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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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properly carried out. In view of the fact that some
dis^cts require a much laraer quantity of air than
others of the same size, and that the same district even
requires a larger quantity of air at certain times, it is
impossible to fix any standfurd quantity of air.

27512. (Chairman.) You represent the South Wales
Colliery Officials* Association, which consists of about
230 members, officials in the bulk of the collieries in the

Rhondda, Merthyr and Aberdare Valleys. What propor-
tion do you think of the officials of those mines belong
to your Association 7 Do you think most of them belong
to your Association 7 — Yes.

27513. About nine out of ten 7 — Yes, the most part.

27514. Do I understand that you have had any conver-
sation with the Association with regard to your evidence P
You have talked to the Association about the evidence you
are going to give to-day 7 — ^Yes.

27516. The Association knows the evidence you are
going to give 7 — Yes, I was before them and was selected
to come before you.

27516. Have you shown them what you intend to say 7
— Yes, I have it here.

27517. J notice in some respects your evidence differs
from that of the last witness, who also appears for the
Association. For instance, on the question of lamps, you
object to a double gauze lamp 7 — Yes. .

27518. Do you think you represent the views of your
Association in objecting to double gauze lamps, or do you
think that Mr. Griffiths* view is more in accorduice with
the opinion of the Association 7 He says he wishes double
gauze lamps to be used, and you say tliat vou do not wish
double gauze lamps to be used 7 — It is the views of the
Committee selected from the Association, the most expert
mining engineers in South Wales.

27519. You represent their views. Mr. Griffiths,
apparently, on that point does not repres^it their views P
— ^No, not of the Committee.

27520. He may represent the views of the majority of the
members of the Association, but you do not think that he
represents the views of the Committee of the Association P
— I do not believe that the majority of the members of the
Association are in favour of the double gauze lamp.

27521. Neither the majority of the Committee nor the
majority of the Association are in favour of the double
gauze lamps 7 — No.

27522. With regard to the use of explosives, you think
it ought to be made compulsory for the holes to be charged
by officials. In some mines that is done, but in some
mines it is not. In some mines it is made compulsory by
the management 7 — It is not compulsory, but I believe
it ought to be made the law.

27523. There are no Special Rules in your district
obliging officials to charge the holes, but, as a matter of
fact, in a great many mines the management insist, without
a Special Rule, that officials shall charge the holes. Is
that not so 7 In many mines it is the practice for the
officials only to charge the holes 7 — ^It is not carried out
in that way in my colliery, where I am at present, but I
have been in collieries where it has been carried out.

27524. You think there ought to be a Special Rule that
should apply to every mine in your district 7 — ^Yes.

27525. You say it ought to be made compulsory for the
workmen to purchase their explosives from the colliery
owner, and not be allowed to bring them to the colliery
from the outside 7 — Y-3s, entirely.

27526. With regard to falls of roofs and sides you think
that it would be very advisable that men applying for the

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position of colliers, 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 em-
ployment of inexperienced men in these capacities. The
last witness said he thought the same result might be
obtained in another way by insisting upon some public
examination of men, or rather that they should be compelled
to produce certificates of employment. He thought there
ought to be some examination ? — Yes, I quite agree, so
that we may Imow what the men are. In my colliery
district you will get somebody asking for work who has
never cut coal in his life : perhaps he has been employed
underground bs a labourer, or he will ask for work as a
haulier and say that he has been driving. Perhaps he has
been driving outside, but not imderground.

27527. I understand sometimes that the men have
objected to the system of certificates and do not like to
be placed in the hands of the managers to the extent of
being obliged to produce from any mine where they have
worked a certificate of exactly the character of work they
have done, and how long they have been doing it, and
whether the manager thought they were competent to do
it or not. They would prefer, I understand, that they
should undergo some public examination which would
test their capacity, and that it should not be left to the
management to give them certificates ? — There ought to
be something to meet the 232nd Special Rule.

27528. (Mr. Batcliffe EUis.) That is that no unskilled
person shall work alone ? — Yes.

27529. (Chairman.) The question is how we are to carry
that rule into effect ? — Yes.

27530. There might be two ways. You suggest when
a man goes from one mine to another and applias for
work that he should carry with him a certificate as to the
time he has been employed in a particular work, and the
kind of work, and whether he is competent or not to do
the work. That is one way of doing it. That would
leave the whole responsibility on the management. It
has been suggested, on the other hand, that it might be
undesirable to leave these powers in the hands of the
management of the mine, but that the same result would
be obtained, perhaps better, by the men having to imdergo
some examination; for instance, that a man should not be
employed in hewing by himself (of course he must learn
how to be a hewer under somebody else) unless he had
passed an examination or test whicn would show that he
was a competent hewer T — ^Yes.

27531. Then you object to the irregular attendance at
work of the men and consider that falls are frequently due
to irregular attendance. How would you deal with the
irregular attendance of the men ? — It is not dealt with
strictly enough. Men lose their work and cause accidents
to a collier working in advance. I believe there are a lot
of accidents from falls of roofs and sides owing to the men
losing their work. One face has gone on and another
one will be behind. They occur through the roof breaking
and the timber breaking.

27532. We understand that, but can you suggest any
system to obviate that and enable every face to be worked
at the time it ought to be worked so that the whole work
might go on stefKlily. You cannot expect a man always
to come to work, he might be ill ? — We do not expect him
to come when ill, but some waste their time. There are
good workmen employed underground as hauliers, colliers,
repairers and stowers, but there are very bad ones too.

27533. You have no suggestion to make on the subject ;
all you say ia that it is desirable the men should work as
regularly as possible ? — Yes.

27684. You say that the rules are sufficiently stringent
if properly carried out ? — Yes.

27535. With regard to haulage, you say a number of
accidentB happen from the men not using the man-holes
on the engine-planes, and although the employers are com-
pelled to provide these means of safety for the men, they
have no power to compel the workmen to use them. I
suppose you mean refuges by man-holes ? — Yes.

27536. I should have thought when a man saw there was
any danger he would go to a manhole to shelter himself if
he could 7 — There is no law to compel him to go.

27537. Do you require a law to compel a man to go into
a manhole when in danger from a tram ? — What about
timbering ; there is a law to that effect ?

(Mr, F. L, Davis,) I think he means the overman will
tell the men they must go into these places, but they do
not do it.

27538. (Chairman.) They do not attend to what they
say. You tell the men it ia their duty when there is
any appearance of danger to take refuge in these manholes,
and they do not do it ? — When a workman sees there
is a law, and you can prosecute him for not doing so, he
will keep that better in his mind when travelling over
haulage roads. I think he would be more likely to turn
into a manhole or a place of refuge.

27539. You say that the present Special Rules are too
numerous and too complicated, that there are too many
repetitions, and that a large number of the men do not i /
attempt to acquire a knowledge of these Special Rules, \ «/
and that they could be made much simpler. You suggest 1
that these Special Rules should be re-written and made [
very much shorter ? — Yes.

27540. You think everything that is necessary could be
put in much shorter form than it is at present ? — Yes.

27541. You also think that the Special Rules for each
section of men should be printed and supplied to these
men separately ? — Yes. May I draw your attention to
No. 188 of the Special Rules : " No person, except a shot-
man when firing a shot, shall, under any pretence, or for
any purpose, unlock a lamp in his charge in any place
in the mine, or take the top or shield off a lamp except
at a lamp station."

27542. What do you wish to say about that ? — He
should not be allowed in any case to unlock his lamp.

27543. Not even a shotman ? — No.

27544. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) How long has this rule been
in existence ? — Ever since I remember.

27545. In the early days, when these rules were first
formed, how did they fire their shots — by a fuse ? — Yes.

27546. They fired them by lighting a fuse ?— Yes.

27547. Where did they get the light from ?— By placing
a piece of touch paper on the gauze of a Davy lamp untu
it lighted, and afterwards firing the fuse with it ; or by
inserting a wire through the meshes of the gauze of
a Davy lamp until it got red hot, and afterwards light the
fuse with it. The above was the general practice in fiery
mines ; after this the Rule was altered, giving permission
to shotmen to open lamps for the purpose of &ing shots.

27548. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) That rule ought to be
removed ? — Yes.

27549. (Chairman.) You say that it would be a great
advantage if boys were taught these rules in the last year
in SQhooL Do you think it ought to be made compulsory
that boys before going underground should be examined
in these rules and in the provisions of the Coal Mines
Regulation Act ? — Yes, I believe so. They ought to be
taught in that direction, because 80 out of every 100 of our
boys that are taught in school in the colliery districts go to
work underground.

27550. Then with regard to the administration of the
Coal Mines Regulation Act, you are of opinion that disci-
pline in mines is improving, but something might be done
in the way of giving more power to the officials to enforce
the necessary orders. What powers would you require?
What powers have you now, and why do you think them
insufficient ? In what respect are they insufficient ? —
That is as regards the manholes, as pointed out in the
Special Rules.

27551. Is that the only suggestion ? — Yes, that I

27552. Do you think that the officials should be em-
powered to place the men under penalties to provide for
their own safety better than they do apparently at present ?

27553. You have no particular provision in your mind
by which that could be done ? — ^No, I do not remember

27554. You have no prox>osal to make on those lines ?
—Yes. Special ttule 244 should be strengthened.

27555. Then we come to the standard of ventilation,
and you say that Rule No. 1 is sufficiently stringent if
properly carried out, and in view of the fact that some
districts require a much larger quantity of air than others
of the same size, and that &e same district even requires
a larger quantity of air at certain times, it is impossible
to fix any standard quantity of air. Do you say that in
every case where there is a cap on a safety lamp the men
should be withdrawn from the working ? — No, I do not
believe so.


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27556. Would it depend on the size of the cap or the
olass of lamp employed, whether colza oil or petroleum ? —
Of course, when the cap extends up to the gauze it is
dangerous, and we have to withdraw the men.

27557. You think a small cap on the lamp does not
indicate danger ? — No ; where there is no shot-firing
going on there is no danger whatever. I have been working
years with a small cap, more or less, as far as one-eiishth of
an inch.

27558. Have you any idea what you would consider a
dangerous cap ? How big a cap would be dangerous, in
your opinion ? — Any indication of gas will be dangerous
where there is a shot to be fired.

27559. Independently of shot-firing in an ordinary
working place, where there is no shot-firing going on,
what sort of a cap do you consider dangerous ? — I do not
think there is any danger in an eighth of an inch cap.

27560. Is there any danger in a quarter of an inch cap ?
— I cannot follow that experimentally like that, but I have
been working several times in places where there was a
quarter of an inch cap.

27561. You have not thought it necessary to leave the
working because of a quarter of an inch cap ? — No.

27562. Did you think a quarter of an inch cap was a
safe cap ? — I would not say a quarter of an inch ; I would
say one-eighth of an inch.

27563. One-eighth of an inch would be perfectly safe,
but you have often worked with caps of a quarter of an
inch and not left the working ? — 1 believe it is almost
impossible to keiep a colliery without any indication of gas,
that is in some places, between the place that receives the
air last and the main return. It is impossible in fiery

27564. You find it difficult to lay down any rule as to
the size of the cap which indicates a dangerous accumula-
tion of gas ? — I should think it is impossible to lay one

27565. {Mr. Wm. Abrciham,) Have you been allowed
to work in an ordinary working place — not the laat place
where the air goes into the return, but an ordinary working
place in any colliery in the district, where there was a
quarter of an inch of a cap on your lamp ? — Yes. That
is an ordinary working place in the last place. That
may be working continually every day.

27566. That last place is one place out of 500 ?— Yes.

27667. Come back to the middle of the workings.
Have you been allowed to work in any ordinary working
place inside the collieries where you had a quarter of an inch
cap on your lamp ?— Not in the middle of the workings.

27568. What part of them ?— The place nearest the

27569. Is that the one place ? — Yes, or in the return.

27570. Do you know of a man bemg allowed to work
any districts in any colliery in South Wales where there
is a quarter of an inch cap on a lamp ? — Not in a district
in the centre, but in the return you wjH get it occasionally.

27571. You answered the question generally to the
Chairman ? — Yes.

27572. {Chairman.) Is that a distinction? It is the
worst place. You are putting it just before the returns
in the last working face before the return airway, that is
the place where the gas is most likely to be found 7 — Of
course it would increase by going all round through the
working places, the strata giving out gas here and there,
and the ventilation carries with it all the noxious gases
by passing by and into the main return, and in the last
place or the couple of last places nearest the return you will
find the gas the greatest.

27573. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) If there is any at all, that is
where you will find it ? — Yes.

27574. {Chairman.) If you found a quarter of an inch
cap anywhere else but in this most gassy place of all
you would leave them working, but if you found it in this
particular place, where you are likely to find the greatest
accumulation of gas, you would not let them work ?— I
would not like to sav that. I say what I have been doing
myself. I am speaking from a practical point of view.
I am speaking of what I have been doing, and nothing
did happen.

27575. You would not like to say that you were quite
in safety ? — It would be safer without any indication
at alL

27576. Do you say you have worked not in these middle
workings but at the end where the gas would accumulate
most when there has been a quarter of an inch cap shown
on the lamp 7 — Yes, I have.

27577. Do you consider that it was right that you should
have worked there. Do you think it was safe 7 — It was
rather dangerous.

27578. A quarter of an inch cap wherever it is is rather
dangerous 7 — Yes.

27579. An eighth of an inch cap in the beginning of
the return airways or the last worlong face before you get
to the return airwa3rs is not dangerous 7 — No.

27580. A quarter of an inch cap may be dangerous but
an eighth df an inch cap is not dangerous 7 — No.

27581. {Mr, 'Eaidiffe EUis.) With reference to the
irregularity of the attendance of the men, you think that
is a source of danger 7 — Yes, greatiy.

27582. That. I am afraid, is somethinff which Acts of
Parliament cannot alter. You cannot msSse a man attend
regularly to his work by Act of Parliament 7 — There is a
law to that effect now, that the manaffement can prosecute
a person for not attending and wufully neglecting his

27583. Do you think that the institution of general .
prosecutions for this non-attendance would improve the r
attendance, or do you think that it is so ingrained in the |
nature of the men that that would not do any good 7 — I
I was instructed by the Committee of the Association to i
bring the question before you. '

27584. You would rather this Commission formed an
opinion than you offered an opinion 7 — Of course there is a
law to that effect now.

27585. You wish the Commission to consider whether
they make a recommendation that that law should be
enforced. You say it is a source of danger and you leave
it to the Commission to say how that might be mitigated 7
— Yes.

27586. With reference to the qualification of men who
come for employment, I understand you to say that you
are under the obligation yourselves not to employ any
unskilled men. Your rules say no person unskilled in
any particular work is to be employed in that work, but
you have no means of ascertaining whether a man is skilled
or not who applies for the employment 7 — We have no

27587. Your complaint is that you have not sufficient
means of ascertaining the qualification of a man who comes
to apply for work 7 — No, there is not.

27588. Do you suggest that every collier should have a
certificate of competency 7 — Yes, collier, haulier and

27589. The man who gets the coal, the coal getter 7 —

27590. Do you say the collier 7 — Yes.

27591. The haulier and the repairer 7— And the timber-

27592-3. Do you suggest that every class of labour in a
mine should be certified as competent after examination 7
— I should say about the firemen that they ought to go
through an examination with regard to the Special Rules.
You must not make it too hard or else we should lose the
best practical men employed in the colliery.

27594. You agree that if a very stiff examination was
made for firemen you nusht lose the best men that you have
now, who are doing their duties satisfactorily 7 — Yes ;
but it would be a good thing, I think, for them to pass an
examination; that is, as regards the Special Rules, the
Coal Mines Regulation Act and Ambulance.

27595. These very good men whom you do not want
to lose have not certificates now 7 — No, there is not one
out of every 10 of our firemen in South Wales who has a
certificate, but they are thoroughly practical

27596. They are good men 7— Yes.

27597. A certificate would not improve them 7 — No,
but it would improve the ones coming in their places.

27598. These men have got to this state of efficiency
without an examination at aS. Why should not other men
do the same 7 — There are some black sheep amongst the
white ones.

27599. It is to keep the black sheep out that you want
these certificates 7 — Yes, I think no fireman should be
allowed to be a fireman under from 26 to 30 years of age.
Persons ought to have ten years' experience underground
before being appointed fireman.

Mr. J.


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27600. Tou oan be a manager at 23 ? — I take it the
fireman's duty is the most important office of officials

27601. Should he not be appointed before 26 ?— 26
or 30.

27602. What is he to do up to that time ? — ^Work as a
collier, a haulier or a repairer, the same as myself. I
have worked underground since I was between eight and
nine years of age.

27603. You think firemen are best selected from the
colliers. Their business is not like the colliers — ^getting
coal, it is a different kind of work — inspection. Do you
think the training of a collier best qualifies a man to act
as a fireman ? — General knowledge of working under-

27604. Take the coal-getter. Is that training the best
training for a man going to be an examiner or a firman ? —
A coal-getter or a timberman and haulier as well. Of
course general knowledge is the best.

27605. Would a second-class certificate suit you, or
would you have some other examination ? — I believe that
would be too stiff for a fireman to pass.

27606. You want something less stringent than the
second class ? — Yes, much below.

27607. Take the men who get the coal : do you think
they should be required to have certificates of competency
also ? — ^The management ought to know somehow what
had been their experience.

27608. It is desirable that all the men engaged in the
mine should be competent, but the thing is whether it
is practicable that every coal-getter should be required
to pass an examination and obtain a certificate? — I beli 3 ve
they have to pass their examinations in America.

27609. This is England or, rather, Wales. Do you think
it is a practical suggestion that a man should not be
allowed to work as a collier until he has passed an exami-
nation and obtained a certificate of competency ? — I
believe you would not have so many accidents if you have
real practical men as coal-getters.

27610. If you had all practical men and ail careful men,
probably you would have fewer accidents ? — I believe so.

27611. You cannot obtain carefulness by an examination
or a certificate of competency ? — No.

27612. Therefore, it would not help in respect of that.
Do you think there is such a state of things in connection
with mines in Wales that the general run of colliers are so
incompetent to do their work mat it is a source of danger ?
— I believe, as a general rule, the workmen of South Wales
are the best men in the world as underground miners.

27613. They are fully competent to do the work ? —
There are some

27614. There are some, I have no doubt, everywhere
that are not competent in every class. Do you suggest
that there should be a law passed that no man should be
allowed to work as a collier who had not obtained a certi-
ficate of competency by examination ? — No. I believe
that we would lose half of our colliers, because they could
not pass the examination.

27615. You do not think it is a practical suggestion ? —
Not for colliers.

27616. Now take the haulier, the man who works on
the road. There are boys working on the road ? — Yes.

27617. They get to be young lads and then to be men
and they get their experience as they go along ? — ^Yes.

27618. At what stage would you have this examination
passed in the haulier^s career ? — I do not know. I suggest
the certificate should be for colliers, hauliers or timber-

27619. I am speaking of hauliers. When do you suggest
that this examination should be passed. A boy gets into
a young m^ui and works on the roads and so on until he
gets into a more miportant position. When is he to pass
his examination ?— I think there is a law to the effect

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 72 of 177)