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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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It is divided into five districts, three one side of the pit
and two the other.

27339. Have you five overmen in No. 2 pit ?— No, there
are three overmen in No. 2 pit.

27340. You have three overmen in No. 2 pit, and No. 2
pit is divided into how many districts ?— It is divided into
five districts.

27341. How many districts, then, are under your care?
—Two, and all the roadways.

27342. {Chairman.) When you say " districts," do you
mean firemen's districts ?— Yes.

27343. Three overmen to Bre fiiremen's districts ?— Yes.

27344. Is that about the ordinary proportion ? — ^No.

27345. WTiat would be the ordinary proportion in other
parts of the mine ? Would there be as many as five
districts assigned to three, or more than five districts
assigned to t&ee overmen ? — Li our colliery there are not
more than three firemen's districts, but in other collieries
it is different.

27346. {Mr. Wm. Abrtiham.) You mean no more than
three districts allotted to one overman ? — Yes.

27347. {Ch^airman.) In your case it is only two. In one
of the five districts it must be assigned to one fireman and
one overman ? — Yes.

27348. An overman may sometimes have three, some-
times two, and sometimes one district under his charge ? —
Yes, if it is not too much for him.

27349. {Mr. Wm. Abraham). It is according to the size ?
— Yes, sometimes he will do two districts better than I
can do one, because they are close together, and there is
no disturbance.

27350. You as an overman have the supervision of two
districts ? — Yes.

27351. And the roads leading thereto ? — ^Yes.

27352. During the working hours you have to travel
and examine all these roads ? — Yes.

27353. And supervise the timbering, ventilation, and so
forth ?— Yes.

27354. Have you any system of testing the efficiency
of long-standing timber ? — We change it very often to see
it is not going too bad.

27355. How do you find out when it becomes necessary.
Is it merely a rule of thumb looking at the thing, or have
you any way of testing whether this timber is right or not ?

27356. What is it ? — You can do it with a knife or a

27357. But have you any system of doing it ? — No.

27358. Where do you get as a rule your large falls — on
your main roads ? — ^Wliere the best timbering is done.

27359. Where bad timbering is done ? — No, the best

27360. Do you not get falls, and some large falls, in
places where timber has been standing for a long time ? —
Not very often ; occasionally.

27361. You do get them sometimes ? — Where timber has
been standing for a long time the squeeze has gone from
the place, and where you get large falls the gas comes in,
the gas bringing on the squeeze on top, which makes a
sudden crush.

27362. It is there where you know that danger lurks ?

27363. Where timber has been standing a long time
there is no system of testing its efficiency ? — No.

27364. ^Vhat system have you of testing safety lamps ? —
The fireman in each district examines them every morning.

27365. Do you examine the lamps sometimes ? — ^No,
without I happen to see a lamp in the locking-place when
I am there.

27366. It is no part of your duty to see that the lamps
are safe ? — That is done by the fireman.

27367. Where is it done ? — At the locking-place at the
bottom of the pit.

27368. Is there any system of examining these lamps
before the men go down ? — Yes.

27369. Will you explain how the testing of the lamps
is done ? — Each lamp is examined by a man in the course
of the night in the lamp-room, who draws off the lamp
gauzes and everything to test them. They are put back
for the morning and lighted ready for the men to go down.
The shield is not lockwi, so that the fireman gets his lamp
and draws the shield off and sees the catches before the
men go in.

27370. How does the fireman test it ?— By examining
the gauze and the glass.

27371. Is there anything to help him more than his
eyes ? — No.

27372. There is nothing to test the lamp ?— No.

27373. There is nothing to test whether the lamp is
fire-proof ? — I have seen a gas-meter in a colliery, but
not with us.

Digitized by




27374. Do you not think that would be an improvement
to have something to test the capability of each lamp
before it is given to a man ? — Yes, I quite agree with it.

27375. Does each man get the same lamp always ? —
So far as it is possible.

27376. To your knowledge, has the system been that
each man has got the first lamp that could be given to
him ? — ^Yes.

27377. That is improved now ? — That is improved now.

27378. Now each man gets the same lamp as far as
possible ?— Yes.

27379. Do you not think it an improvement that each
man should always get his own lamp ? — To do that each
man must have two lamps, because when one is out of
repair he must have another.

27380. That would only be the case very seldom ? —
That is how we have got it now.

27381. How ?— Each man has his lamp every day,
except when it is damaged.

27382. You have arrived at that system now ? — ^Yes.

27383. I am glad to hear it. You as an overman have to
direct that timbers are set up in the best manner in aU
places where they are required, and shall take great care
these directions are obeyed ? — ^Yes.

27384. How do you do that ?— I see they do it when I
am going round, and if on the second round they are not set
up in the proper way, they must alter them.

27385. You have to look after the airways and travelling
roads, and see that these are kept in repair ?— Yes.

27386. Also carefully observe the requirements of
General Rule 7 ?— Yes.

27387. Have you any system to regulate your observa-
tion in that case ? — On the main roads ?

27388. Yes. — ^We always keep them in good working
order, so that our journeys can travel throng them. We
are bound to do that, and we keep sufficient manholes.

27389. With all the work you have to do in these two
districts, and it takes you 11^ hours to do it, yon still think
that you have not too much to do 7 — Yes.

27390. You are willing to work 11^ hours ? — I could do
with less time.

27391. I think you are anxious that something should be
done to minimise the risk from irregular workmg ?— Yes.

27392. In answer to Mr. EUis you said that the risk arises
from a place being left with nobody in it ? — Ves,

27393. That place is examined before a man comes back
into it ?— Yes, and reported.

27394. So that, independent of his being off for a day,
or even two, you are responsible to see that that place is
safe before you allow him to go there ?— Yes, by putting'
this collier to do what he ou^t to have done during the
time he has been out. The place is getting dangerous
because he must do it now before he goes into the face. By
stopping out, the face of a stall is stopped, and the ground
is always breaking, timber and everything going, until it
is dangerous. He must repair it before he can start at the
face. i

27395. That has to be done before he commences hewing
coal ?— Yes.

27396. So that the danger is removed ?—Ye8, but if he
goes to work it would not be there.

27397. Is it a question of the loss of coal from his absence
or a question of any increased danger he has to run ?— There
are both of tihem : the loss of the coal and the increased

27398. Where does the danger come in if you have to see
that the place is put safe before he commences work ? —
This man ought to put it safe. The danger is in the repair-
ing of this place.

27399. Have you known any accident to occur from
this cause ?— Yes, several of them,

27400. It is because of the danger existing that you
recommend something to be done ? — Yes.

27401. I think you said no definite standard of ventila*
tion could be laid down as being applicable to aU collieries.
What you want is adequate ventilation ?— Yes.*

27402. How do you prove the inefficiency of ventilation ?
—•We contend when we get too much gas that the ventila-
tion is bad.

27403. Have you any way of finding that out before
you get large bodies of gas ? — Yes ; that is the work of our
firemen in their examinations.

27404. You are over the firemen ? — Yes.

27405. So that you are able to speak if there is anything
to be done. What is the first proof of ventilation being
inadequate in a practical way ? — ^The first proof is when you
see it begin with a cap.

27406. Yoa are of opinion that when a cap is seen on the
lamp that the ventilation is inadequate ? — Yes.

27407. Are you of opinion it is then dangerous to leave
a man working there ? — ^Yes ; we always stop him.

27408. You always send him out ? — ^Yes.

27409. That is the invariable rule ?— Yes.

27410. Supposing a manager or a mining engineer
came here to-morrow to say that there is no danger in
allowing a man to work in a place where there is a cap,
would you agree with him ? — ^No, I would not.

27411. (Chairman.) How do you feed the lamps, with
petroleum, or what sort of oil ? — Petroleum.

27412. Petroleum does not show a cap as easily as colza
oil ? — Yes, it shows very well.

27413. You have the most sensitive lamps ? — Yes.

27414. You do not use any colza oil lamps ? — ^No.

27415. Are you sure that people are agreed as to what is
a cap ? Dr. Haldane says he has been in working places in
South Wales and seen what he has considered a cap, but he
has been told by the officials of the mine that it is not a cap
at all. Do you understand what you mean by a cap ? —

27416. The slightest indication of a cap is sufficient ? —
You will get a cap on a lamp without any gas at all — a
small cap.

27417. You can have a cap without gas 7 — It is often the

{Mr. Wm. Abraham.) That indicates inadequacy of

27418. (Chairman.) I understand there sometimes may
be an appearance in the nature of a cap without any
dangerous gas. You say there might be a cap without any
gas ? — ^Yes, but you will find a difference between the cap
of gas and the cap that is from the oil. There is a smul
cap from the oil. When you are getting into gas there is
plenty of difference between them.

27419. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) It has a different appearance ?

27420. (Chairman.) You find no difficulty practically,
then, in teUinff what cap is dangerous and what cap is not
dangerous ?— I^o.

27421. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) With regard to the danger that
exists from men not coming into their places regularly,
Mr. Abraham put it to you that before the man is aUowed
to work his place has been repaired ? — Yes.

27422. I understood from your remarks that the danger
of repairing that place is very great ? — ^Yes.

27423. It has been left for one day, and to the man who
has to go into and repair that place it is more dangerous
than 'if he had been working there the day before? — ^Yes,
it may be left for three or four days.

27424. The danger becomes greater to the repairer of
those places ? — Yes.

27425. With regard to the test of the lamps, you said
that there was no actual test underground except the fire-
men looking at the lamps ? — Examining the k^ps.

27426. Is there not a test in the lamproopi before the
lamp is handed to the collier ? — ^Not with us. The only
place I saw it was Nixon's Ck)Uiery, Mountain Ash.

27427. The lamp is cleaned and examined — ^I mean seen
to be, as far as possible, intact ? — Yes.

27428. But there is no test applied ?~Mo.

27429. How many men would there be in the district
under your charge ? — Of colliers, do you mean ?

27430. Colliers first, and you can then teU me the others?
— Some are about 250 by night with me now.

27431. How many working places would that be ? —
That would mean about 45 to each fireman ; there are two

27432. About 90 places ?— Yes.

27433. All the roads in that district would be under your
supervision ? — Yes.


Mr. W.


16 July, 1907

Digitized by




Mr, W.
M July, 1907

27434-9. Your duty as overman is to examine all these
places onoe, and all the roads, and to report to the manager
anything, tibiat it is out of place or not in working order,
and everything that is not as it should be ? — Yes.

27440. With regard to timbering, you, as overman,
have to tell the colliers how to do the timbering ? — Yes.

27441. As you get to the place you tell him what you
think wants doing ? — ^Yes.

27442. You cannot be in every working i^aoe at the
same time ? — No.

27443. When you are away and any squeeze takes place,
or any alteration in the conditions, the coUier is the best
man to know how to protect himself ? — Yes.

27444. {Mr, Wm, Abraham,) In your opinion every
collier ought to have a certificate of competency ? — That
is what I want.

27445. {Mr, F, L. Davis.) When you tell a man to do
timbering you would like to feel sure that man is competent
to do it, and understands what he has to do for his own
safety ? — As far as a stranger coming to start is con-
cerned, I soon find out what sort of a man he is after a few
days, but that may be too late.

27446. You said when new men are taken on you would
like the manager to be able to find out if they are really
competent men in the particular kind of work they have
to do ?~Yes.

27447. Nothing is done at the present time ? — No.

27448. A man comes and applies for work and says :
" I have been a timberman at Qydaoh Vale, or Mardy,
or anywhere else, and the manager takes him on 7 — Yes.

27449. What is the reason that the men are taken on
80 easily ?— Shortness of men.

27450. Shortness of labour 7— Yes.

27451. Because labour is scarce, the managers are apt
to take ahnost any men that applies for work T— Yes.

27452. (Ghairman,) So that when trade is good there
ought to be more accidents. When work is brisk and
managers are very much in want of colliers and other men
in the mines, the ohanoes are there are more accidents ? —
No doubt.

27453. There would be more men employed too, but even
in proportion to the men employed you say there would
probably be more accidents when trade is brisk and where
the managers are inclined to take on anybody who applies ?
"~" jces.

27454. (Mr, F, L, Davis,) Is it your experience that the
bulk of the men put their faces against the employment
of unskilled labour 7 — No.

27455. They do not P— No. They put their faces
against the colliery owners, do you mean 7

2745^ The bulk of the men working in the district will
be against the management taking on any number of
men, some of whom may be unskiUed 7 — Yes.

27457. I do not know whether it comes under your
experience, but I will ask you this question, because I
have known it in our districts. Have you known where
the management has taken on a number of men where
they were short of men and those engaged in the colliery
have made it so hot for them that they have had to* go 7
— Yes.

27458. The di£Sculty of the managers very often is to
get labour, and when they get it they are not ailowed to
keep it 7 — No.

27459. {Mr. SmiUie.) Do you employ any men younelf 7

27460. For what class of labour P— Timbering, ripping,
labourers, hauliers, roadmen.

27461. Are you entitled to employ any colliers 7— No,
only what the day manager or day overman employs.
There is no work with us by night on the coal, only in places
where there is double shift, so that we have no need to
employ colliers.

27462-9. Does the manager or under-manager of your
colliery employ the colliers 7— The overman employs the
colliers and the manager signs for them in the morning.

27470. Is your evidence to some extent given on behalf
of the management and owners as well as on behalf of the
overmen 7 — 1 answered the questions so far as my own
ability was going, as you see them there now.

27471. I should like to know whether this evidence of
yours was strictly on behalf of the 230 members of the
Colliery Officials' Association, or whether it is not partly

on behalf of the colliery owners of South Wales 7— It is
on behalf of both of them.

27472. How long does it take the fireman to examine
45 places under Ms charge in the morning 7 — About 2^

27473. About 2^ hours to make the morning examina-
tion 7 — Yes.

27474. That would mean five hours for the two dis-
tricts if one fireman had to examine both those districts P

27475. You, in your 11} hours, are required to examine
both districts 7 — Yes.

27476. Your examination of th?se places would take
five hours worldng alone continuously 7 — I am working
two districts in tihe course of time.

27477. What do you mean 7 — In the course of my shift.

27478. Quite ; but it would take five hours for you to
examine the places 7 — Yes.

27479. In addition to that, when making the exami-
nation, you have all the duties which Mr. Abraham went
through in those rules 7 — I have to carry my instructions
all through.

27480. Could you say if there are many members of
this Colliery Officials* Association in South Wales, in this
part, at least, who hold a certificate of competency under
the Coal Mines Regulation Act^ first or second-class
managers' certificates 7 Do some of the members of your
Colliery Officials' Association hold first or second-class
managers' certificates 7 — Yes.

27481. A number 7— Yes.

27482. Do you yourself hold a certificate 7 — No.

27483. Do you know what proportion of the overmen
employed at your colliery hold a certificate 7 — Yes.

27484. You said 10 overmen were there, I think 7 —
Yes. Three out of the 10 hold a certificate.

27486. Are the wages of the night or day overmen
higher than the wages paid to the Sremen 7 — Yes.

27486. Do you think that that wage is sufficient to
encourase the best men to take employment as overmen 7
— Yes, I believe it is.

27487. You think they are quite fair wages for the
workmen 7 — Yes. I cannot answer for other collieries.

27488. I mean as a whole, not at this colliery particu-
larly, but as a whole, over your coalfield 7 — I do not know ;
I could not say.

27489. I was going to say that you are about the only
contented people I know if you are quite satisfied at the
present time. Will you tell the Commission why a collier
IS the best man to do the timbering to secure his working
place 7 What is the reason of it 7 — He is not supposed to
have a place without he is a thorough practical man to
look after his own safety.

27490. I mean a thoroughly skilled collier and timber-
man. Why do you say he is the best man 7 If you had
a timberman who had had considerable experience in
timbering, he would be as good a man as the collier 7 —
Yes ; tating charge of his own place and general safety
of his working place, I mean.

27491. A collier has to do something else besides timber
his place. He has to get coal and fill it 7 — Yes.

27492. He is the ton 7— Yes.

27493. Are all your workings longwaU workings 7 —
All longwalL Some part of the mine is barriers.

27494. {Mr, Wm, Abraham,) That is longwall in a broad
sense 7 — Yes.

27495. {Mr, SmiUie.) The collier being paid by the ton
is sometimes tempted to neglect danger. Perhaps the
danger of a bad stone may be neglected because of his
being anxious to get out as much coal as possible 7 — Yes.

27496. Some accidents may arise from the collier neglect-
ing to timber where he should, if in a hurry to get a tram
filled 7— Yes.

27497. If there was a man in charge of six or eight
places with nothing else to do but timber those places,
there would not be the same neglect on his part, because
he would not be paid by the ton 7 — No.

27498. You complain that the men do not work
regularly. What do you call irregular work 7 — A man
not attending to lus work regularly, when he is ilL

27499. Would you say if a collier attended five days a
week at the pit that would be fairly regular 7 — Yes.

Digitized by




27600. You would not expect him to be there six da3^
every week ? — No.

27501. You would not complain if a workman took
one play-day in a week. If he attended five days a week
all the month round, that would be reasonable ? — Yes.

27502. What you object to are x>eople drinking and
lying off for three or four days and then coming in to work 7

27503. I think you will admit that there is extra danger
arising from that 7 — Yes.

27504. I was wondering whether you wished to lay
down that a ooUier must work every day that a pit is open 7
— ^No, I do not suggest that. I only say the danger is
this, by allowing it to stand.

27605. When a collier has been off three or four days
and the place is standing, it gets broken ; the other places
going forward bring weight on it, and it makes it more
dangerous 7 — ^Yes.

27606. Does the collier require to put his place in order
when he comes out 7 — If he does not we have to put a
timberman there.

27507. What is the custom 7 — ^The collier himself does it.

27508. Your previous answer, although I think vou did
not mean it, led Mr. Davis to believe that you had to put
men on to put it in order before the collar started, but
the collier himself has to repair it if gone out of order
through his being away 7 — ^Yes.

27509. If a man is off with sickness, and his place gets
badly broken you would be entitled to put it right befora
he started 7 — If a man is ill we put another man to keep
his place going, but when a man is on the spree you cannot
put a man in his place.

27510. He requires to put men on when he comes out 7
— Yes.

Mr, W,


Mr. John Wiluams, called and examined.


Statbmbnt of Witness.

27511. (1) Safefy Lamps. — I am of opinion that,
with the exception of the prohibition of the old-fashioned
screw-locked lamps no further restriction is necessary.
I object to double gauze on the lamps because it is im-
possible to get su£Bicient light, and the lamp soon gets
hot and closed.

(2) Use and Firing of Explosives. — I am of opinion
that it might be made compulsory for the holes to be
charged by officials instead of allowing this to be done
by the men as is permitted at present. If might also
be made compulsory for the workmen to purchase their
explosives from the Colliery Owner and not be allowed
to bring it to the colliery from the outside, so that the
officials of the colliery could be certain that the proper
kind of explosive is being used.

(3) Falls of Hoof and Sides.— 1 think that it would be
very advisable that men applying for the position of
coltiers, repairers and hauliers should produce certificates
showing the length of time they had been in their last
employment, and the amount of experience they had had
in these departments, so as to prevent the employment
of inexperienced men in these capacities. These 'falls
are frequently due to the irregular attendance at work
of the men, and the rules are sufficiently stringent if
properly carried out, combined with more regular work.

(4) Hatdage, — A number of accidents happen from
the men not using the man-holes on the engine planes,
and although the employers are compelled to provide
these means of safety for the men, they have no power
to compel the workmen to use them. I am of opinion
that the Special Rules might be made more stringent in
this respect.

(5) Special Rides. — I am of opinion that the present
Special Rules are far too numerous and too complicated,
that there are too many repetitions, and that a large
number of the men do not attempt to acquire a know-
ledge of these Special Rules. I think that they could
be made much simpler. I am of opinion that it would
be a great advanti^e if boys were taught these Rules
in the last year in school It might also be advisable if
the Special Rules for each section of men were printed
and supplied to these men separately, instead of in a con-
siderable pamphlet, with the rules for officials and others,
as they are at present.

(6) Administration of the Mines Act. — I think that
discipline in mines is improving, but something might
be done in the way of giving more power to the officials
to enforce the necessary orders.

(7) Standard of ventilation. — I think that it is abso-
lutely impossible to lay down a standard of ventilation,
and that General Rule No. 1 is sufficiently stringent if

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 71 of 177)