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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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extent to look after the haulage part of the districts, and
see that the coal is coming out 7 — The fireman is expected
to do it.

20036. A part of it, but it is not all on the fireman's
shoulders 7 — Possibly not all of it. There is a mastev-
haulier in some places, and a manager, of course.

■ 20037. There may be some cases in your knowledge
where the fireman has a good deal of that work to do, but
generally I do not think you would say that that is his
chief work. There are other officials, the overmen and
others, who have to look after getting the coal out beside
the firemen 7 — Of course there are other officials. That
is perfectly true.

20038. Your general statement is that. I am only
putting it as I thick you state it — correct me if I am wrong
— the fireman has more work to do for the size of his
district very often than he can properly do 7 — Yes, and
I do not think he ought to have — I press thai — anything



Mr.T.

Richards^

M.P.

291^^907.



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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :




29 May,;



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at all to do outside his proper duties as fireman.
He ought to have nothing to do with the errangemsnt of
the traffic and looking after the hauliers and the distribu-
tion of the trams, or any of that class of work at all.
I thmk he should be confined to looking after the safety of
his district.

20039. My experience is that it is the overman who has
most to do with the matters you mention, and not the
fireman in many places ?— It is absolutely impossible for
the overman to do it in a big extensive colliery. He can
only be in one district at a time, whereas each fireman
has his own particular district.

20040. In reply to Mr. Ellis on Rule 38 you said that
you were in favour of workmen's inspection being carried
out by men who were not necessarily working miners at
the time, but who had been in their time and had ceased
to be, and you said the checkweigher might be employed
for that purpose ?— Yes. Mr. Ellis asked me if I should
not object to the checkweigher.

20041. Do you think it advisable that the checkweigher
should make an inspection ; I do not mean to say any
one particular man, but generally speaking that a check-
weigher should make an inspection ?— I do not see any
objection to it.

20042. Do you think that it tends to the harmonious
working of the colliery that a checkweigher should ? — I
think so, if he does his work conscientiously.

20043. A good deal depends upon the checkweigher,
upon the man, I mean?— Yes: it would depend upon
that whoever you appointed.

20044. Do you think that many colliers, whether holding
certificates or not, are anxious to become firemen ? — I
think there are a large number. I believe all these men
who have certificates would accept situations as firemen
if offered. I Iniow numbers who have made apphcation
and their applications have not been entertained.

20045. I think you are quite right in what you said,
that in Wales at any rate there are a large number of
working colliers who have second-class certificates ? —
There is no doubt about it.

20046. The manager cannot appoint all these men as
officials because they have certificates ; there might be
too many for the post; therefore he has to pick
and choose between them ?— Yes. My complaint is
that he very often takes the man who has given
no study at all to the question ; not only has he no
certificate, but he has not attempted to qualify for what
I regard as the special functions of the fireman. He
is chosen because of some other quahfication ; he is
a good workman, and the employers see in him a man able
to attend to these other duties I name, and he is appointed
because of that.

20047. The manager appoints generally the best man
in his opinion for the work. I put it to you you can quite
imagine a number of men in a pit, some with certificates
and some without, and it is quite possible some without
would be better men than those with certificates. It is
possible ? — The strange part of the thing is that when we
come to the higher functions in life we do not generally
hear that suggested. For instance, you would not suggest
that with an inspector.

20048. A second-class certificate is a very different
thing to a first-class certificate, or an inspector's qualifi-
cation T — In degree. The degree is greater, but the

* principle is the same.

20049. I asked you just now if you thought a good
many colliers were anxious to become firemen. Do you
not know from your experience in times like this, with
wages fairly high, that the colliers earn higher wages than
the firemen t^Some of them would.

20050. I know that is the case from my own experience 7
— I admit that. I think some colliers would be earning
more now.

20051. I say in good times ; I do not say all through ? —
Taken generally I thhik the firemen's wages would be higher
than the colliers', taking a period of years.

20052. You do not suggest, do you, that the fireman
neglecte his work, that is the ventilation and the finding
of gas, and his important work, for work such as seeing
that the coal comes out properly ? — I am afraid he is com-
pelled to sometimes.

20053. Because he has too much work to do ? — Because
he has so much work to do, he really cannot give attention
to it alL



20054. It ]b not conceivable that a manager would allow
that state of things to go on if the man had in his opinion
too much work to do. It is to the interest of the manager
that the fireman should do his work properly. He is
responsible ?— Yes, it is to the interest of the manager.

20055. With regard to the Special Rules, you say a goad
many men do not read the rules ? — I suppose that must
be so.

20056. Does your Federation or you, as miners* ageute,
do anything in the way of impressing upon the men the
necessity of carrying out the Special Rules ?— We do,
often ; I mean it often happens, if we have sometimes to
call attention to the want of inspection— it generally begms
by our calling attention to the want of greater inspection,
and when we do that we always urge upon the men thai
they should properly observe the rules,

20057. I see you have done it, but I did not know that
it was generally done ? — I think you may take it that we
have a sincere desire that the men should observe all the
rules, and if we do not do as much as we might, we shall be
prepared to improve.

20058. After all, the object of the Special Rules ia really
to make for the safety of the working, and the saiety of the
men. and the protection of the property ? — Quito so.

20059. If the men were to carry out these Rules more
carefully there wouM not be the same necessity for extra
inspection, would there ?— I think if you say both
men and the management, I am prepared to agree
with you. I think in the matter of timbering, for instance,
the only remedy the workman has at present, if he has not
sufficient timbering to keep himself safe, is he is told he
must withdraw from his working place. That, to a man
earning small wages and having a family to support, is
a great temptation to break a rule and continue working
until the timber comes. I have known that to take place,
and I think you will find that it Is a very common occur-
rence ; rather than the men withdraw and loose their
wages they will take a bit of risk until timber comes.

20060. With regard to the timbering rules and the
sprageing, I think you said, in reply to Mr. Ellis, that you
agreed that within the maximum the manager was to
decide where they were to be placed, what distances apart ?
— The spragging rules are set by the Special Rules.

20061. Yes ?— In the principal Act, really.

20062. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) In the General Rules T—
Yes.

20063. {Mr, F. L. Davis.) Owing to the great difference
of conditions in the different places, it is not possible to do
anything else but Ipave it to the discretion of the manager
within limite. That was your answer, I think ? — ^No. It
is a very difficult problem, I will admit : as far as our seams
are concerned there is what is known as systsmatic tim-
bering, but, I think, it might be attempted more generally
than it is at present.

20064. You made a difference between the timbering and
the spragging ? — Yes. With regard to the spragging I do
not say that you can have a lesser distance than six feet. It
would seriously interfere with a man getting his coal at all
if you reduce that distance.

20065. With regard to the general timbering, you
thought something more might be done with benefit by
some discussion between the management and the men ? —
Yes.

20066. I think you said you did not think it would be»
possible, at any rate in a very large number of cases, to\
make travelling roads compulsory except in new collieries Ml [
— ^I said there were some places where it would be very! j J
difficult : there are other places where, I think, it might be*]
done even in old collieries, with very little trouble. I

20067. You made rather a sweeping statement with
regard to the breaking of shackles and the examination of
shackles. Have you had any experience — it is only lately
it could have been — ^with regard to how far electric hauling
has been an improvement in that respect ? — No, I am
afraid I have not : in fact, I have not seen the electric
hauling underground at all.

20068. There has not been very much of it up till the
last few months, but, I think, you may take it from me that
there is a great improvement. The haulage being steady
instead of jerky, as it is by compressed air sometimes, or by
steam, it is a steady puU, and the chance of breakage of
shackles is much lesi than it has been before. I think that
will be found to be 6o as electric haulage is used more
generally ? — Still, the precaution of periodical examination
of the shackles is not an expensive matter, and it may
reduce some of these accidente — a number of them.



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20069. You suggested, to get over the difBculty of the
dust to some extent, that the trams should not be filled so
full ? — ^Yee, should not be filled above the level of the tram,
whatever height tram you want.

20070. That would mean either that with the existing
trams you would have practically only half a load, or you
would have to get new trams, standing much higher in
order, to get out the same quantity of coal ? — ^They might
alter their present trams without disbanding them alto-
gether.

20071. You would agree with me that sending out half-
filled trams would be very expensive ? — ^1 do not suggest
that at all : I suggest you should have a tram sufficiently
high for the height of your roadway, the height you are
accustomed to pile your coal up to now, and that the tram
would be filled to the level instead of being piled up above
the tram.

20072. With the existing pits, in many of the valleys
throughout South Wales, do you think it would be possible
to have the screens any considerable distance from the pits ?
— ^No, I am afraid, in some of our narrow valleys, it would
be a bit difficult.

20073. It is the formation of the country that makes it
difficult for us ?— Yes,

20074. It is easy in a flat country to lay out your surface
arrangements in a very different way from what you have
to do in our narrow valleys. Do you ajpree with that ? —
Yes : in some cases it would be difficult.

20075. You said you thought that the same type of
safety lamp should be used. Is it the same lamp, or the
same type of lamp, that should be used generally ? — I
think that there should be a provision that all lamps should
be up to a standard. I hope this Commission will, as the
result of their enquiries, set up a standard that every lamp
must comply with — I do not say the same type of lamp,
but that there should certainly be standard provisions,
and that no lamp, unless it can come up to some test,
should be permitted.

20076. That is what I mean by " type " ?— Only those
should be allowed.

20077. Then you said that one standard or class of oil
should be used ? — I have understood that it is possible for
inferior oils to be used, and not only give the workmen a
very poor light, but fill up the gauze of the lamp and make
it useless as a safety lamp.

20078. There is no doubt, on the owners' side of the
table, that anything they could do to make lamps safer
would be an advantage to them, in the long run, but, I
think, we have had evidence before us already, or opinions
given by the inspectors, with regard to a standard of safety
lamp T — Of course, I do not pretend to be an expert either
as to the lamp or the oil, but what has impressed me is, as I
have already said to this Commission, that a Commission
sat 20 years ago, and they, even then, felt that there was a
necessity of some unification of the kind of lamp to be used
and the necessity of further research with respect to these
lamps, and, as I understand, very little has been done from
that day to this. I mean, only so far as private individuals
have tried for speculative purposes to put a lamp on the
market. There hajs been no central authority, as was
suggested by this Commission, to see what could be done.

20079. With regard to the second enquiry, in addition to
the coroner's inquest, what sort of Court would you suggest
for the enquiry : how would it be composed ? — I am not
prepared to suggest any kind of Court.

20080. {Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) I think the witness thought
the provision in the Act was sufficient ? — I did say so, for
the time being.

20081. {Mr. F. L. Davis,) You thought that it was not
sufficiently acted upon by the Home Office ? — By the
Home Office.

20082. {Mr. Smillie.) Mr. Ellis put it to you, very
pointedly, as to what your interpretation of inspection of
mines really was. I do not think you answered very clear-
ly. Section 41 of the Act deals with the powers of
inspectors and Paragraph (ii) says, " to enter, inspect and
examine every mine ? — Yes,

20083. Do you think that it is an inspection or examina-
tion of a mine for a mines inspector to go down the pit and
go into one particular section or part of the mine and come
out again T Do you caU that an inspection T — No ; I
think! certainly made that clear, because I regarded it as
a man sampling a piece of cloth.

20084. Do you think that the inspection of 10 per cent, of
the mines of this country, as at present carried out by the
inspectors, is a complete inspection ? — No.



20085. You do not think 10 per cent, of the mines of ^r- ^•
Great Britain are completely inspected once in every 12 Bichard^t
months T— No, I think not. ^-P-

20086. What you really mean by " inspection " would 29 May, 1907.
be a complete examination of the mines, going from place ■

to place and section to section, until the Inspector had
seen the whole mine 7 — Any other inspection to me is
useless in a coalmine.

20087. That is what you would call a thorough inspection
of the mine ? — Yes.

20088. As a practical workman and Miner's Agent,
you feel that is not done at the present time ? — No, it is
not.

20089. Is it not a physical impossibility for the present
class of inspectors to carry out ins])ection once in 12 months
of all tha mines in Great Britain ?—■ Oh, absolutely;
thoy could not do it once in two years.

20090. In your opinion the mining community will
not be satisfied that their safety is being properly looked
after, so f £ur as the inspector is concerned, until a thorough
examination of the mine is made periodically 7 — That is
my opinion.

20091. Do you think once a month would be too much
for a mine to be examined, especially a mine where there
is supposed to be any danger from accumulation of gases,
or any other cause — serious danger from any cause 7 — I do
not think it would.

20092. You think as far as possible that inspection
should be surprise visits 7 — Yes.

{Mr. Rakliffe EUis.) Will you ask the witness if he thinks
with 80 inspectors that could be done 7

{Mr. Smillie.) Do you think even with 80 inspectors
for the whole of Great Brit<ain that there could be a thorough
examination of all the mines onco in 12 months 7

20093. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Once in a month 7—
Once in a month, I hardly think it could.

20094. {Mr. SmiUie.) It would take 800 7— It would
take a great number. Of course there are some of the
mines where this inspection may not be required to the
extent that it is at others.

20095. I was going to put that to you. You yourself
know some mines where you do not tmnk inspection every
month or once in twelve months would be required because
of the careful management 7 — Yes, and the nature of the
mine itself.

20096. Yes, in other cases because of the nature of the
mines, and perhaps because of the management to some
extent. There should be regular inspection until the
management was improved 7 — Yes.

20097. Such a case was the mine in which there was
that explosion mentioned this morning 7 — Genwen.

20098. If proper inspection had taken place, and proper
precautions had been taken in all probability that explosion
would not have taken place 7 — I think so.

20099. That is your opinion 7 — In. fact, one of the
defences in the action where these fines were inflicted,
£5 in four instances, was that the inspector had been there
several times.

20100. And he did not find any fault 7— He did not
find any fault.

20101. With what was clearly a breach of the Mines
Regulation Act 7 — Yes, due to the perfunetory manner
in which the inspection was made.

20102. Mr. Ellis put it to you, do you think mines
inspection has done any good ; does it inake mining more
safe than it would be 7 — Certainly.

20103. Have you known of oases in which special
preparation was made for the inspector, extra timbering
prepared and brattice taken in, if it were known that the
inspector was coming 7 — Scores of times in my own
personal knowledge.

20104. You do not think that would have been done
had it not been known the inspector was coming 7 — No.

20105. So that from that you take it additional inspection

would lead to additional safety 7 — Quite.

»

20106. Bule 38 is a point upon which I understand the
miners are very strong. You see no reason why the
inspection under this should be confined to persons who are
at the moment working as miners 7 — No, I do not.

20107. Do you think that was the intention of the
framers of this clause 7— No, I do not think it was.



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29Ma^907.



16 MINUTES OF

20108. If that prohibition were removed it woald be
possible for the miners, if they cared to do so, to appoint
two thoroughly practical miners in any district and -allow
these men to continually inspect one pit after another ? — It
would be possible if that were removed.

20109. It is impossible under the present interpretation
of Uiat clause that such a thing could be done? — Yes.

20110. Supposing they were practical working mirers
at the time of their appointment, after they make an
inspection of a mine they would then cease to become
practical working miners unless they returned to their
work again ? — Yes, and could not be appointed at another
colliery.

20111. Do you remember the time the miners had no
right to appoint check-weighmen unless men engaged
at the mine in which they were about to be appointed ?
— Yes, very well.

20112. The miners requested Parliament to alter that ? —
Yes.

20113. On the ground that they wanted a wider
selection ? — Yes.

20114. The Government ultimately gave them the right
to appoint any person to become a check-weigher ? — Yes.

20115. You think that would be a considerable improve-
ment if that were done in this case ? — I do.

20116. Could you give us approximately the extent
of the firemen's district in your larger collieries, or the
number of men under their charge ? — I only want it
approximately, say 40 or 50 or 100 men ? — It is very much
more than that. I think that T can safely sav t)int the
number of workins? place? wonld be anywhere from 50 to
ICO, and even higher than that.

20117. From TO to 100 working places and your system
w longwall ? — Yes. I may say a man paBsed me a note

. at our Council meeting where we had representatives of
the whole of the South Wales Coalfield yesterday, and this
i«4 the note that one of the representatives, Mr. John
Thomas, of Garw, whom Mr. Davis knows very well, a
Miners' Agent, a very reliable man, and he says from R5
to 00 places producing oOO tons per day a fireman would
have to inspect.

201 IS. The general system in South Wales is the long-
wall system ? — Generally, yes.

201 19. A fii*eman under the Rule by which he is appointed
is supposed to examine the working places, all the travelling
roads and haulage roads and all side roads in which men
may pass to and from their work T — Yes.

20120. That is supposed to be his examination in the
morning ? — Yes.

20121. Would you say as a practical miner that it is
physically possible for a fireman from the time he starts
in the morning until he returns to the pit bottom or station
to carry through that examination if he goes in and out
aU the roada ? — It is possible for him to walk the roads,
but I say it is absolutely impossible for him to make a
oareful examination. He cannot do it.

20122. Have you much ripping in your longwall work-
ings ? — Yes.

20123. A ripping of each roadway ? — ^Yes.

20124. It would be necessary that a careful examination
should be made of each road-head for explosive gas in
addition to examination in the face ? — ^Yes.

20125. Is It not your opinion that it is impossible to
make that examination if all the roadways are examined T
— I do not think it can be done in the time.

20126. Do you think that those examinations are made
in the thorough manner expected ? — ^No, I have just said
they cannot l^ done, so that it goes without saying they
are not done.

20127. Is it customary (unless you are sure do not
answer) for firemen to find that they have not time, but
go straight along the face and do not go out of the road
and in and out again ? — I am told that is so.

20128. You do not know that of your own knowledge ?
— Of course in the examination before the shift there are
generally not many workmen there to see, but as to the
examination during the shift, I am told that is the general
practice : firemen never think of going out of the roadways.

20129. He is only supposed to put the day of the month
and the chalk mark on the face. There is no method of
finding out whether he has examined other roadways or

not ? — No. . V, •



!>ENCE :

20130. The firemen are a very careful and reliable lot of
aen as a whole. Do you think that any large number of
hem have any theoretical knowledge of gases ? — I think

that there are a very large number who have not that
theoretical knowledge.

20131. Their knowledge is practical generally ?— I ought
to say this perhaps

{Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) Those are the sort of men you
recommend for inspectors, men with practical knowledge.

(Mr. Smillie.) Who have also a certificate.

(Mr. Batcliffe EUis,) You want both T

{The Witness.) We give preference to the men with
certificates.

20132. {Mr. Smillie.) We do not propose that anybody
should become an inspector in this third grade who does
not hold a first-class certificate of competency, and if he
holds a certificate of that kind he ought to possess the
knowledge. The firemen, good as they are to-day, would
be better if they had the theoretical knowledge which
would enable them to hold a certificate ? — Yes.

20133. We may take that for granted? — ^I think it goes
without saying.

20134. Is it your opinion that the fireman is the most
important man who goes down a colliery so far as safety
is concerned ? — Yes.

20135. Even to a greater extent than the manager
the lives of the workmen are in the hands of the fireman ?
— ^If the fireman is neglectful then the manager is hopeless.

20136. A most important question this Commission
has to deal with is timbering, and you dismiss it in your
evidence with a very few words. The question has not
been put as to whether you think that timbering
should be done by men specially appointed by the employer
and paid by him, or that men should be appointed and
paid by the employer whose special duty it would be
to see that the workmen timbered their places properly.



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 6 of 177)