugges-
tion is that the attendant, the banksman, and the onsetter
must be in attendance while men are getting in and out
of cages. It is the intention of this that thei'e should be
men at the top and the bottom.

25859. You think the spirit of the Act is infringed by
this practice of taking away the men who have to attend
to the keep* during the night, and that ought not to be
allowed 7 — Yes.

25860. Then you give instances of accidents that have
happened. These accidents are still happening, I suppose 7
— I do not say that.

25861. In August last there was an accident 7— Yes,
but that was a temporary arrangement that thev had.
They had the keeps, but there was some special work
being done. I have only cited that incident to illustrate
what I mean. I do not suggest that the practice of
changing men without keeps is very extensively in vogue
in our county.

25862. You think this practice of not having men to
look after the keeps during the night and, consequently
the keeps having to be put back so as not to act, is a
dangerous practice and ought not to be allowed. You
cannot lay your hand on any recent accident that has
been caused by that practice 7 — Yes, I have a case here
of Himimerbeck. A miner fell down the pit at Hununer-
beck on April 7th, 1906. After deliberating in private,
the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. They
reconmiended that the brakesman should not leave his
engine, and that when the men were riding keeps should
be used. Tliey expressed the opinion that William
Meynell was not a capable brakesman.

25863. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) That was the man in charge
of the engine 7 — Yes. I cited that in my Statement.
If keeps had been used in the instance I quoted, this man
would have been saved, because the cage went away
prematurely. It would have gone on to the keeps and
the man would have been all right.

25864. (Chairman,) This was where keeps were not
used at all. You say not only must keeps be used in
all cases, but they must be used at all times. Not only I
must they always be there, but alwa3rs have somebody
to attend to them and see that they can be used 7 — Yes,
because the Mines Act somewhere does say, that the men
at the top and the bottom shall be in a position to signal
to the engineman in the event of anything taking place
while the cages are running in the shaft. If there is no
one there, that part of the Act cannot be carried out,
because the cages would be running the journey and
something might take place on that journey the same as
any other journey.

25865. Although it is no breach of the rules to put up
the keeps, it is a breach that nobody should be there to
look after them 7 — Quite so.

25866. Or a practical breach of the rules ; at all events
a breach of the spirit of the Act. Perhaps it is some
Special Rule you are referring to 7 — ^This is a procedure

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 55 of 177)