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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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that a boy should not drive before he is 18.

27620. At what stage in his career, which is an advancing
one, is he to pass an examination ? — How many years
ought he to have underground, do you mean 7

27621. I want you to tell me when he is to pass an
examination. The men who work on the roads begin as
boys and they go on growing into young men. They are
hauliers in one sense all the time. When is he to be stopped
working unless he passes his examination T — I do not think
examination will suit colliery hauliers very well or either
of them.

27622. I am not advocating this. You say a person
should not be allowed to work as a haulier unless he has
obtained a certificate by examination. He should not
have a horse under his care until he is 18 years of age,,
and until he has had two years' experience underground.

(Mr, SmiUie.) Showing the length of service with the
last employer.

{Mr. Raidiffe EUis) It is not a question of service ; it
is a question of competency.

(TJie Witiiess,) If the workman has been in the same
colliery, or if we knew the person, there would be no
objection because we would kaow what he had been.

27623. The suggestion is that this information should
be conveyed to you by the fact that a man is able to
produce a certificate of competency which he has obtained
by examination. You sav that all persons working in
the pit should be subjected to that, but we have excluded
the collier because it would not be practicable. The
fireman you think, is desirable. Now I am talking about
the haulier. Is it practicable that the haulier should
have a certificate of competency obtained by examination
before he is allowed to work as a haulier ? — ^Yes, to cover
one colliery to another.

27624. He may be a competent man and pass no
examination at all and yet be fully competent to do his
work at one coUiery, but before he obtains emplojnnent
at another he has to pass an examination to obtain a
certificate. Is that the idea^? — ^Yes.

27625. That is the best you can suggest on that subject?

27626. With reference to the powers of officials, what
more power do you suggest that the officials should have ?
— I referrsd to the rule about entering manholes. Tlie
official is powerless as regards telling a person to go into
a manhole. There is nothing in the rules to compel a.
man to go there,

27627. Is that the only point upon which you think
the officials should have more power T — If a person has
wilfully misconducted himself there should be a law behind
the official that he can send him out from the colliery.

27628. Do you want the official authorised by Act of
Parliament to discharge a man who misconducts himself ?
— Yes, or prosecution, as the case may be.

27629. You have that power now ? — I do not believe
you can dismiss a person from a colliery. He can demand
his month's notice.

27630. It depends on the misconduct. If a man was
doing something which would endanger another person's
life you would be entitled to dismiss him. In what
direction do you think the official should have greater
power. You can put into operation the provisions of the
Coal Mines Regulation Act, and if a man breaks a General
or Special Rule you summon him before the magistrate.
Do you know that ? — ^Yes.

27631. What more power do you wish to place in the
hands of the officials T Do you want to compel a man
to do what he is told to do. Is that the power you want T
— ^Yes, that is one rule.

27632-53. It would be a most useful thing if you could
suggest any way by which you could get that except by
prosecuting or punishing the men if they did not do it.
Except witii regard to the use of the manholes, you suggest
no oiker way in which the officials' power should be ex-
tended. Is that so ? — No.

27654-6. {Mr, F. L. Davis,) What you want, I think,
from what you said, is better discipline in the collieries 7 —

27657. Is it your experience that frequently men will
not do what they are told to do when it is for their own
safety or when their own safety is involved ? — It is some-
times the case that they will not do what they are asked
to do.

27658. You have given guq instance of a man not going
into manholes or places of refuge. Have you ever found
men riding on journeys, which is strictly against the Rules ?
— I have not myself, personally, but others have, and they
have been prosecuted. There is a law to that effect.

27659. Take cases of that kind, that is what I wanted
to put to you. Officials in charge, if they see anything
of this kind, would have to tell the men they are not U>
do it ?— Yes.

27660. In spite of that the men do it, and very often
accidents happen 7 — Yes.

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27661. Ton can proseoute for a number of these things ?
— ^YeB, for riding on the shackles.

27662. Do you, as a matter of fact, yourself, in your
colliery, prosecute when you find men disobe3dng orders T
— ^Yes ; I have never, myself, come across one riding,
except when he is authorised to do so. Of course, there
are riders. You must allow them, or else it will be one
hour until they reach their destination.

27663. That was only an instance. I mean anything
that is a breach of the Special Rules in the colliery any-
where of any kind. Do you prosecute in your colliery
when you find a man breaking the Special Sules ? - Yes.

27664. Do you do it often ?— Not very often. I have
not prosecuted one where I am now, at Cwmaman.

27665. What do you do the first time a man breaks
the Special Rules 7 — Report him to the manager.

27666. You warn him ? — Yes, and report him. In
some cases we report to the manager. The men say they
will not do it again. Of course, if you prosecuted every
man who is not carrying out the Goal Mines Regulation
Act and the Special Rules you would have plenty of work :
you would have to prosecute every shift.

27667. I quite agree with you there. It would be
impossible to prosecute every man for every breach, but if
prosecuting were a little more general do you think, or do
you not tlunk, that would have a good effect ? — I do not
believe in the system of proseoutmg, myself. I believe
more in inducing persons to learn, but we want the law
to meet the case of a stupid sort of man. There are very
few of those who are employed amongst us undergrouna.
The man who has common sense will not require anyone
to tell him to get out of the way on the journey, but there
are fools who will run out. Most of the men, even myself,
going in take more time than coming out. They run, and
do not consider where they are going. It is a veiy im-
portant point in case of hauling to get some law.

27668. Mr. Ellis asked you, and you were unable to tell
him, by what process you were going to compel a man to
do what he is told to oo, even for his own safety ? — Prose-
cute workmen, Guad the others will take warning from them.

27669. You can do that at present ? — ^No, there is no
law to that effect, no law to the effect that you can compel
a person to go into a manhole. You cannot compel a
pesson if he will not go into a manhole.

27670. Whatever Act of Parliament you have you can
never compel a man to do what he does not want to do 7 —
You can prosecute him.

27671. If he does not do what he is told, you can prose-
cute him, and you think, probably, if you do that discipline
will be better in the future 7 — Yes.

27672. How many men are there in your district 7 —
In the colliery 7

27673. You are overman of a certain district 7—1 am
overman of the whole colliery by night.

27674. How many men would be working in the colliery
at night 7 — ^200 colliers, hauliers, stowers, and repairers
and assistant repairers.

27676. You are the night overman 7— Yes.

27676. Is there only one day overman, or two 7— Two
day overmen, and one under-manager employed in that

27677. There will be more men employed by day than
night 7 — I should think about three times the number.

27678. You said with regard to the cap on the lamp
that it would be impossible to lay down any rule that would
apply everywhere with regard to the size of the cap 7 —
Yes, it is impossible to lay down a rule, because the colliery
would give out more gas to day and less to-morrow. There
is a rule among experts and mining engineers, but one
says 32 or 33 cubic feet will dilute one cubic foot of marsh
gas ; others say 40 and others say 40 to 50. The under-
ground work is very changeable as regards giving out
marsh gas from the strata, and depends on the number
of men working, the horses and so on.

27679. You say that the nature or the size of the cap
would indicate the danger 7 — Yes.

27680. Being one-eighth or one-sixteenth of an inch
would tell you nothing, but if you had two cape both one-
sixteenth of an inch, the nature and the look of them would
indicate whether one was more dangerous than the oiher 7
— Yes. The greater the cap the greater the danger may
be : that is if it is pure marsh gas, or a light carburetted
hydrogen^ but it is not so dai^;erous when it is diluted
with carbonic add, or sulphuretted hydrogen.

27681. It is impossible to lay down the particular size
of cap that would be dangerous in every cmliery district.
You speak of South Wales. We will say South Wales
alone 7— Yes. __

27682. You think Rule 1 as to an adequate amount of
ventilation meets the point 7 — ^Yes.

27683. As it stands that is what you want 7— As far as
it is reasonably practicable. I do not believe yon can do
anything to remedy the first rule on ventilation.

27684. Introducing the size of a cap would not be any
improvement 7— Noming at all.

27685. How long ago was it that you worked in a quarter
of an inch cap 7 — ^Three or four years ago.

27686. I thought, in answer to Mr. Abraham, you said
many years ago you were working in it 7 — That is the
latest time. I have been working underground since
between eight and nine years of age.

27687. Has the ventilation of collieries generally im-
proved in South Wales in the last 20 years 7— Yes, greatly,
since I was employed first of all underground.

27688. You do not find men working anywhere in South
Wales to-day with a big cap 7 — No.

27689. I will not say a big cap, with a cap as big as they
used to work 20 years ago 7 — No.

27690. {Mr. StniUie.) Are you aware that this Com-
mission's purpose is to devise, if possible, some legislation
for safety in mines 7 — ^Yes.

27691. Gould you give us any assistance to lead us in
that direction 7 Have you any suggestion to make, or
is the legislation of to*day quite satisfactory, providing
that a law was passed sa3ring that a person must go into
a manhole to save his life 7 — Yes.

27692-9. That is the only thing you suggest 7— Yes. •

27700. Are the manholes in the colliery in which you \/
are employed kept white- washed 7 — Yes.

27701. The ptu^se of a manhole is to give refuge to a
person in the event of a runaway tub, or any danger
arising from his travelling on a haulage road 7 — Yes.

27702. How does a mine worker find out that there is
a danger of a fall from the roof ; to the skilled ear are
there mdications before a fall takes place 7 — ^Yes, seeing
crevices, or there may have been timber breaking, or
cracking, or squeezing.

27703. Little bits falling 7— Splinting.

27704. Do you suggest that there should be a clause or
a Special Rule put in to give you power to force a man to
leave a place wnere a fall was going to take place 7 Have
you ever had any trouble in getting a person out from a
stone that was going to fall 7 — ^No.

27705. Have you ever had a case of an accident through
a person refusing to go into a manhole when told to do
so 7 — I do not remember, but persons travel together, and
one will go into the manhole and the other wul continue
his journey, and he is knocked down and killed. You
want something to draw the attention of a person to these
things. He may be thinking about something else.

27706. A law would not effect that 7 — Yes, the law has
something to do with drawing a person's attention and
keeping ms mind on a thing.

{Mr. Wm. Ahraham.) He is going to commit suicide.

27707. {Mr. SmilUe.) You made a statement that the
Welsh miners were the best in the world, and you have
probably a pretty high opinion of them 7 — ^Yes.

27708. We may take it they are not more reckless of
their lives than any other body of miners 7 — Of coarse.

27709. You think accidents arise through carelessness
on their part in not going out of danger into a manhole 7
— ^They are thinking about something else. As I said just
now, he wants a post, and he knows the roof has a bad
stone, but he wants to fill a tram at the same time. The
next time the haulier comes there he wants to get a tram
filled. He knows he wants a post there, but he risks his
life. I am speaking of the thoroughly practical man, not
the careless man, and the stone may come down and kill

27710. You have a law at the present time that he should
put a prop there, but he does not do it 7 — ^No ; because
the man is impractical, but the man has something else
to do than putting the post, and when his mind goes from
the bad stone to filling the tram, the accident happens.

27711. Supposing it was laid down by law that there
must be a sufficient room along every haulage road which

Mr. J.



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MINUTES OF evidence:

Mr. J. is used as a travelling road, U> enable men to stand at the

Williama. side, do you not thiiu: that would save more lives ? — it is

^~j worse where there is plenty of room between the side of

16 July, 1907 ^Q i^am im^j ^^ ^y^^ You get the men to travel where

there is plenty of space, and in that very time the tram

may be coming, or a part of the journey, or the whole

journey, as the case did happen in Abero3mon Collieries,

where six men were lulled and 60 were entangled among

nil trams.

27712T(ifr. Batdtffe EUis,) He means where'^there is

plenty of room there is leas indu^inent to go into the
manholes ? — ^Where there is only a small place the men
will look for the manhole. My point is this, where there
is plenty of room between the trams or tubs and the
side to travel the men will not go to the manholes ; they
will risk and even walk alongside the journey, and when
something unusual happens (either his foot slipping or
a tram off the road — shackle breaking) an accident
often happens, and 3ret the official is powerless. The
Act provides for manholes at stated distances, but
does not say that a person must make use of them.


Wednesday, llth July, 1907.

Pbbsbnt :

Lord MONKSWELL {Chairman).

F. L. Davis, Esq.

Enoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.

Thomas RATOLnrrs Ellis, Esq.

Robert Sbollis, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq. {Seen

Mr. Robert Shirkie, called and examined.

Statement of Witness.

Mr. J 27713. I have been a winding engineman for 18 years.

R. Shirhie. I have been employed in this capacity at various coal
— mines in Scotland and at the Gold Mines in the Transvaal,

17 Jufy, 1907 South Africa. To qualify for the discharge of the latter
I duties, I passed the examination required by the Trans-
I vaal Government. I have occupied various positions
in the United Enginekeepers' Mutual Protective Associa-
tion of Scotland. I acted as a Member of the Executive
Council, as President of the Association, and I am now
Agent and Corresponding Secretary. My Association,
which has nearly 1900 enginemen in its membership,
covers all the coal fields in Scotland. For some time
the Scottish Colliery Enginemen have been agitating for
improved legislation, and I have been authorised to give
evidence on their behalf. I shall mention the principal
of the grievances, which, in their opinion, should be
remedied by legislation.

V (1) Employment of Incompetent Enginemen and Stokers

at CoUieries, — In this connection, an alteration in our
law on the lines of the Engines and Boilers (in and about
l^Iines) Bill is absolutely necessary. The duties which
the engineman is called upon to discharge are many and
importont. His responsibility is very great. In the
majority of cases, for a period of 14 hours, and some-
times longer, he is required to raise and lower men at
the collieries. At one time or another during every
shift the life of every man employed underground

(depends upon the carefulness of the enginemen in charee.
One moment's forgetfulnees might be attended with the
most serious consequences. We therefore insist, and the
miners are entitled to insist, that all men in charge of
engines and boilers should be competent to discharse
their responsibilities. As the matter presently stands,
any person can be employed as a winding engineman.
A mine manager can employ any man from the street
as a colliery engineman. In many cases, persons abeo-

f lutely incompetent are appointed to discharge the duties
of colliery enginemen, and, in certain instances, the
appointment of such persons has been attended with
disastrous and fatal consequences. Men are appointed
without skill and without experience, and the important
nature of the duties to be discharged demands that they

J should have both. Let me give two recent illustrations

as to the harmful consequences of employment of incom-
petent men : — ^In the first case, the manager of a colliery
instructed a stoker to work the haulage engine during
his night shift, besides performing ^ o&er duties.
This man had no knowledge of enginekeeping, and he
allowed the haulage rope to coil out into the winding
shaft with the resiUt that one man was killed and three
others injured. At the fatal accident inquiry, the
stoker stated that he had no knowledge as to working
the haulage engine, neither had any of the officials
enquired of him as to his competency when he was
instructed to work this very important engine. The
jury returned a formal verdict, but added a rider, ex-
pressing the opinion that the Company ought to employ
a competent man on the haulage engine. In the other
case, there was a dispute at die colliery between the
manager and two of the winding enginemen. The
enginekeepers left, and the manager of the colliery
employed two men who had not the necessary skill and
experience as enginemen. During the first shift, one
of the men caused an accident, injuring a number of
workmen, and, following on that an accident was also
caused by the second engineman with the same result.


mines, a certificate of competency is necessary. This
would not be attended with any great difficulty.

In the Transvaal, where I w«w employed for some
time, every mine engineman requires to pass an exam-
ination as to his competency. A small board of exam-
iners, consisting mostly of men having a practical
knowledge of the ordinary working, and of the emergen-
cies which may arise in connection with the working
of the mines, examine the applicant. The applicants
have to satisfy the Board that they are able (first) to
perform the ordinary duties of enginemen, and (second)
to deal with such emergencies as may reasonably be
expected to arise in connection with an engineman* s
employment, including also a knowledge of the legislation
relating to the employment.

(2) Dangerous Practice of having other Engines {such
as Electric, Pumping, Haulage) placed in the same Engine-
house beside the Winding Machinery, — This is a practice
which, I am sorry to say, is becoming very common in

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Scotland, and which, in my opinion, is responsible for
many accidents in connection with the winding
machinery. The duties of an engineman demand that
he should, at all times, have his attention fixed on the
winding machinery under his charge, and be able to
attend instantly to such signals as may be given to him
to raise and lower the cage. In many engine-houses the
noises caused by machinery, other than the winding
machinery, make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible,
for the engineman to hear and attend to the signals
properly. As an engineman usually requires to attend to
all the engines situated in the engine-house, it is not
possible for him to give the undivided attention to the
winding machinery that the proper discharge of his
duties requires. Listant attention to the signals often
avoids accidents to the men and damage to the plant
at the colliery, and this immediate attention cannot be
given if the engineman has a number of duties to dis-
charge at one and the same time. When I explain that,
in many cases, the signalling bells are not situated in the
enginehouse but on the pit-head, it can be understood
how, amidst the thundering of other machinery, a signal
may be given and not immediately attended to, or how
easUy such signals may be misunderstood. There is
one case being presently dealt with, which illustrates
the danger arising in this regard. The bottomer, in this
case, was in the act of arranging the hutch in Uie cage
at the pit bottom when the engineman lifted it up with
the result that the bottomer received fatal injuries.
The pit headman and the engineman declare that the bell
from the bottom signalled for the cage to be raised, but
the man who assisted in the bottom says there was no
signal given, and the bottomer before he died, said that
the beU was not touched. In this winding enginehouse
there is a pumping engine, which also drives the washer
at the pit head, making a great noise, and, in my opinion,
making it impossible for the engineman to recognise
signals duly given. When an accident occurs the
engineman is usually blamed. This is frequently not
justified, as, in many cases, the management place
duties upon the engineman which he cannot by any
possibility properly perform.

(3) Long Hours of Winding Enginemen. — It is the
custom in Scotland for the enginemen to work 10 hours
during the day and 14 hours during the night. The
day-shift miners are consequently lowered to meir work
every morning by the night-shift engineman after he
has been over 13 hours on continuous duty. This is
a fruitful source of accident to men and damage to mine
property. In his most recent report Mr. Robert McLaren
one of His Majesty's Inspectors of Mines for Scotland
says, under the heading (Shaft Accidents) " This class
of accident Seems to ^ on the increase." Under the
same heading, and in the same report he says, the
accidents " were not caused by ascending cages being
overwound, but by descending cages striking the bottom
too hard." It is a fact consistent with my own ex-
perience as a representative of enginemen, that a great
and increasing proportion of the accidents is caused in
letting down the men to their work in the morning.
This is explained by the fact that the men are let down
by the enginemen who are already tired and worn out
and cannot efficiently discharge the duties. I have
myself, when between 13 and 14 hours on duty, let down
hundreds of men, with the most speedy machinery, and
I know what a tax it is upon the enginemen and how
under given c'rcumstances, accidents may readily occur.
Many accidents do occur, but no one except the winding
engineman is aware how many accidents are prevented
by a true appreciation of danger and the ability to act
speedily on an emergency. This cannot be expected,
and, as a matter of fact, is impossible, in the case of a man
who has wrought 13 hours or more. I am strongly of
opinion that all enginemen should be on an eight-hours'
working day. This, I am satisfied, would prevent many
of the accidents which from time to time do occur, and
it would consequently give to the miners, and to the
masters, a security of life and plant which they do not
at the present have.

I have mentioned 14 hours as a customary night
shift with Scotch enginemen, but it is a fact that engine-
men and stokers in Scotland work frequently for a much
longer period. As far as the law is concerned, there is
no limit, and the mine managers cannot be trusted to
place a limit where the law places none. When men
discharge duties attended with such responsibility as
those of colliery enginemen it should not be in the
power of the master to employ men, or of the men to
work, beyond such a period as may be reasonably
expected to be efficient for the discharge of the duties.


Many cases have occurred in my experience emphasising ^ qjl • f
the danger which results from this cause. On 13th of "• ^'***'**^.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 73 of 177)