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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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give to the attendant to say that there were men coming
1^ that seam, and he would also signal to the engineman
mat there were men for that seam, so that both the engine-
man and the attendant would know on this journey that
there were men intended to get out there.

26083. Do you s'ay that it is the usual, if not the universal,
thing to have keeps, or shuts, at the mid-shafts in Durham ?
— No, not in mid-shaft. I say on the surface.

26084. I have been dealing with the landings at mid-
shaft where coals and men may be put on to the cage.
Is it usual or universal to have shuts or keeps at those
places ? — I do not think it is universal ; they are employed
m mid-shaft, but not universally.

26085-6 . Are you aware that mining engineers in collieries
generally condemn the use of keeps at mid-shaft as being
very dangerous ? — No, I am not aware of that. I know
in one instance, this inquest at Boldon, where the jury
regretted that the keeps had not been used ; that was
an intermediate position between the top and the

26087. With regard to the keeps at the surface, would
it not be simple for engineman to have charge of the
keeps there, so that he could open or close them from
the engine-house ? Is it not done in many cases when
the banksman is away the engine-winder can, by
drawing a handle, either close or open those ? — I do not
know an instance of that kind.

26088. Would there be any difficulty in attaching to a
handle on the keeps a chain, or some other method of the
engine winder having charge of them 7 — I should think
that was possible. There would be nobody to signal to
the engineman from the top in the event of anything
taking place during the journey. The men would be
running down and left there.

26089. Yon say sometimes men stepping off the cage
at the surface lighten the load ; men might be getting on
at the pit bottom, which might make the load heavier,
and the engine winder, unless he had a strong brake to
his engine, might go away ? — Yes.

260d0. Is not an engine winders' brake in all the engines
in the country sufficiently strong to bear any alteration
in the load of that kind ? — No. Many of them are much
inferior to that.

26091. Is it not the case that most brakes used on
engines would almost stop the engine with the steam 7
— ^No, that is not so.

26092. Would the keeps in that case you referred to
do any good 7 Would not the cage in which the men were
coming off have a tendency to rise under such circumstances
as you have said, and not to fall 7 — Yes, it would have that

26093. The keeps in a case of that kind would not prevent
such a thing taking place. Your strongest point is that
it is a breach of the Goal Mines Act for men to ascend or
descend the shaft without the banksman in the one case
and the onsetter in the other case being there to see to
that 7— Yes.

26094. If the Special Rule were made a General Rule
and carried out you would have no objection ? — ^There
would be no objection. We believe that the spirit of the
law is that these men have to be there.

26095. Most of the Special Rules say that the banks-
man must be attending at such time as the manager
appoints 7 — I do not want to leave that point just now
about the keeps. From what you say it is apparent that
the tendency from the men getting in at the bottom
and off at the top would be to move upward, but an
efficient brakesman prevents that by steam. He is con-
tinually resisting ttiat upward tendency. In the measure-
ment of steam he might get an over -glut of steam, which
would at the moment move the cage downward. If you
had keeps it could not go beyond the point of getting out.

26096. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUia.) The rope would go 7— Yes.

26097. But not the cage 7— Not the cage.

26098. (Mr. SmiUie.) In a case of that kind if there
were keeps in the jMt bottom the cage must be at the lowest
bottom, because the other cage is at the top 7 — Yes.

26099. It is almost universal to have the cage sitting

on a solid bottom or bins at the bottom 7 — ^That is so.

If there was on over-emission of steam, and the engineman 9 Jtdy, 1907.
had misgauged the resistance and moved it downward, — L *

the loosing of that weight on the keeps would be sufficient

to arrest matters. I do not mean the man would send the
engine away. I mean his giving resistance to the upward
movement may reverse the motion and bring the cage
down, but when it reaches the keeps it would be at rest.

26100. The chief point you have dealt with is the
qualifications necessary for an engine-winder. Ninety-
seven per cent, of your engine-winders are members of*
your union 7 — Yes.

26101. Your Rules at the present time have brought
about this position. Under the Mines Act you are aware
that a manager is supposed to appoint a competent person 7

26102. You say that the Rules under which your Trade
Union has been worked up to the present time have given
a manager a guarantee if he finds an engine-winder wanting
employment and he is a member of your Association, that
is also a guarantee that he is a competent person 7 — Yes,
he holds a certificate of competency.

26103. From your Association 7 — Yes.

26104. You are anxious that the responsibility should
be taken off your Association, providing a Government
department sees that the engine-winders are competent
by certificate 7 — ^Yes.

26105. Is your Association prepared to face this position
of matters, that a Government department, if the re-
sponsibility were put on them to grant certificates by
Act of Parliament, might make provision for training
engine-winders. Has it ever struck you that might be
done outside altogether from engine-winders at your
colliery being trained, that the Government department
might make provision to train them to secure a sufficient
supply 7 — ^We do not believe that they could.

26106. Would you object to such a course being taken
if it were proved to you that they did make them com-
petent 7 — We would object to our members being com-
pelled to undertake to teach anyone contrary to their will
if they were afraid of embarrassment and liability in

26107. You have dealt with that, and I admit you are
correct to protect your own members, but I am putting
a position where the training school might be established
in some part of every county, where a training could be
given outside of your Association altogether 7 — ^That is
possible if they sunk a pit and employed a staff and taught
men all right, but if their regulations claimed the assistance
of the enginemen, well, we would like to say whether
we would undertake it or not.

26108. I quite admit your position there, but you are
face to face with this, that colliery managers have to have
a certificate at the present time 7 — Yes.

26109. Have you ever heard of colliery managers
objecting to the training of other people becoming colliery
managers 7 — ^No.

26110. There is plenty of scope at the present time for
the training of oolUery managers and granting certificates
by the Government 7 — Yes.

26111. And the Government provide examinations for
these people 7 — Yes.

26112. The GU>vemment to a great extent endow
teachers by giving grants to teachers for teaching 7 — Yes.

26113. So that the same thing might take place if
certificates of competency were to be granted to engine-
winders 7 — ^In the case of managers* certificates, when
teaching a man to manage a pit nobody has the liability
a winder would have in case a man was killed.

26114. I want to put my position dear in order that you
may grasp it. Mr. Ellis and his friends, rightly or wrongly,
are of opinion that your chief desire in getting certificates
is to limit the training of engine-wmders, or that it
might ultimately end in that. Providing that you are
stiU to have a training, if the Government took the re-
sponsibility of granting certificates, it might also feel the
necessity of making preparation for training engine-
winders. In that case would your association object to
engine-winders trained under the provision of the Govern-
ment becoming competent workmen 7

26115. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Not only would it limit the
number but place in the hands of the engine-winders the
sole right of permitting access to the mines. Do you think
the rules would have to be altered if there was a satisfaotoiy

23 A

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, Mr. W, B.
J;^ Charlton.

and recognised way of txaining enginemen ? — Yes. The
only proTieion we would seek to make would be to prevent
any man who felt himself unable to teach another, being
compelled to try.

26116. That would be a veiy important qualification,
because he might refuse to teach anybody except those
he thought fit to teach.

{3fr. SmiUie,) Provision might be made for the teaching.

26117. (Chairman.) Do you suggest that the man
himself should decide whetiier he was a man capable of
working an engine and teaching at the same time, or that
it shotdd be left in the hands of your association ? — In
answer to that I will say our first regulations in this matter
were like this : a young man could be taught to wind if
he could find two men to undertake to teach him, one to
propose and one to second. We feel that there is very
much hinged on somebody having the responsibility of

26118. I want to know who is to decide whether the
engine-winder is capable of teaching as well as working
the engine. Is your association to decide, or the man
himself ? — Hie man himself.

26119. (Mr. SmiUie.) Are you satisfied with the pro-
vision that a young man under a certain age cannot be
appointed an engine-winder. It is Rule 24 7 — Yes.

26120. Is there an age limit beyond which a person
should not continue to be an engine-winder 7 — We are
very sony to say that is veiy largely becoming so, although
we know of no legal limit, but really there is becoming a
limit — very much so.

26121. Have you known any cases in which miners have
had meetings and protested against ascending and descend-
ing on cages because of the age of the engine-winder, whom
they believed incapable through old age ? — I have not
known any case of that kind.

26122. You would not encourage the continuance of one
of your members as an engine-winder after a period when
it was thought that he was too old to do his work ? — No ;
recently we have been making some veiy extensive changes
in our rules for old members. This thing is becoming
rather a big question, and we are making allowances out
of our funds that we used not to.

26123. There is some age beyond which a person should
not continue as an engine-winder 7 — It is a difficult
thing. There ought to be a limit ; a man ought not to be
continued at engine- winding to the danger of anybody ;
but with regard to fixing a time I may say we have had
men continue winding until 72. We have other men
who after turning 63 were not competent to wind.

26124. There is no provision at the present time as to
an age limit. There is a provision as to youth, but there
IB no provision as to old age 7 — Yes. It is like this, when
a man has a long service time at an engine he gets
accustomed to it — with considerable ease he manages his
work ; but if that man become discharged from that engine
which has become a kind of second nature to him, he could
not get work anywhere else, and that is how they get
continued to a higher age than if they had to bid in the
maricet for jobs. They would not get them. In the
absence of accident they are continued to a great age,
but I think if we fixed a limit that continuity would be

26125. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) The management are
satisfied that these men are physically capable of going on
with the work 7 — EvidenUy.

26126. (Mr. SmiUie.) It is the men who have to ascend
and descend who have to take the risk 7— That is it.

26127. The number of men allowed to ascend and descend
on a cage is increasing at many collieries because of the
number of tubs drawn and the size of the shafts 7 —

26128. What is the highest number you know in Durham
who may be on a cage at the same time 7 — 24 in each

26129. That is 48 7— In the upward and downward

26130. Would you suggest not only that there should be
an examination as to a person's qualifications for an
engine- winder, but also as to lus health prior to his getting
a certificate 7 Would you go further and say that tiiere
should be periodical examination of the engine-winders
to find out whether their health was such as to enable
them to continue as winders P — I think when we have
deemed an examination at the start necessary and imp
tive that we could not object to a periodic examinatiS
and I think, too, that it would be wise.

26131. Have you known any cases in which the engine-
winder has had a fit or died at his work 7 — I think the next
witness from Lancashire has a case in point where a man
died at the handles : I have not known of one in Durham
except one at Usworth a few jrears ago ; the man was found
dead in the engine-room.

26132. It becomes all the more necessary that great
care should be taken as you increase the number of persons
in the shaft at the same time 7 — Yes.

26133. There are cases where 72 may be on the cage
or 144 in the shaft at the same tune. In a case of that
kind would it not be in your opinion a wise precaution
to lay down by law that there should be two engine-
winders in the engine-house while the men were being
raised and lowered 7 — It would in the event of a man
collapsing through heart failure, but it would not be of
any value if a man by misjudgment at the point of stopping
did something wrong, because it is so instantaneously
given that nobody could intercept it.

26134. It is only in the case of heart failure, or anything
of that kind 7 — Yes.

26135. Is there any method for preventing the over-
winding of engines which you yourself have seen or know
of 7— Yes.

26136. For stopping the engine in the event of the
engine- winder neglecting to shut off the steam 7 — Yes,
there is a very effective apparatus at what is known as
Mainsworths in Durham. I was there on some other
matter and the engineer asked me to go up. It is a large
engine, two 40-inch cylinders, and he sent the engine
away full speed. About two revolutions from stopping,
steam was shut off the engine and a steam brake applied,
and the machine brought to a stand.

26137. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Automatically 7— He put
the steam on and went away and left the engine, and the
speed acquired brought the apparatus into pkky.

26138. (Mr. SmiUie.) Are you aware that that can be
applied to any engines at present working at the collieries
in mining districts ? — I should think it could. To me it
seemed a very plain and effective means of preventing it.

26139. Do you think it would be wise to provide by law
that that or some other appliance of a similar nature
should be made compulsory at all collieries where men are
wound 7 — I do not know that such an apparatus could be
applied in every shaft, but other arrangements could be
applied in every engine ; I mean, some of the shallow pits
where there are only 20 or 30 fathoms. I do not think that
this could be brought about. They would not secure the
speed necessary to bring into play what was brought into
play there.

26140. Independent of the speed at certain points where
the steam is shut off, that automatic arrangement shuts it
off. It depends on a certain point in the shaft where the '
steam is shut off 7 — The arms lift and bring into play
and open some valve when it reaches a certain spera —
the arms of the revolving governors.

26141. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) Is that Bertram's patent 7
— I believe it is.

26142. (Mr. SmiUie.) If there were any mechanical
contrivance would you say it was right to have it by law 7
— Yes.




Mr. T.

Mr. Thomas Watson, called and examined.

Statbmxnt of Witnibss.*

26143. (1) I am at present employed as agent to the

Lancaahire, Cheshire and North Wales Enginemen's

and Boilermen's Federation. Our Federation contains

about 1»500 members, chiefly colliery enginemen and

boilermen employed in Lancashire, Cheshire, Flint, and
Denbighshire. We are affiliated with the National
Federation of Enginemen's and Boilermen's Protective
Associations, and I appear as a representative of the
latter, which consists of about 16,000 to 20,000 members

* Mr. Watson also handed in the appeal for legislation printed in Appendix II.

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throaghoat the kingdom. I ba^e Had 25 years' prac-
tical experience amongst colliery engines and boilers,
t.c., 5 years as a stoker at boilers, 17 as a winder,
3 as surface fireman and machinery inspector. I
afterwards spent 7 years as a colliery checkweighman,
and during that time I acted as secretary to our
County F^eration of Enginemen and Boilermen, for
which I now act aa agent. I have also been the
President of the National Federation from 1902 to 1906,
and have been a member since.
I (2) The points I wish to give evidence on are as

I' follows : The want of legal restriction in the Mines
Regulation Act aa to the hours worked by colliery
enginemen and boilermen.

(3) The responsible nature of their work.

(4) The custom as to the hours worked by these
particular men in different counties, with special reference
to Lancashire.

(5) The hours enginemen have been on duty when
engaged in winding men during week-days.

(6) Week-end turns and the risks attaching thereto.

(7) Exceptionally long hours made by enginemen.
Common to work 36 hours at a stretch. I have worked
60 hours at a stretch, and I know others who have done
so. In one case we were told of a man who was at the
colliery two weeks at a stretch/ Fatal accidents: West-
leigh, in 1896. Skelmersdale in July, 1906. Strong
comments by the coroner ; the mines inspector's
opinion. Woodpark Colliery, Ashton-under-Lyne,
August, 1906 : coroner's comments. Other fatalities at
Radstock and North Wales : coroner's comments. A
very serious accident at Golbome Colliery, March, 1907*

(8) The same need for restriction of enginemen's and
boilermen's hours at collienes as there is on railways.

(9) Where men work 8 hours they are, at all times,
fresh and reliable compared with those working 12.

(10) Men's reports to me where engaged at continuous
night work as to how they feel towai^ morning side
when they have to deal with men going down.

(11) I am astonished that miners will tolerate it, as it
is a miner's question as much as an engineman's, as
the former's life is at^take, which is far more precious
than an engineman's reputation.

(12) Nothing short of a legal 8 hours would give
the necessary security.

(13) Employers make tempting offers when men
attempt by combination to obtain 8 hours ; e.g,,
Lancashire in 1899.

26144. {Chairman,) The points upon which you wish to
give evidence are, first, want of legal restriction in the
Mines Regulation Act as to the hours worked by colliery
enginemen and boilermen. Will you tell the Commission
your views upon that? — So far as the present Mines
Regulation Act is concerned, there is no restriction of
enginemen's hours in any shape or form, and we find even
the Government recogiuses that there should be restriction
in railway men's hours, and we feel that there is as great
a responsibility in the enginemen's hands as there is in the
hands of any locomotive driver, and on those grounds we
think that there should be some legal restriction. We have
other grounds why we feel this. There is not a very large
number of accidents due to this, considering the number
of windings that take place, but we have had accidents

, where excessive hours are worked. Sometimes there have
' been oases where the enginemen have been on duty for
34 hours. I have a case in Ashton-under-Lyne where
the man had been on duty fo r 34 j ours when he over-
wound, killed a man and injured^nother slightly, but
it was fortunate that they were not all killed.

26145. {Mr. Enoch Edwarde.) Can you say how long ago
that was ?— That was on August 10th last^ at Bardsley,
bebnging to the Chamborlain Celery Company, Ashton-

26146. {Chairman.) You give instances of excessive
hours, and say it is common to work 36 hours at a stretch.
What do you mean by " common to work 36 hours at a
stretch " ? I suppose you have your meals and a certain
amount of sleep in the 36 hours ? — It just depends upon
what is going on. I have been on duty 36 hours at a
stretch many a time, and not had a mcnnent's sleep,
particularly in cases where there are breakdowns.

26147. In cases of accident^ I daresay, but that would
be very seldom ? — It has been a very common practice,
particularly in Lancashire. I had better tell you the

system at work in Lancashire, and it might assist you to -^''- ^*
gather the methods adopted. We have not 6 per cent. Watson.
of the places but what are working something like what n t \ iqa'7
is known as the 12-hour shift system, and each engineman ^^' iyv/>
works 84 hours a week. In some of these places, to give
themselves what is called an apparent short turn —
the night engineman, who should come on at six, comes on
at five, and releases the day man, but that throws 13 hours'
duty on to the night man. Their time is supposed to be
12 hours all the week through, and at the week-end, to give
a short day on Saturday, like other tradesmen have, the
day man looses off at one or two o'clock, and the night
man sta3rs on from that time until seven o'clock on Sunday
morning, and that is 17 or 18 hours. The system is brought
about in the change of shifts, but it is natural where men
are working night and day that they want a share of the
day work, and there comes a time when the change of shift
takes place. It makes it so that they have to work two
turns to throw the man on the day turn into the night turn.
We had a serious accident at Skehnersdale on July 2nd, /

1906. The engineman had been on duty 17 hour s. When v/
this accident took place he was pulling the furnace man
up the pit, and being in need of sleep he lost control of
his engines, and dashed this man into the head-gear, and,
of course, he went down the pit. The detaching hook
failed in consequence of his pulling his engine up at the
point of detachment before it thoroughly got through.
But that is outside the question I want to convey to you.
This particular man contended that he hardly knew what
he was doing, and the evidence went to show that, and the
coroner spoke very strongly about it. I have brought the
report of the coroner's inquest with me on this particular
case, and I think it would be worth while for this
Commission to hear what was said on this occasion.
This is the report : " Fall of 600 Feet— Excessive Hours'
Work. — On Wednesday, Mr. S. Brighouse, County Coroner,
conducted an enquiry at Skelmersdale concerning the death
of Thomas Ashurst, aged 61, a furnace tender, of 30, Moss
Lane, Skelmersdale, who met with a shocking death at the
seven -feet mine of the White Moss Colliery Company,
Skelmersdale, on Sunday morning. Robert Arnold,
engine- winder, said that at five minutes to five on Sunday
morning he received a signal from deceased (who was the
only man in the pit) to be wound up to the top. There
was an indicator to show when the cage was coming to the
landing place, and a bell rang when the cage got a short
distance from the top. Witness thought the cage was
not quite landed and put on steam. He afterwards should
have reversed, but did not do so, and the consequence
was that the cage went to the top. The rope broke, and
the dece€ised fell down with the cage into the dib-hole, a
distance of over 200 yards. In reply to the coroner, the
colliery officials said they had never known the apparatus
to fail, and it would not have failed in this instance if the
witness had not been trying to remedy his mistake
Witness, in answer to Mr. Matthews, His Majesty's I /
Inspector of Mines, said he had then been on duty 17 r (/
hours, and had three more hours to work. He did this I
shift of 20 hours every other week-end. The Coroner's
Strictures. — The coroner commented in strong terms on
this fact. He said he did not care if the shift was only once
a year. It was against human nature to caU upon a man
to do it. He had a strong opinion that a great many
accidents occurred through calling upon human nature to

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 58 of 177)