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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 59 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 59 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

do more than it possibly could do. It would not be allowed
in a signal-box on a railway, eight hours being quite suffi-
cient there. He did not care whether there was only one
man in the mine or not. His life would be considered in the
same way as if there had been 6,000 down the pit." Then
we have the evidence of the manager: "Mr. Paul Lea,
manager of the colliery, said the reason the man worked
20 hours at a stretch was in oonsequenoe of an arrange-
ment between the two winders, so that they could have a
Saturday off every other week. It was a common custom
in collieries, and was an arrangement with which the
Company did not interfere. The coroner thought that
another man might be brought in to change the shift."
The next witness is Thomas Whalley, a stoker, and this
will convince you that the man did not know what he was
doing: "Thomas Whalley, stoker, said he was standing
near the boilers when the winder shouted out, * Oh, dear !
I have fetched old Tom up, and he has gone down again.
Am I asleep, or am I not ? ' " That is a nice state of
things for a man who is in charge of winding. ** Only a
few minutes previously he had seen the winder take a
short walk by the reservoir. After the accident he seemed
terribly upset. Edward Williams, surface manager, said
it was customary for the winders to have a * nap ' now and
again. He had had to knock them up to waken them.

Digitized by




Mr, T.

• Juiyri907.


The ooronei said it was harder to keep awake when doing
nothing than when working, after so many hours. The
winder (Arnold) was stated to be a very steady, reliable
man, and that it was his first mistake. The jury returned
a veidiot of accidental death, and expressed the opinion
that the Colliery Company should not allow the winders
to work so many hours at a stretch." In connection with
this particular case there is the Report of the Grovemment
Inspector, Mr. Hall, which deals with it, and he seems to
come to the same conclusion as the manager, that these
long hours worked at week-«nds are simply for the con-
venience of the enginemen. I do not want to find any
fault about the action of our inspectors. I think we have
as good a staff of inspectors as it is possible to get ; but,
after all, I do say this : In connection with thes^ excessive
hours, I think a little straighter and a little more outspoken
talk would be better on their behalf, and the recommenda-
tion of some restriction, because when we find a system
which allows a colliery manager to permit men to work
up to as many as 36 hours — and I have worked 60, 1 may
tell you — that is a clear proof that there should be some-
thing in the Act to put some restriction on this particular
class of men.

26148. Under what circumstances did you work 60
hours at a stretch ? — It was in consequence of having no
one to relieve me.

26149. Owing to sudden illness or what ? — No, it occurs
in this way. Ka a rule at collieries they keep a bare staff
of men and if one falls off bad the other men have to do
the work amongst them. Sometimes if there is an extra
job it may mean men having to work extra time. The
idea in my mind is this, that that should not be tolerated.
They would not allow a man to be on duty that length of
time on a railway under any circumstances.

26150. When you were made to work 36 hours, which
is an extremely long time to be on duty, you say that
the usual reason was that there was some accident ? — It
may occur through accident or through the man that
mates them not attending to his work.

26151. Under ordinary circumstance you have to work
once a week at least 24 hours ?— That is so — once a fort-

26152. You would have to work that length of time
without any accident or any reason. At the end of that
24 hours, or some time before, you did not feel specially
competent to perform your work ? — That is quite natural.
In this particular business the work may not be heavy
and laborious, but, after all, it is of a tedious and fatiguing
nature, and you are generally in an atmosphere that is
not anything to compare with the atmosphere in this room.
The effect of having all this responsibility of the men's
lives on your shoulders is to weary a man to the extent
that when he is getting to the time when he has to deal
with the men, I say he is not what he ought to be. When
a man has been on duty almost the full length of hours,
that is the very time that he has to take in hand the lives
of the men. Take a man who goes on day duty at six
o'clock in the morning and stays on until five o'clock at
night. After he has had a good hard day's work, close
on three or four o'clock, when he is worn out, he has to
deal with the men — just the most important part of his
work to do when he is least capable of doing it. Then
take the night man when he goes on duty at five o'clock
at night he stays on all night. In some places they are
not hard-worked, but in some places they are as busy as
in the day. With a night man he does not get the same
sound sleep in the day, and he is not as efficient to do the
same amount of work in the night time as in the day time.
These men, after spending 13 hours at the pit during the
night, have to set to the last thing in the morning to let
6(W or 600 men down the pit, and we have had some very
narrow escapee in this business : in fact, we had a serious
accident at Westleigh in 1696, where the engineman had
been on dnt v J3 hynr a : instead of letting down eight men
he had in the cage, he took them into the head-gear and
the detaching hooks in that case failed altogether and the
men were all lost.

26153. Why did the detaching hooks fail 7 — In conse-

Suence of being out of order. That is an argument that
iey ought to be kept in order as well : but, after all, the
man had been on duty 13 hours. We had another case
in September, 1903, where we had an engineman at Astley
and Tyldesley. He had been on duty J3 ho urs, and as
his brother was going into the engine-house ne fell back-
wards and died, and he msmaged to get the steam brake
on. That man had 24 men going down the pit with 500
yards to run. If he had not nad time to apply the steam
brake what would have been the consequence ? There

would have been 24 more deaths as '^eH We have had
other cases. We have had about three to my recollection
within the last six years, where the engineman has been
found dead in the engine-room in that fashion.

26154. Three altogether ? — ^Two besides the one I have
mentioned. There was the case of Joseph Whittle,
at Wigan Junction, in about June the year following, when
this man died at Astley and Tyldesley about June, 1903.
Then we had Jabez Mann : his death took plac e

26155. At all events you have had three deaths ? —
We have had three deatlis within the last 5} years.

26156. I suppose you had inquests in all those cases T
— Yes.

26157. Did the inquests show that by examination
of the men you could have found out that they were unfit
to do the work and liable to sudden death ? — In these
cases the verdicts were all brought in as deaths from
natural causes.

26158. Were the diseases from which the men died
suddenly such as could have been found out by medical
inspection 7 — ^The report does not give that. I have the
report of the inquest.

26159. Does not the report say anything about that 7 —
Take Jabez Mann's case at the Yew Tree Colliery. I will
give you the date in a moment.

26160. I should like to know what the verdict was 7 —
In his case the verdict was that he died from an apoplectic
seizure. He had been on duty only four hours when that

26161. That could not have been discovered by medical
inspection. The doctor could not have said he was liable
to apoplexy 7 — I am not so versed in medical science as
that. Some people contend that apoplexy would arise
from a heart disease or being out of order. In that case
it was attributed to an apoplectic seizure. In the case of
Joseph Whittle the verdict was a similar one. You
cannot claim that it is in consequence of these men being
on excessive hours at the time they died, but it shows the
responsible position they hold and the great risk they
run, and that even if they have been on only four or five
hours when things of that sort take place, we do not know
how much of the remaining portion of their week's work
may have brought them down to that low state when
collapse comes on. With miners it is common for them
to wish for Friday night : they could not keep on another
week without the rest. The same applies to enginemen
working excessive hours : they gradually grow worse
near the week-end. What I wanted to call attention to
with regard to the Skelmersdale accident was this ; Mr.
Hall states in his Report that it is a matter that rests more
with the enginemen,and it is for their convenience that the
turns are changed at the week-end. I want to ask the
Commission this question ; if men are tied down to work
84 hours out of a possible 168 the clock goes during the
week, does it not mean if they are to change from night
turn to day turn that they will either have to work long
turns or otherwise be off at shorter intervals, and both are
objectionable when men get into that tired state 7

26162. Have you considered the question of mechanical
appliances to assist an engineman doing his duty, so Uiat
it will not so much matter whether he makes a mistake
in winding ? For instance, with regard to Jcapts. Do
you think there ought to be a regulation with regard to
kepts being in a position to be worked 7 — Certainly, they
are a necessity, but there is a difference of opinion as to
their use. For my own part I believe in kepts at the
top and at the bottom, but I do not believe in their being
in use in the centre of the pit.

26163. Why not 7— We had a serious accident in St.
Helen's district a few years ago and eight lives were lost*
Tliey had kepts at a mouthing in the pit and they worked
a semaphore in the engine-house. When these kepts
were out ready to receive the cage, the semaphore was
out before the engineman, and there was a signal that
you should not go there, but the signal failed on one occa-
sion when the kepts were out, and he was dashed down with
a lot of men and they were all killed. I think they are
dangerous to have in the middle of a shaft. To meet that
difficulty they want an adequate brake, one that will
hold the engines equally as securely as the kepts them-

26164. It has been suggested a difficulty may arise
owing to the engineman not knowing how long to wait
before he raises the cage. If he waits too long the man
will think that ho has given the wrong signfS and step
out when it is being raised 7 — I like kepts at the top of
the pit in particular for this reason. I have had about





Digitized by






25 years* experience amongst engines and boilers and in
control of them. I have ha^ to do with kepts and without
kepts, bnt as a rule when you are lowering men where
there are kepts, I have always found you were less liable
to start off with a wrong signal and do more damage than
you would if there were none for this reason. When you
are at an engineman's handles, the men come to work,
in the morning and run about the engine-house and shout,
and you get false alarms, smd if there are no kepts you
are likely to start with a false alarm when men are getting
into the cage. If there are kepts he cannot do any <£hmage
to these men so long as they are under the cage until the
browman is ready. We have some places where the
browman keeps charge of the kepts and we have others
where the enginemen manipulate the kepts as well as the
handles. I think that is a falling, because a man, if he
has control of his kepts as well as his engines and starts
under the assumption that he had a signal when he had not,
would start his engine off and pull his own kepts from
under, and it would be better if the kepts were in inde-
pendent hands. In that case there would be two strings
to the bow to prevent an accident.

26165. You are in favour of kepts being at the top and
at the bottom and not intermediate ? — Yes.

26166. Would you also say that there must be a bottom
man to see that the kepts are in order and manipulate
for himself ? — ^That is so ; at some places they hav3 the
kepts at the bottom and not on the same footing at the
top. At the top they fall under the cage themselves ; at
the bottom they fall out. They have to be pushed under
the cage ; that is the difference. If they were to be
neglected they would have fallen clear, and if he wanted to
let the cage sit on them he would have to push them under.

26167. You do not in your statement say anything
except about hours. You do not make any suggestions
as to certificates being necessary ? — I have given evidence
upon this question before the Select Committee in 1901.

26168. You would like to refer to vour evidence there ?
— Yes, my evidence there is my opmion upon that par-
ticular point.

26160. You simply refer to that evidence ? — Yes.

26170. It there anything else you would like to say ? —
There are several other questions besides these kepts. The
question of hours I have not gone into as fully as I should
like to. I want to point this out to the Commission, that
this is a most responsible position, and itis a great responsi-
bility on the Government in neglecting to put them on
reasonable hours, and particularly not to have any restric-
tion whatever on their nours. Take the number of miners ;
from the miners' standpoint they have to descend and
ascend under these men's hands once every day, and it
means a matter of nearly 800,000 men. When you
examine and find that these men are put under such
risky conditions of riding up and down, being wound by
men who have been on duty 12 and 13 hours, I say that
it is a national crime to permit it. When you look at the
question on Monday morning as a rule there are about half
of the enginemen in the United Kingdom that are working
24 hours at the week-end. In Lancashire three-quarters
of the men work 24 hours at the week-end. You have all
the miners throughout the kingdom going down on
Monday morning week in and week out under men who
have been on duty for 24 hours. It is a matter of nearly
800,000 men going down on Monday morning being wound
by men who have been on duty for 24 hours. I
think it is a serious thing and ought to receive the
strictest attention in any alteration that is made
in the law. There are some employers who are very
good and have met this question. In Durham they have
had the eight-hours principle at work since 1872. In
South Yorkshire they have it at some places, and also in
West Yorkshire they have it at some places, and in North
Staffordshire they have it as a custom. In Lancashire it
is only here and there, and so far as the hours are concerned
there will be no remedy until the Government takes the
matter in hand and puts its foot down and says there must
be a limit to these hours. In Lancashire they have been
anxious to get it, and they have worked themselves into
shape. In 1899 they worked themselves up to that pitch
that tliey intended to have it if it meant a strike, and they
put in notices. All the enginemen in the county served
their notices, and it went to the extent of being about 24
hours short of all the pits being stopped, when of course
there were tempting offers made which they could not
resist, and it broke up, and since then there has been a
«tiU more bitter prejudice against the eight-hours system
Amongst employers than there was before, in consequence
of the inconvenience it would cause to them. I think
that something should be done not only in the interests

of this particular class of man, but in the interests of the
miners whose lives are entrusted to their care.

26171. {Mr, Enoch Edwards.) Could you say why you
have so arranged that men should always have to go down
when a man has been on so long 7 Why could not the
new man be there and let the men down in each shift ?

1 mean why could he nob start his work by letting the men
down ? — The position would be better if the men were put
on at eight hours and should always be fresh.

26172. Even with that you would have the same diffi-
culty ? — ^We have had accidents even when a new man
has just come on duty. He has perhaps not been as good
as a man who has been on an hour or two. The sole
remedy for this business is eight hours. We have men
working eight hours and they can go to their work at any
turn and are always fresh and feel in good condition, but
if you talk to 12 hours men — I have some in St. Helens who
are busy during the night time and they tell me that at

2 or 3 o'clock in the morning they scarcely know whether
they are standing on their head or their heels. That is
not a fit state for men to be in who have to handle 400
to 600 lives. If there is anything serious taking place the
enginemen under those conditions could come on sooner.
It is a recognised custom with all classes of people that
6 o'clock is we time to go to work in the morning, but
there are exceptions.

26173. The collier would have to go before six ? — There
are exceptions when the men go at 5 and 4. It would
mean that they would have to go on at 5 to meet the
difficulty. That does not meet the difficulty of shortening
the hours. Anyone will admit that 12 hours is too much
at this work, and if they work 8 hours, whether they
go in at 4 or 5 o'clock, they are always fresh.

26174. It is not necesscuy as a matter of arrangement
whether it is 12 hours or 8 hours. It is not necessary for
the mai to bo on all those hours before he lets the man
down. It can be arranged that he shall be fresh when he
lets the men down ? — T^iat is so, if you do that.

26175. You could do that in 8 hours just the same T
— The colliers' hours are not 12. If a man goes in at 5
o'cl )ck in the morning on purpose to deal with these
daymen, his mate should come, by virtue of the system,
at 5 o'clock at night to liberate him. That man that went
in at 5 would let the men down in a fresh condition, but he
would bring them up in a worse condition at night.

26176. The other man would be there ? — He would have
to be on a matter of 13 hours and come in at 4 o'clock.
He would have to come in two hours sooner, because they
start coming up at 3 o'clock.

26177. If he had 8 hours it would be better for a man to
go on fresh to handle men ? — If you come into conversation
with the men, I do not care how busy they are, they will
tell you that they alway \ feel fresh every hour that they
are on duty if they are 8 hour men, but an ordinary engine-
man working 12 hours in and 12 hours out, and he is
working four hours more and he has four hours less time
to recuperate, and he gets into a worse condition at the
week-end than a man who is working 8 hours.

26178. {Mr. Raidiffe EUis,) In Lancashire the hours are
12 hours ? — Yes, as a rule.

26179. That is the maxunum ?— No.

26180. The change at the week-end makes it so that a
man is on duty for 24 hours ? — Yes.

26181. If he works longer than 12 or 24 hours it is because
some accident has happened, either his mate does not
relieve him or some exceptional circumstance ? — ^Yee.

26182. Do you think that 12 hours is too long ? — I do
at that particular class of work.

26183. You fix the time of efficiency at eight ? — ^Yes.

26184. That of course is a question of opinion ? — ^That
is so.

26185. The man on night duty when not winding coal
in the night has nothing much to do T — It just depends.
In Lancashire in particular there is a deal of dirt winding
and in some cases water winding. In some places they
have to take charge of their boilers. There are some few
places where they are worked equally as hard as in the day.
but as a rule it is a little bit easier at night.

26186. Can a man do that work for 13 hours. There i§
a difference being on duty at night, when there is very
little to do, and being on auty in the day when a man is
occupied the whole time. Would you draw no distinction
between the two ? — No, I should not, because there is a
very large proportion of the pits where there is something
going on now, either dirt winding or letting timber down,
or something like that.

Jtfr. T.

9 Jui^907.


Digitized by


Mr. r.

9 Jui^l907.


26187. What is going on during the working shift ? —
That is so. As I explained, those particular men being on
night turn, and not having their natural sleep, are not as
capable of doing a night shift of 12 hours as a day man
who works 12 hours and gets his natural night's sleep.

26188. At any rate, you would make no difference 7 —
Their standard of vigour and efficiency is of a lower rate
during night work than day work, and any workman in
the country will tell you that.

26189. You draw no distinction between the two P— No.

26190. There should be no more than eight hours in a
shift ?— No.

26191. IVfr. Edwards has asked you with regard to eight
or twelve hours* shifts, whether it is not a matter of
arrangement so that the tired man should not put down
the men in the morning ? — That is so. In an eight hours*
system with all the men I have spoken to — there are
thousands of them, but not in our county, I wish they were
— they always tell me it does not matter whether the men
come at the beginning or the end of that shift, they feel
reliable and have confidence in themselves.

26192. You have been an engine- winder ? — Yes.

26103. You say from your own experience that is so T
-^ les.

26194. You feel tired, and you think that 12 hours is too
long a time ? — Yes.

26195. The character of the engines has been improved
in late years ? — Yes.

26196. So that there are more mechanical facilities ? —
There are, but after all, with all these facilities there are
none that are as perfect as a reliable man. There are
certainly checks and preventives, but it would not do to
depend entirely upon them, the attention of the man is

26197. But still, mechanical facilities are of much greater
assistance than they used to be ? — In following up his
work they are there, and to a great extent some of them are
reliable, but not completely, and a man has to be as alert
with mechanical appliances as he has without them.

26198. Do you know Bertram's patent ? — Yes.

26199. It is in use at the Wigan Coal and Iron Company 7
— Yes.

26200. What do you think of it 7 — A very good patent,
and one likely to prevent a lot of accidents. We are
acquainted with Bertram's patent, and know that it can
be made to fail. We can point out conditions under which
it would fail.

26201. It does not put any undue strain on 7 — ^Not as
"a rule.

26202. It gradually slacks the speed without any jump 7
— Yes, generally.

26203. You think it is a good thing 7—1 think it is a
useful thing, but after all you want the attention of the
engineman. There is this in connection with all the

C' 3nts we have seen. The load for an engineman to
die is of a variable nature. He may have two tons
at one time, five hundredweight at another time, or one
ton going down. These mechanical contrivances are safe
under certain conditions, but they do not meet all the
variations in the load.

26204. You do not object to having him assisted so far
as possible 7 — Certainly not.

26205. You think Bertram's patent is a useful appa-
ratus 7 — I believe it is very useful and has done a lot of
good, and may have saved a lot of destruction, but the
engineman's liability and responsibility, and the care and
caution required about his work are just as heavy as they
were before. *

26206. When you gave evidence before the Select
Committee you gave your views as to certificates 7 — ^Yes.

26207. Do you think it desirable that there should be an
examination for enginemen, and that they should be
certificated 7 — I do.

26208. You would go to the extent of saying that no
person should be allowed to wind up or let people down

pit who is not a certificated winder 7 — That is my view^

26209. How many winders are there in the kingdom, do
you suppose 7 — I could not tell you the exact number, but
I should think there would be a matter of 5,000 or 6,00Ql

26210. That would be the very outside 7— Yes.

26211. In order to get the certificate a man must have

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 59 of 177)