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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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the same calibre as we have now, I would certainly recom-
mend the other as the only possible means of securing
thorough in8i)ection.

26834. {Mr, Enoch Edwards.) Do you mean by " impos-
sible " a question of cost ? — ^The public purse. It is only
a question of cost. There is a plentiful supply of men and
talent, I beli^ve, but I am simply thinking of the question
of cost.

26835. (Mr. Wm. Abraham,) You have occasionally seen
the reports made by the workmen that are appointed by
the men to examine these collieries ? — Yes.

26836. Do you consider that the examination, generally
speaking, is a satisfactory one, or comes as near to
thoroughness as the others ? — Yes, as far as the practical
operations in the working part of the mine are concerned
I believe that the inspection by the workmen, where the
workmen are competent, is more effective for practical
purposes than the other, because, first of all, not only
is the inspection itself better, but the report is discussed
at the Federation Lodges, and there is a considerable
interest taken in the condition of the mine. 1 believe that
possibly in the future these reports will be made so as not
only to have a bearing on the condition of the air and the
supply of the timber, but that the workmen themselves
will report to the Federation Lodges any man who neglects
setting timber, or is guilty of procrastination in that

26837. What position did you occupy before the present
one ? — I was head master of a large primary school, and I

found that in my evening classes I was teaching the lads of
a mining district that the word lamp was a common noun
of neuter gender, singular number, and of a particular
case, whereas I did not teach a boy how to handle his
lamp, and I thought that was more important than to
teach him that the word was a common noun.

26838. Why did you resign that position ? — Because I
had not the opportunity of teaching the boys how to
pro}>erly use the lamp. I gave up my position to do so.

26839. How did you get your knowledge of mining ? —
I visited the mines in the night and in the morning. I
visited all the mines in the neighbourhood, and, after
visiting those of my own county, I visited the mines of
Somerset, Cornwall, those of Belgium on more than one
occasion, and those of Germany and America.

26840. To what extent is your work supported by
owners, officials and workmen in South Wales ? — ^I find
this, that the more intelligent the manager the readier he
is to support these classes. He is not afraid of his
subordinates being made intelligent and up-to-date, but
with regard to the less intelligent manager, I have more
trouble to get him to support my classes. There is only
one case where I have not been freely supported* As
I have previously stated, when I deal with the question
from the workmen*s standpoint, occasionally I am charged
with taking a partisan view of things from the workmen's
position. If I speak of neglect of timbering very often the
men think 1 am paid by the owners.

26841. You have told us that before ?— That is the only
point there.

26842. Do you receive general support ? — Yes, I find
that the men who gain their certificates in the classes are
almost invariably promoted. There are a few isolated
cases where they are not promoted. These men may have
their certificates but do not possess other qualifications
necessary in a good official.

26843. You have referred us once or twice to your
having knowledge of mines in Belgium and Germany and
in America. By what authority did you examine these
mines ? — With regard to the German mines we got an
introductory letter from the Foreign Office — thanks to the
services of one of the miners* representatives from Gla-
morganshire — and that enabled us to get into some of the
German State mines.

26844. {Chairman.) Whom do you mean by " us " ? —
Myaelf and a body of students attending these evening
classes. We take on these tours as many as 30 or 40
mining students to different parts of the country. On
Saturday I take 30 men to the German mines.

26845. {Mr. Wm. Abraham.) Do you mean this next
Saturday ? — ^Yes, every man who goes on tour this
year has to make a special report on timbering in all the
different coalfields of this country and where we visit the
collieries abroad.

26846. {Chairman.) Your pupils next Saturday witt
bring forward a report here on the German system of
timbering ? — Yes.

26847. You make them report on German timbering ? —
That is a special feature. They have to report generally.
This is a copy of the report made by these students last

26848. You have several reports on German timbering
already ? — Yes ; we have to get it more in detail this year.
The last time they rexwrted generally.

26849-50. {Mr. Wm. Abraham.) To what extent are
ambulance classes supported in South Wales ? — We
have a very considerable number of students attending
our ambulance classes. In Glamorganshire we have
at present 52 separate classes with 1,381 students in
regular attendance. The result is that at some of the
coUieries I visit there are as many as 100 men competent
to render first-aid in the mines. These men are dis-
tributed through the various districts, their names are
put on a board, and in one colliery there i8,aJja;c with
all the necessary apparatus for first-aid in each district.
I would like to see thafpUiu geueittll}/ aduplud so that we
could get not only a competent first-aid man in the district,
but also the appliances which he would find necessary to

26851. Do you find among the men themselves a readi-
ness to be taught and to learn what is necessary for first-
aid ? — Yes, there is a very great desire and, even now, .
there is considerable enthusiasm shown with regard to \
the formation of proposed rescue brigades. We have been
waiting until last month for the report of this Commission

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as to the best rescue apparatufi. As soon as we have time
to study that report we will establish rescue brigades.
There is a keen desire on the part of the workmen to
become members of rescue brigades.

26852. That kind of thing is well supported by the
owners ? — Yes.

26853. Between them both you think that some
ccnsiderable advantage will result from the classes going on
at present ? — Yes, further than that, I believe that possibly
the training of the men themselves will be one of the best
means to make accidents practically impossible or to make
the need of their help unnecessary. The training will make
the men more intelligent, and this will be a preventive of
accidents. So that I think the training will repay, apart
from its need, when accidents occur.

26854. Has anything been done to establish rescue
brigades ? — Yes, we had a conference at Cardiff of owners,
officials and workmen and their leaders, and the greatest
enthusiasm was shown, and it was decided then that as
soon as possible these brigades should be established, and
I have no doubt that at the beginning of next winter we
shall have a number of men under special training in our

26855. You have been labouring largely among the
ooUiery examiners ? — Yes.

26856. You have held meetings with them. Have you
any special reports you could put in here, if necessary, to
show what is really happening, and what hours these men
are working. Have you any authority by which you can
support that ? — Yes, 1 sent out a circular some time ago
because I was asked by the authority under which I work
to give a series of lectures on the cause and prevention of
accidents. The first thing I did was to enquire as to what
was the real cause of many of these accidents, since 1 had to
address colliery officials. As the result of 200 or more
returns I received I compiled a table, some portions of which
you will find in this book. These returns are, I believe, from
what I have been able to check afterwards, absolutely
correct. The men were told " You are requested to
exercise the greatest care in answering the questions so
that they may be perfectly correct," and in order to get
the information for certain 1 arranged a sUp whereby the
names could be cut off and only the forms supplied.

26857. Supposing the Chairman Mrants to know, could
you give him the names of men and names of collieries
where the thing is done and men who have actually gone
through that experience ? — ^I could give the Chairman
the names of the men and the collieries referred to in this
book where the table is produced. I have them here,
but they were given to me under a promise that they
would not be divulged.

26858. What induced you to take up that work of assist-
ing these colliery exammers ? — I was instructed to give
lectures on the cause and prevention of accidents, and the
firat thing I had to do was reaUy to find out what I thought
to be the real cause of a number of these accidents, and
I have come to the conclusion that a number arise from a
lack of efficient supervision, and during the whole of the
remaining course of the lectures I dealt more particularly
with accidents that did arise from a lack of efficient super-

26859. Would you recommend that overmen at collieries
should become certificated or pass some examination by
some competent authority to qualify them for their duties ?
— It may be considered advisable to make every official
pass an examination, but it ought to be considered neces-
sary that a fireman should. You already make it necessary
for the manager and the under-manager of large mines to
pass an examination. They have to deal maiiUy with the
traffic and the output. It is therefore necessary that a
man who has mostly to deal with the safeguarding of life
and limb should also have a certificate in that direction.

26860. Do you wish to have the air examined every
fortnight by the examiner with an improved lamp ? I
think you have told us that. Where would you have it
measured ? — I would have it measured, as far as the
percentage of gas is concerned, in the last working place
of each split. That would make it, I think, a rule that
would be practicable, and the results would be reliable and
worth recording. If you measure it in other places, the
place might be varied with the views of the men, but if the
examiner is told that he must measure it and record its
quality in the last working place you would know what
kind of air the workman would be working in.

26861. You have suggested abo that you would have
the traffic on the main road suspended while men are

going in and out. What would be the result, do you •tf f** Htmry

think ? — ^It should be suspended unless there is a definite Davies.

and safe travelling way, but the first result I think would -^ , "^ — -^wy-

be this. Apart from the reduction in the number of ^O^ny» ^W7

accidents on haulage or engine planes, which are pretty

high now and frequent, this would be the result. If the

men in the working places knew that the whole of the

haulage would be stopped for 20 minutes or half an hour,

or less, they would l:^ more likely to leave their working

places and come out. Now this is what happens. The

shotsman starts at one end of the district ; he assumes

that all the men from that district have come out, but,

unfortunately, they have not come out. They may be

putting their places ready for the next day, and they may

actually stay in their working places while shot-firing is

going on at the other end of the district. If traffic was

stopped, there would be one additional inducement for

the men to get out at a specified hour in addition to the

safety of the haulage road itself.

26862. That would, in your opinion, be a distinct
advantage ? — I have no doubt about that.

26863. You are not satisfied with the system of examin-
ing for manager's certificates ? — ^No.

26864. How could that system be improved. What
is against it ? — At present a man who receives a premium
from an articled pupil may also be the examiner of that
pupil for a certificate of competency from the Home

26865. Is that an assumption on your part or is it a
fact ? — It is a fact that there are mining engineers who
receive premiums from pupils acting as examiners on the
examining board. Then this is the danger : where there
is rivalry between two mining engineers of a town,
friction might easily arise in that direction ; consequently,
although the examiners may be above reproach and
excellent men, as I have no doubt they are personally,
yet they lend themselves to an attack in that direction
which might be unnecessary if the system were improved.
Another cause of dissatisfaction is this: a man may
become a colliery manager for South Wales after failing
to pass the examination for South Wales, but by passing one
at Manchester, Wigan or Glasgow. That seems to me
absurd. A man may not know the Special Rules of South
Wales and yet he may go to Manchester or Wigan and pass
an examination and come back to South Wales as a
manager. The owners, we assume, will take the necessary
precaution, but 1 want to make such a thing impossible.

26866. (Mr. BatcUffe EUis.) Do you say that a person
who is going to be a manager in South Wales should get
his certificate in South Wales ? — ^No, I say that a man
who fails to pass the examination for his own district cuid
sits for an easier examination

26867. Or another examination ? — You assume it is
harder but I assume it is easier because I know a man
who failed in Wales and pulled through in Manchester.
It is wrong for a man to manage a colliery in Wales when
he has failed to pass the examination for the South Wales

26868. (Mr. Wm. Abraham,) What makes him incom-
petent if he has passed a certificate of competency in
Manchester where there is also a necessity for him to be
a competent man. Why is he not competent in South
Wales ? — I would ask you the question, why is it necessary
to have an examination for South Wales at all T

26869. (Chairman,) If he fails in South Wales, between
times he may get enough knowledge to make him pass in
Manchester an examination just as difficult as South Wales
for that matter. You are only talking of the question we
have had before us over and over again, as to how
far there ought to be one examination for the whole
Kingdom or a special examination for each district, and
that nobody should be allowed to be a manager in that
particular district who had not passed the examination
for that particular district ? — Yes, partly. I want a
uniform standard for the whole country for the first-class
certificate, and then I think that a certain amount of
local knowledge should be added to that.

26870. (Mr. Wm. Abr(iham.) It is essentially necessary
that a manager should know the rules of a district ? — Yes.

26871. The Special Rules ?— Yes. There is another
position. A man may get his five years* experience
possibly in a mine that is only giving off carbon dioxide
gas, but he becomes eligible at once to manage a colliery
giving off firedamp. Again, a man may have spent five
years in a little level with only the mechanism of a shovel
and a tram and become a first-class colliery manager and

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Mr. Henry be eligible to take a position as a manager in a large colliery.
Davies, Something should be done to make such things impossible.
tT~||w%7 When a man has only five years' experience in a small
^^1 ^®^®^ without any firedamp being given off he is not com-

petent with that five years' experience to manage a large
colliery, but according to the Act of Parliament he is

26872-3. What improvement would you suggest in that
case ? — I should lay down certain qualifications in each
district in addition to having five years' experience. The
candidate should not only have five years' experience but
particular experience in the kind of mines in the district
where he intends becoming a manager.

26874. Have you dealt vdth the question of a knowledge
of the Welsh language being necessary in Welsh mines ? —
No, I have not dealt with that, but I hold that view.

26875. (Chairman.) I asked the question because I
noticed that the witness had put it in his statement, and he
said that a knowledge of Welsh was very essential ? — Yes»
but I did not go into the details. I wanted to show how,
for instance, a fortnight ago there was a miners' conference
and inspectors were present, and that conference was con-
ducted entirely in Welsh in Glamorganshire. The chief
inspector did not understand what was going on. I think
the mines inspector for that district ought to know the
language generally used by the men for his own advantage
and for Uie advantage of the Home Office. He might
get information through an interpreter but that would be
like pumping information out, instead of leaving it bubbling
out of a fountain.

26876. {Mr. Smiaic) Why was it carried on in Welsh ?
— Because they were Welshmen.

26877. Could they not speak English ?— The terms were
Welsh and the surroundings were Welsh, and when they
discussed in Welsh they were speaking their native

26878-9. It was not in order to make it impossible for
the inspector to know what they were saying ? — ^No, there
was an assistant inspector there who understood Welsh,
and the chief irspector had to get his information through
the assistant inspector. I think the chief inspector himself
ought to be able to get the information direct.

26880. {Mr, Wm, Abraham,) You have spoken very
strongly with regard to the timbering. What would you
sugffest with regard to the timber ? — ^What happens now
is mis, a fireman or overman goes round and finds a man
has not put in sprag ; he cautions him but owing to his
many duties he goes on and has not time to see that his
instructions are carried out. If his duties were limited
he would be able to come back and see that the instructions
were acted upon. Possibly at the end of the Special Rules
or on a board in the workings some dia^ams could be put
giving examples of good and bad timbering. Now the boy
who works with the collier has to learn from a man
who does the thing improperly. If there were
diagrams showing how good timbering should be adopted
and also the danger of bad timbering they would appeal to
the eye and assist the memory. I have some diagrams
that could be put up on the notice-board and the boy
would not copy the bad things but would see the right way
of doing it.

26881. Do you think that improper timbering is preva-
lent in South Wales ? — Not prevalent, but I bSlieve it is
occasionally found that a man does not know that he
should stand a post at right angles to the dip. I some-
times find a man who uses a pick or a mandril to trim his
lid instead of a hatchet.

26882. What kind of a trimming could he make of a
lid with a mandril ? — A very poor one, but the danger is
this, the boy sees that done. With better supervision
this bad example would be impossible.

26883. Do you agree with the system of men preparing
their lids in the working places or do you think that it
would be an improvement if a certain number of lids were
prepared and simply shaping them to a dip there left to be
done ? — I think that second suggestion is the better one
as far as the colliers' time is concerned. If they were
prepared and he had simply to trim them he would be more
ukely to use them quickly than if he had to prepare them

26884. {Dr, Haldane,) How far has the system you
advocate of giving instruction in colliery matters in
primary schools b^ successful. Can you really teach
these children ? — Yes, it is most interesting, for instance,
here is a little book that they read. It is full of pictures
and naturally the lads get interested. In a Welsh district
the boys would have a lesson on the safety lamp by a

teacher and they would go home and question their father
or their brother or the lodger as to what kind of a lamp
he used, or as to what find of gas there was in one
collieiy and in another. With rega^ to the Si)ecial Rules,
the boyB would go home and ask questions of the lodgers
and their fathers, and occasionally the fathers could not
answer them with the result that they would come and
ask questions in the evening classes. Through the boys
we get to the homes. What faces a boy at the colliery
immediately now is " No admittance except on business.
He does not learn an3rthing excepting to go quickly down
the shaft and take the shortest cut to the staU. If he has
his curiosity aroused he searches for himself and gets

26885. Are things taught by showing the bovs collieries,
by taking them underground, or anything of that sort ? —
They are taken periodically to the top of the colliery yard,
and then they are taken underground It is all taught
in the school.

Are they shown, for instance, the safety lamp ?
Are they shown a cap ? — Yea, in the lamp room. They
are taken to the lamp room and the lamp man is there
making a test, and the teacher explains the principle. We
supply them with a number of lamps and apparatus of
that kind.

26887. It is evident that will give a lot of knowledge
that will conduce to safety in mines ? — Yes.

26888. You recommend that records should be kept of
the firedamp in the air ? — Yes.

26889. At the end of each split at the last working
place ? — Yes.

26890. I suppose that you would also recommend there
should be some maximum standard of firedamp in the
air ? — Yes. As far as the Coal Mines Regulation Act
is concerned, where it says an adequate quantity
of air should be suppHed — what is an adequate quantity 7
It is a difficult matter to decide. The presence of a blue
cap on an ordinary safety lamp is indicative of danger,
and that there is not an adequate amount of ventilation.

26891. In your experience, is a blue cap common in
the last working place in a split in a Welsh mine ? Have
you often tested for it ? — I do not say that it would be
common, but with increased care I say that it would be
less likely to be seen. I do not mean to say that ventilation
at present is inadequate, but if there was increased interest
taken as the result of my recommendation I say that it
would be improved.

26892. (Sir Lindsay Wood.) You said you sometimes
took a party of boys to the mine itself to explain the
character of the mines T — Yes.

26893. And down the mine ?— Yes.

26894. Is that done by the sanction of the owner? — Yes,

26895. Who went with them 7 — ^The teacher in charge
of that particular class — the overman or the manager, or
an official of some kind.

26896. Do they go all round the mine ? — ^No, it would
not be necessary — the bottom of the shaft and the lamp
room. We take them to the lamp room.

26897. On the surface 7— Yes.

26898. I thought you said that they went down the
mine ? — Not at the school age, but immediately they left
the school we took them underground. We take the
boys of the evening contiiiuation school, and technical

26899. Who is " we "—your staff 7— Yes. We have
about 70 classes, and these classes are conducted by a
number of lecturers for advanced work and a number of
teachers for elementary work. They have to visit the
mines at least three times in the session to make the in*
struction thoroughly practical.

26900. Do the teachers of these schools take the boys
to the mine and then go underground with them 7 — Of the
evening continuation school, but not of the day school.
They keep the day school boys to the surface, but the
evening continuation school pupils they take underground.

26901. They go round the mine 7— Yes.

26902. Whom with 7 — ^The fireman, the overman, and
the teacher.

26903. Is that a system in vogue in South Wales 7 — Not
in vogue generally.

26904. Do you not think it is a dangerous experiment 7
— ^No, these boys would be 14 to 16 years of age.

26905. (Mr, Wm, Abraham,) It is approved of by the

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management ? — Yes, and encouraged. The officials, as
a rule, are the teachers of the class. We get a good in-
telligent under-manager, or a good intelligent overman,
and if he satisfies us as to his scientific knowledge we put
him to teach the class in order to make the teaching
thoroughly practictJ.

26906. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) What does he teach them
underground ? — How to avoid the ropes.

26907. The art of testing for gas, or what ? — He teaches

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 67 of 177)