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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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I think you have not answered that ? — I nave not, and I
find very considerable difficulty in answering it as far as
our practice is concerned.

20137. So far as your practice in Wales is concerned ? —
Yes. If we were assured that really practical men would
be appointed even to do this work and a sufficient number
of them to ensure that when a post was required the men
would be there to put it up, then I should say yes, but our
men are being paid by results on the amount of coal they
get, and the temptation there would be, if there is a special
man to put up the post and a post is wanted and the man
is not there to put it up, for the collier to get more coal
till the man comes, rather than put up the post himself :
BO that I see exceedingly great difficulties.

20138. Do you think accidents in mines in this country
would be reduced considerably if all the coal getters were
paid day wages rather than being employed by piece-
work ? —Certainly.

20139. The piecework system makes them run risks
they would not otherwise run ? — It must do.

20140. You have your mind made up as to whether
you would alter our present system of timbering. Yon
think there should be systematic timbering ? — Yes.

20141. A very large number of accidents arise from
haulage. I suppose the drawbars of the trams would
require the same examination as the shackles ? — ^Yes.

20142. They are in the same position, and very often
a drawbar breaks ? — ^That is so.

20143. Your system of haulage in Wales lends itself
to considerable trains of trams going together 7 — Yes,
very long trains sometimes.

20144. Sometimes on dooks and at other times on heads
or headings ? — ^20 and 25 trams.

20145. Would you approve of a chain or some other
method passed over the whole train of tubs and joined,
so that in the event of a shackle or drawbar breaking there
could be no run-away ? — Anything that would prevent
a run-away.

20146. Is there any system at present in which a chain
is taken over the top of the tubs, or which chains the tubs
to prevent them breaking away, in Wales ? — ^There may be.

20147. If you are told that system is in force at many
collieries do you think that it would tend to greater safety ?
— ^I think so.

20148. If that were done, if a shackle or drawbar broke,
the tubs could not run away T — No.

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20149. You are favourable to sufficient room being left
on the side of a haulage road to enable men to walk along
there. You do not apply the same to a horse road ? —
Of course it is desirable everywhere, whether it is haulage
by machinery or by horses. The degree of danger is not
the same in a horse road.

20150. Are there many accidents arising in the country
generally on horse roads ? — Yes, I am afraid there are.

20151. Where should a driver be in driving a horse with
a trailer and 2, 4, 6 or 10 tubs ? Where is the most suitable
place for him to drive — ^between the horse and the tubs ? —
No, I think he should be in front of the horse.

20152. Has he any spragging to do coming down hill
in any part ? — ^Yes, he has some.

20153. Id it possible to sprag in front of the horse ? —
No, unless he stops him.

20154. He would require room at the side of the road to
do spragging ? — I am afraid that sometimes has been
responsible for accidents, that there has not been sufficient
space where spragging has to be done.

20155. It would be a great deal safer if there were room
on the side of all roads whore it ia possible to have more
room ? — ^Yee.

20156. Your coalfields in Wales have developed rapidly
during the past 25 to 30 years ? — Very.

20157. Would you say that there is a very considerable
proportion of workmen working underground and at the
face in South Wales who have gone into the mines after
they reached manhood ? — Yes, a big number I should say.

20158. What we call unskilled workmen ? — Yes.

20159. Do any go to work at the coal face immediately
they start work ?— Yes.

20160. Do you know whether or not the rule on the
point is carried out that they must hzve two years' practical
experience with an experienced miner before having a place
of their own ? — I have heard it suggestod that that rule
is being met by putting two unskilled men together.

20161. That was not the intention of the rule ?— No.

20162. The intention of the rule was that persons
should serve an apprenticeship of some kind to make sure
that they were qualified to take a place for their own
safety ?— Yes.

{Mr, Ratcliffe EUis.) That cannot be the construction of
the rule.

20163-4. {Mr. Smillie.) Have you any minor employed in
your mines in Wales who does not understand the English
or the Welsh language ? — No, I do not think so. I think
we had a few Italians upon one occasion, but I think they
are all gone.

20165-6. Do you think it would tend to safety or
discipline in your Welsh mines if the workmen did not
understand the Enghsh or the Welsh language T — All the
powers we have would be brought about to prevent any
workmen being employed in the mine who did not under-
stand the English or the Welsh language. It must be a
source of danger.

20167. You would be strongly opposed as an experienced
miner to the employment of unskilled miners, especially
those that did not understand the langtiage T — Very
strongly opposed. I cannot conceive anybody arguing that
they would not be a source of danger, e.specially after the
questions that have been put to me with regard to work-
men observing the rules by this Commission even.

20163. Every miner working at the coal face is expected
to ascertain from the fireman every morning as to whether
or not his place is safe ? — Yes.

20169. If he did not understand the language, and the
fireman was not instructed in his language, he could not let
him know whether it w«fl safe or not ? — Quite.

20170. You are in favour of the ambulance stretchers
being closer to the working face if possible T — Ycp.

20171. Some of the working places are fully two miles
from the top?— Yes.

20172. Would you also be in favour of ambulance wagons
being near the surface in order that workmen might bo con-
vey^ home quickly ? — Yes.

20173. Have you any provisioas of that kind in Wales
at the present time ? — Yes, a largo number of workmen
supply them themselves. There are lota of instances
where from the fund they have for paying their doctors they
also provide these ambulances.

20174. Where they are not provided, the old method of
a cart or something else is uded t—Thej^ ate tarribd on


20175. They are carried on the stretchers home T — Yes.

201,76. Section 16, Sub-section (6) provides that shafts

which are sunk after the passing of this Act should not be

closer than 15 yards apart, l^om the experience which 29 May, 1907.

you have gained phice the passing of this Act, do you think —

15 yards is sufficient T Are they not too clof»e together in
the event of an explosion, or a 'fire takmg place ? — There
would bo better opportunity of preventing the exploeion
going from one to the other & they were farther apart.

20177. Would it be desirable in new mines that are being
sunk that they should be farther apart than 15 yards T — I
think so, and it must add something to the safety, and I do
not see any reason why the cost should be any greater with
a little difference in driving the connection.

20178. Would you be in favour of separating the down-
cast and the up-cast pit-heads, so that in the event of a fire
taking place at one it might not communicate to the other 7
Tb there any danger with the down-cast and up-cast shafts
connected by the same pit-head, in the event of fire in
either the do^vn-ca8t or the up- cast shaft, that it would be
communicated from one to the other ? — I think it would be
desirable to separate them.

20179. If possible there should be a division between
the two pit-heads? — Yes.

20180. You say the sanitary conditions in your South
Wales coal mines, so f ar a« excrement and filth are con-
cerned, are not bad at this time ? — No.

20181. Would you be in favour of baths being supplied
so that workmen might wash themselves and change their
clothing at the pit-head before going home ? — I have often
thought that desirable.

20182. Is it the case in many collieries in wet workings
that the men come up in wet weather with their clothes
wet tlirough and have to go home in that clothing ? — In a
large number of instances they have to ride in the train.

20183. Do you think it would be a good thing if baths
were supplied and drying stoves, which would enable the ,
men to change their clothing ? — It must be, I should think.

20184. Do you think that the mining industry in this
country gets sufficient attention at the present tmie from
the Home Secretary. Do you think it possible for the
Home Secretary with all his duties to give proper attention
to such an important industry as mining ? — No, I think
the industry is of sufficient importance to have a depart-
ment to itself.

20185. Do you favour a mining department with a
minister of mines whose duty it would be to look after the
mining industry as a whole ? — I do.

20186. You think it might tend to greater attention and
greater safety in the mines ? — Yes.

20187. There is one question I want to ask you, but I do
not know whether I may. It is with regard to check-
weighing. I understand the Welsh owners in every case
erect comfortable shelters for check-weighers at the pit
bank T— They do.

20188. You have no real trouble ?— No trouble whatever.

20189. Have you acted as a check-weigher yourself ? —

20190. You have had considerable experience in visiting
at the pit banks ? — Yes.

20191. Do you think it possible for a check-weighman to
do his duty thoroughly where he is not properly protected
from the weather and from dust and rain ? — No, I do not
think he could.

20192. Have you known of cases in which the check-
weigher has caUed the attention either of the mines
inspector, or your own District Committee, or yourself in
cases of danger existing underground, wctnt of proper
ventilation and timbering. Have there been cases in
which check-weighers have had to complain oiUier directly
to the union officials or the mines inspector ?

{Mr, Ratcliffe EUia.) Union officials would have nothing
to do with it. ' He would have no right to make such a com-
plaint to the manager of the mine. It would be going out^
side his duty altogether.

{The WiineM.) As a deputy of the workmen I know of
lots of instances whore he has done so.

{GhairmanJ) He has done so whether entitled to or not,

20193. {Mr, SmUlie.) 1 do not say to the manager nor
to the managemeut. My question wart, have there been
any cases in which the check-weighman has complained
to the mines inspector or to the Union offioiab ? — To the
Union officials, yes. I do not know of a case where he
has complained to the mines iDst>eotor.

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20194. The Union officials have taken action either by
calling the attention of the management in the first place
to it, or ultimately calling the attention of the tninefl
inspector ? — Yea.

20195. In his position at the pit bank he knows sooner
than anybody else from the workmen the condition of
matters undergromid ? — Yes.

20196. It is recognised that the duty of the check-
weigher, for which he is appointed, is to look after the
weighing of* the material and the correct marking of the
material of each workman ?— Yes.

20197. He is generally looked upon by the miners to some
extent as their represeptative ? — Yes.

20198. He often takes part in their meetings, and he
hears complaints as to dangers and other things, and con-
veys them to the officials. Have yoii heard of any objec-
tion to the check-weighman taking part in those matters ? —
We have several instances where we think the check-weigh-
man has been removed for performing what he certainly
onght to have a right of doing.

20199. Do you think the checkweigher should not have
the right of citizenship away from the mines the same as
anybody else T — That is the great complaint we have.

20200. {Mr, Wm. Abraham.) With regard to the over-
man and the traffic, the overman would look at the traffic
more particularly for the whole mine 7 — Yes.

20201. The fireman would be attending to it in his own
district ? — Yes.

20202. Both are necessary T — Quite.

20203. So that the overman could not do what the
fireman is expected to do in many cases ? — ^No, I do not
think he could.

20204. With regard to this new class of inspectors that
you are of opinion we should get, there the chief qualifica-
tion would be, in addition to a man having a certificate,
that he had been a practical collier himself, a practical
repairer and knew the work thoroughly ? — Yes, that is my
idea of it.

20205. That is the class of man in your opinion who
would be able to ferret out, as it were, dangers lurking in
various instances, where the present class of inspectors
would not go and look for them T — Yes.

20206. With regard to the present class of inspectors,
in your opinion have they too much work to prevent any
dangerous practice that they see ? — ^No, I do not think
they have.

20207. Would it not tend very materially, to reduce
dangers if they could order and not simply advise T — Yes,
I think so.

20208. With regard to the firemen, you are of opinion
if the districts that these firemen have to examine and,
attend to were materially reduced, that would tend to
the safety of life and of the mine ? — Yes, I think so.

20209. Do you know instances where firemen have been
working 8-hour shifts ?— Yes, and they say (I have no
statistics with regard to that) as the result the accidents
are fewer than they were before. I loiow of some coUieries
where the owners themselves have put their firemen upon
an 8-hour shift, three shifts of firemen, and we have testi-
mony from those firemen themselves — ^I have no statistics
with regard to that unfortunately, but they say the acci-
dents are very much fewer since they have had the reduced
hours as firemen.

20210. With regard to the present system of coroners'
inquests, in your opinion that is not satisfactory ?— Yes.

20211. Did I understand you to say that the Mines
Act, Section 45, would be sufficient if it is carried out T —
For the present. I should say yes. I should say if that
enquiry were held in all serious accidents— that is what
I mean.

20212. You base that upon the qualifications of the
persons who carry out that enquiry ? — Yes.

20213. Supposing that further enquiry had been carried
out in cases that you know of, in your opinion would the
decision have boeu different ? — I think so.

20214-5. Where a manager has been fined to the full
extent of the Act under the ordinary system he is still at
liberty to go on and manage that colliery, as he is doing in
the last case that was mentioned at another colliery at
the present moment ? — I think that the Court should
have suspended his certificate.

(Mr. RalcUffe Ellis.) It had no power.

20216. I understood you 'to say that you were
satisfied with the provisions. Do you think that the
Court should have power to suspend a certificate,
or that that should be left to the Home Office T — I have
not thought of that, but what I have thought of is that the
Home Office would attach very much more importance
to the enquiry of this Court than the ordinary coroner's


Thursday, ZOth May, 1907.

Sir Lindsay Wood, Bart.

H. H. 8. CUKTKOHAME, Esq., C.B.

Wm. Abraham, £^q., M.F. (Rhondda).
F. L. Davis, Esq.

Pbsssnt :

Lord MoKKSWBLL {Chairman).

Ekoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.
Thomas BATCLnrrs Elus, Esq.
John Scott Haldane, Esq., r.R.s.
BoBKRT Smilub, Esq.

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

John Geobob Hancock, called and examined.
Statement or Witness.

Mr. J. 0. 20216a. (1.) Inspection. — "So complaint whatever can

Hancock^ be made concerning the manner in which the inspectors

' of the Midland district do their work. I think, how-

30 May, 1907. ever, that every colliery should be visited more than

once every year by an inspector. The inspection should

be thorough, every part of the mine being visited and
examined. X should like an inspector for every 10,000

persons employed, and think there certainly ought to
be one for every 15,000 or 20,000 employed.

(2.) I am of opinion that the size of districts should be
reduced, as time now spent in travelling without adequate
recompense would then be spent in inspecting.

(3.) I cannot admit that inspet^ting a certain area,
and accepting that as a criterion of the whole of the
colliery is satSfactory, reliable or safe.

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(4.) Oeneral Hide S8. — ^I do not know of more than one
or two cases in Notts where workmen have inspected the
mine. I do not think that it is in any case a question of
expense so far as workers are concerned. I do not think
that owners have contributed to the expense in any case.

(5.) Men think their examination tends to relieve mana*
gers of a responsibility they ought not to bo relieved of,
and places on men a responsibility they ought not to have.
An unfavourable report might be detrimental to the
examiner as a worker and subject him to the harsh treat-
ment of his employer. An unfavourable report might
also be detrimental to him as a co-worker.

(6.) Such examinations must in eveiy case be to some
extent superficial and incomplete because these men do
not understand and cannot measure ventilation, cannot
read plans, indeed, have little or no opportunity for seeing
them, so their report could not be worth much, and,
when they had done their best, might be misleading and
productive of discomfort to themselves. Should an
accident occur after one of these inspections this report
may be produced on the owners' behalf, although, owing
to its practical character and the inspectors' utter
lack of theoretical knowledge or technical training,
it may really be of little value in that connection, and in
that way an interpretation or meaning may be placed
upon it that is not honest to it or the inspectors. The
condition of the mine at the time of the accident may
be very different to that at the time of the inspection.

(7.) Mines are managed much better now than they
were, consequently, there is not the necessity now for
these inspections that there was. There is not, and
never was, so far as my experience goes, any great desire,
on the men's part, to make these inspections.

(8.) Oeneral Ride 4 — ^I am convinced that deputies do
not examine the gates, but on entering the face by the
first gate travel along the faces returning by another gate,
leaving the intermediate gates unexamined. Shotfirers
are expected, in these cases, to examine the intermediate
gates, but they act very much on the same principle;
consequently, these places are not systematically ex-
amined. I am convinced that deputies should be men of
practical experience, ».e.» men who have worked in the

(9.) Discipline, Fines and Prosecutions, — Grenerally
speaking the men are opposed to any recognition of a
system of fines, but in a few cases have agreed with the
employers upon a system. I think that some offences
can be mot by a fine ; others cannot, and prosecutions
are then necessary

(10.) Establishing Special Bides. — ^1 thmk that working
men could, with advantage, be asked for their opinion
when Special Bules are beiog prepared.

(11.) I am in favour of some of the Special Rules being
put into the General Rules, especially those relating
to machinery, shafts, managers, under-managers,
deputies, and, perhaps, lamps and explosives.

(12.) Haidage. — I should like to have separate travell-
ing roads wherever possible. I think, that on one side,
at least, and the whole distance, there shoidd be plenty of
room to walk. It is a great advantage to have the refuge
holes whitewashed on the edge and inside. Roads should
be as straight as possible ; dip should be as regular as
possible, hills and swamps being avoided.

(13.) I think that drags should be compulsory. Over-
chains should be used to check or stop any runaway
trams, and competent persons, not inexperienced boys,
should be employed. Each person should know his own
work, and be responsible for it, so that there may be no
unnecessary division of responsibility. The engineman,
especially, should not have any other duty.

(14.) Other Classes of Accidents. — Mine officials should
be the only persons allowed to carry explosives, they
should fire all shots, recover unused or misfire explosives,
and account for all that they receive. Shot-firing should
be done between shifts, especially in deep, fiery and dry
and dusty mines.

(15.) Winding enginemen might be compelled to obtain
certificates of competency.

(16.) Detaching hooks and safety catches should be
provided with a view to saving life in cases of over-
winding or rox>e breaking ; appliances for shutting off
steam, applying brake, and stopping the engine at a
certain pomt in case the engineman fails to do so, should
bo provided.

(17.) Wastes should be filled so far as dirt wiU do this,
and no dirt brought to bank imnecessarily.

(18.) Iron trams are safer than wooden ones especially
in fiery mines.

(19.) The employment of unskilled labour is dangerous
and should be (Uscouraged.

(20.) Ambulance proficiency should be encouraged on
the part of officials and workers.

(21.) Investigating Mine Accidents. — Coroners in our
district are all that could be desired. I think that rela-
tives of deceased should have ample and clear notice of
post-mortem examinations so that they can be medically
represented. In the event of either party desiriug an
enquiry, as per Section 45, the Secreta^ of State should
at once direct such investigation to be made.

(22.) Safely Lamps. — Safety lamps are inconvenient,
and injurious, consequently the use of them should not
be unnecessarily extended ; they should be securely
locked, in every case, and should be thoroughly tested.

20217. {Ghairman.) You come before us, I understand,
to give evidence on behalf of the Nottinghamshire Miners*
Aasociation ? — Yes.

20218. What official position do you occupy in that
Association ? — I am the agent and financial secretary.

20219. How long have you been in that position ? — I
have been agent and financial secretary since 1896. I was
assistant secretary from 1892 down to then.

20220. You say in paragraph 1 that you make no com-
plaint concerning the manner in which the inspectors of
the Midland District do their work, but you think that
every coUiery should be visited more than once every year
by an inspector, and that inspection should be thorough,
every part of the mine being visited and examined. How
often do you suggest that an inspector ought to go down the
mine 7 — I think he should go down at least twice in the

20221. Twice in the year would be the amount of in-
spection you consider desirable, that twice in evory year
he should go through every part of every mine in his dis-
trict ? — I think so.

20222. Go right through it ?— Yes.

20223. How many inspectors do you suppose that would
require ? — I could not say I am sure.

20224. A very great many more than there are at present!

20225. Now every inspector with very few exceptions
goes down some part of every mine in his cUstrict once in the
year. That is what they do at present 7 — I am not sure of

20226. I think statistics show that is so. Almost every
mine at aU events is inspected once 7 — Yes, almost.

20227. Sometimes an inspector thinks a mine is in such a
satisfactory condition that it is not necessary to inspect it,
but as a nile he would go down every mine once a year 7 —

20228. But he will not go all over it 7-~No.

20229. I believe in the course of these inspections, as a
rule, they only go over a small portion of a mine 7 — I
believe that is so.

20230. Therefore you would suggest that there ought to
be at least double the number of inspectors to do what you
desire 7 — Yes.

20231. That is to say, they should go down every mine
twice as often on an average as they do at present, and that

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