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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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you think they ought to have referred to T — I do not know
the juries think they have to refer to everything, whether
they may believe it or not ; they have to give, in their
opinion, the direct cause of the accident

27774. They did not go far enough back, in your opinion,
in investigating the cause ? — Yes.

27775. I cannot imagine myself how the Act of Parlia-
ment could be amended in order to meet your views more
than it does at present. You brought out this evidence,
but the jury did not attribute that importance to it you
think they ought ? — The Act is satisfactory as regards
enquiries into fatal accidents.

27776. But the way in which it is carried out is not
satisfactory in all cases ? — So far as my experience goes.
I have not had much yet ; it is quite a new Act.

27777. Then you quote Mr. Mclaren, one of the mines
inspectors for Scotland, who says in his latest report with
regard to shaft accidents : " This class of accident seems
to be on the increase ; " and then later on he says " that
the accidents were not caused by ascending cages being
overwound, but by descending cages striking the bottom
too hard." I have his report here, and on page 16 he puts
it even more strongly than you do ? — 1 have not his
report. I depend upon the newspaper for what I refer to.

27778. The paragraph you apparently allude to is this :
" Under the division of overwinding, five accidents are
recorded, causing injury to 15 persons ; these accidents
were not caused by the injured persons being overwound
by ascending cages, but by being underwound by the
descending cages, and striking the bottom too hard. This
class of accident seems to be on the increase, and where
there is speedy winding, some automatic arrangement
to prevent the descending cage striking the shaft bottom
with too much force is a necessity." He is strongly in
favour of its being compulsory to have an arrangement
whereby it should be impossible for a descending cage to
strike the ground so hard as to cause injury to the men 7
— ^That is so. It seems rather a difficult thing. I believe
this is greatly contributed to by the long hours the men
have to work.

27779. Then you mention an accident that happened
from a boiler explosion where a stoker had been on duty
36 hours. The manager said the stoker had volunteered
to do the extra work himself. The stokers are not in your
Association at all 7 — ^No. I thought I was required to
give evidence as regards accidents, and the stoker is con-
nected with the machinery. This is the West of Fife Coal
(Company. This stoker — whether he volunteered or not is
an open question — is dead now, and my case is that he
ought not to have been allowed to work 36 hours on such
duty.

& 27780. You give particulars of cases where the engine-
man has been more than the ordinary 14 hours on duty.



In one case a man had been on duty 2o iiours ; in another
instance occurring in the district where you were employed
the winding engineman had been three shifts on duty when
he overwound the cage, and seven men were killed and one
injured ? — That is not a recent accident ; that is some time
ago. That happened in Blantyre. The manager after-
wards told me (he is a very particular man) that he would
not allow his engine-keepers to work three shifts after
that.

27781. There are means of preventing overwinding — I
mean mechanical devices by which it can be made im-
possible 7 — Yes ; but these are conspicuous by their
absence in most of the collieries in Scotland.

27782. You think it ought to be made compulsory to \\^j^
have machinery to prevent overwinding 7 — Yes. ' '

27783. Then in paragraph 4 you say that enginemen
have multifarious duties to attend to. You give various
instances of that You have told us aheady that
you think enginemen should only have the one duty
to attend to, namely, the duty of attending to the winding
engine. You think, for instance, that he should not have
any stoking duties 7 — He must go out of the engine-house
to do stokmg duties. I may mention a case in Ayrshire,
where the engine-keeper was attending to the boilers and
the water seems to have broken down below underground;
and two men came to the bottom and signalled to get up.
There was no answer, because the engine-keeper was
attending to the fires, and, as is usually the custom, the
engine-keeper finished the duty before he went to the
engine, and when he went there was no signal, and it
happened that these two men there lost their Uves through
no one being there to attend to it.

27784. Then you summarise what you want under four
heads : First of all vou require certificates of competency
for enginemen and firemen. You would have a different
examination for firemen and enginemen f— Certainly.

27785. Then, secondly, you reconmiend that only the
winding engine should be allowed in the engine-house in
which it is working. That you have explained. Then
you recommend that the hours of winding enginemen
should be regulated by Act of Parliament. You so

-rather further than that, and say that they should not be
allowed to work more than 9 or 10 hours in the 24 7 — I
would say so.

27780. Then you recommend that the Coal Mines
Regulation Act should be amended so as only to idlow the
winding engineman to attend to the winding engine during
the time that men are employed in the mine. I think you
have sufficiently explained that. Those recommendations,
I suppose, are recommendations approved of by your
Association 7 — That is so. There are two other matters
I want to refer to. One is the sanitary arrangements in
engine-houses, and the other explosives being kept in
engine-houses. Explosives being kept in engine-houses
is a recent matter. It has been a great grievance of our
members with regard to explosives being there, besides
the men coming in and out to get them. The mines
inspector said he did not believe it was the proper place to
keep them.*

27787. What inspector told you that 7— Mr. Robert
McLaren.

27788. He said that he had no power to prevent explo-
sives being kept there 7 — To prevent them being there ;
he said he did not believe it was the proper place for them.

27789. That is contrary to the law. It seems that the
Act of Parliament is not attended to as regards the
explosives 7 — You would think that the mines inspector
should be able to give a proper interpretation, i have
the letter that he sent on this matter, although I have not
it with me, with regard to detonators and those things.
It is a common thing. At one enquiry I attended it was
brought out that explosives were kept in the engine-house
and under the house also. One engine-keeper was dis-
missed because he complained of it.

27790. Complained of these explosives being stored 7—
Under the engine-house.

27791. What sort of explosives were stored 7 — Just the
usual explosives for the underground workings.

27792. As to a small quantity of explosives being stored
it might not be a breach of the Explosives Act 7—1 under-
stand what is kept in the engine-houses are small quantities

(Mr, SmiUie.) They are brought from the magazine and
placed in the engine-house and distributed from there to
the men going dovm..



* Mr. Shirkie subsequeatly informed the Secretary that ho had communicated with all the Blanches of his Association,
and had ascertained that though the practice referred to was prevalent a short time ago, there are now very few places where
it has not been discontinued.



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^7793. (Chairman.) Are they brought in such quan-
titiee as ^ould be a breaoh of the Coal Mines Regulation
Act?

(Jfr. SmilUe.) I think not, but it is improper.
( WUneaa.) That is what Mr. McLaren said.

27794. What do you object to in the sanitary arrange-
ments ? — ^In Scotland there is no such thing as sanitary
arrangements connected with engine-houses. It is some-

f thing very distressing to see the state that first-class
I engine-houses are in as regards this. Offices and other
I places have lavatories and conveniences, but the engine-
houses are entirely destitute of them. Even about the
colliery you do not find such a thing. I just wanted to
bring it before your notice ; not only is it for the con-
venience of the engine keeper, but it is necessary to allow
him to be in a proper state to do his duties.

27795. What is the case in England ?

{Mr, Enoch Edwards.) It is very imperfect everywhere.
They never give a thought to it.

27790. {Chairman,) Do you suggest some sanitary
arrangements should be made compulsorv within a certain
distance of an engine-house 7 — I would suggest at least
a recommendation that it requires to be brought to the
coalowners' notice. I do not think they would say much
against it.

27797. You think it ought to bo brought to their notice 7

-Yes.

27798. Why do you not mention those matters to the
Inspector t — When it comes to that it means to say that
it would be required to be enforced, and the inspector
can only recommend.

27799. You do not think that the managers would be
averse to having this accommodation provided if they
knew that it was desired. Could you not go to them and
say that you desired it, or if you preferred you might go to
the inspector and ask the inspector to suggest to the
manager that it would be a good thing ?— I said I did
not think they would object. There is very little cost
in it.

27S0(X Why do you not ask them 7— We have asked :
I have mentioned it many a time.

27801. What do the managers say 7— That it was not
at any of the others.

27802. Therefore they would not be the first to begin.
Have you made representations to the inspector and asked
him to make repreeentatiuns to the managers 7 They
could probably get them all to do it 7 — I would not like
to say.

27803. At any rate, you think that is ^ matter which
requires attention 7 — Yes.

27804. {Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis,) What is the experience re-
quired in the examination for enginemen in the Transvaal 7
— Of course, it was a new country to a certain extent, and
when I went out to the I^ansvaal I had to have letters, that
is certificates, from my employers in Scotland. They granted
me a permit on the ground of these certificates until my
examination would come off. They sent me a list of the
engines and the boilers that I was required to show my
experience of, that is the experience of the engine to know
the working of the steam.

27S05. They give you written papers to answer 7 —No,
it is all verbal.

27806. They do not give you a certificate becsuse you
go before the Board and answer questions nnleas they are
satisfied that you have had practical experience in working
the engines 2-— Yes, in the Transvaal.

27807. Have you the regulations of the Transvaal here 7
—No.

27808. What length of time do they require you to have
experience at an engine 7 — I think at that time it was
two years. I do not know that it was necessary to be
two years' winding ; it was two years' experience of that
kind of work.

27809. What sort of experience 7 — Such as mine
managers. They have to have a certain time in touch
wiUi this work before they are eligible to be examined.

27810. W^ill you consider the winding men 7 Do they
require you to have had two years actually at a winding
engine 7 — ^I do not remember. I think it was two years'
winding you were required to have.

27811. Do you think it would be desirable to give a
certificate to a man merely because he understood the
construction of the engine, without his having had some



experience as a winder 7 — No, I would not think so. He
ought, at bast, to have had the same kind of experience
as the mine managers have.

27812. That is a different experience. One has to
manage the mine, and the other has to wind 7 — It would
require to be on different lines.

27813. There should be a period of apprenticeship, or
some period spent at the engme to qualify for the work 7
— In touch with the work.

27814. You have 95 per cent, of the winding enginemen
in your Association in Scotland. How many of those men
do you think would pass the examination you referred to
in the Transvaal 7 — ^I do not know. In the Transvaal,
when it came into force, they got a service certificate.

27815. How many do you think could now pass that
examination 7 — I do not know. For the want of that
we have a great many men winding that have not got
the necessary experience in other ways with their engines.

27816. You do not know how many 7 Do you think
any of them could pass it 7 — Yes.

27817. What percentage of the men could pass that
examination 7 — ^The examination I passed in the Transvaal
I believe about 60 or 70 per cent could pass.

27818. At least half 7—1 think so.

27819. Are the other half incompetent enginemen 7 —
I do not believe that they have the Imowledge of the
machinery that they ought to have when they fill such
positions.

27820. The half who could not pass that examination
do you look upon as incompetent enginemen 7 — Not as
far as turning the handles and one thing and another
are concerned, but I do not look on the engine keepers
as having the knowledge they should have of the machinery.

27821. Do you look on those men as incompetent, and
consider that it is unsafe for them to do the work they
are doing now 7 — ^In cases of emergency I believe that
knowledge is necessary as well as the experience.

27822. Can you say in your view that 60 per cent, of
the men could not pass that examination 7 — I did not
say 50 per cent. ; I said about 60 or 70 per cent, could pass.

27823. Do you think that those who could not pass are
not competent to discharge their duties safely 7 — I do not
believe the^ are as competent as they ought to be.

27824. In the Inspector's Report for last year there
are no fatal accidents from over- winding : there were
five accidents causing injury. Do you think that a bad
record in a year with more than 1,900 enginemen, because
there is another five per cent, who are not in your Associa-
tion 7 — I did not say there were 1,900 winding enginemen.
I do not know tJtiat. Over half are winding enginemen.

27825. I wfll take 900, and five per cent, on the top of
that. Do you think, looking at tne fact that last year
there were no fatal accidents, and only five non-fatal
accidents, that justifies you in suggesting these men are
not competent to discharge their duties ? — It is not as
r^ards the proportion of fatal accidents we ask this. We
believe the fatal accidents are not a true criterion to go
upon.

27826. I am taking the fatal and non-fatal accidents
in last year. Is not that a very good record 7 — You might
apply the same to all others, such as mine managers, or
dentists. You might say there is no need for certificates.

27827. I should like you to keep to the engine-winders 7
— We must consider precedents.

27828. The question is as to the competency of the
present winders. Do you think the fact that out of millions
of windings in that year up and down the shaft there are
no fatal accidents and only five non-fatal accidents is a
record which justifies you in coming to the conclusion
that the men who do th^ work are not competent 7 — I said
not as competent as they ought to be. I said that these
men while m that very responsible position cannot have
too good a knowledge in oases of emergency — that is, if
cases of emergency arise. The engine-keepers are not there
to cause accidents, but to prevent them. I believe this is
a thing the miners and officials know very little about —
the very narrow shaves that take place.

27829. That shows that they must be equal to the
emergency 7 — It does not show it entirely.

27830. I think it shows it conclusively. You say there
are a great number of close shaves which they manage to
escape. That shows they are equal to the emergencies 7
— The law ought to be that no men but those who are
competent should fill these positions.



Mr,
B, Shirkie.

17Jul^l907.



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Mr, 27831. I am suggesting that the fact of haying escaped

B Shirhie, these narrow shaves, which you say so frequently happen,

7~"iQA»7 "^^ ^® ^*®* **^** ^^ ^***^ accidents occurred and only

17 July, 1 907. fiye non-fatal accidents, show that the men ^o are

discharging this work are competent men ? — It shows

practically that that is so, but I say that even this proportion

of accidents justifies the request.

27832. I want to go a little further. You supj^rt, I

f resume, the Bill that is presented from time to tune to
Parliament for the certificating of engine- winders 7 — Yes.

27833. It is one of vour principles that no nerson who
has not a certificate should be allowed to wind at all 7 —
That is so.

27834. Have you the Rules of your Association with
you ?— Yes.

27835. Will you refer to the part with reference to the
teaching of winders ? What is your regulation as to that 7
— They get as a haulage member into the Association,
then they pay £2 for instructions to wind, after they get
the consent of the manager or owner of the colliery.

27836. Is there a regulation of your Association that
the winding engine-man is to decide whom he teaches 7 — No.

27837. Is it a violation of the Rules of your Association
if he teaches a person who is not a member of your Associa-
tion 7 — Yes.

27838. In your Association the winding engineman is
not allowed to teach a man who is not a member of your
Association 7 — That is so, that is an apprentice. In our
Association a winding engine-keeper is quite at liberty to
show another winding engine-keeper anything regarding
the machinery.

27839. Will you read the stipulation which prohibits
a man teaching a person who is not a member of your
Association 7 — ^That is so ; I do not need to refer to it.

27840. Will you read it, to get it on the Notes 7— This
is 3, .Admission of Members : " Any person desirous of
becoming a member of this Association must be proposed
and seconded by two members who must be satisfied of
the applicant's qualifications to become a member before
propoein']; him. Applicants will be qualified to be admitted
as winding enginemen who have been performing
duties for a period of three months. Applicants will b^
eligible to be admitted as haulage members of this Associa-
tion who have been employed on pumping, haulage, loco-
motive, fan, electrical, or other machinery, for a period of
three months. Applicant must produce a medical
certificate of good health before he can be enrolled in the
books for fuU benefits. Every member on entering this
Association shall declare his adhesion to the principles and
objects of the Rules, and shall support and advance the
interests of this Association, and the objects thereof, so
long as he continues a member.*'

27841. Win you go to the part about the limitation as
to the persons who may be taught 7 — I do not know that
there is any limitation put down as to the persons who
may be taught. £5 they pay for the instructions.

27842. You told me just now that the winding engineman
was the man, according to your Association, to decide
whom he should teach 7 — The Association decides whom
they teach.

27843. Supposing the manager of the mine took a person
into the engine-house and said '* I want this person taught,"
is he entitled to say " I will not teach him " 7— We have
had very little difficulty in that way.

27844. According to your Rules can he do so 7 — It all
depends. If he wants to take him in in the proper way,
according to the Rules of the Association.

27845. Can a manager say " This man must be taught " 7
—No.

27846. Why not 7 — Simply because it is a violation of
^the Goal Mines Act.

27847. It is not. Is it a part of your constitution that
you would prevent a person being taught who was brought
by the management, unless you approved of it 7 — Yes.

27848. Why is that 7— Because it is the Rules of our
Association.

27849. Supposing this certification came into operation,
a man could not get his certificate imless he had
been taught 7 — No. A man before he can get his
certificate would have to be taught at the engme, and
he could not be taught except your Association permitted
him to be taught. Therefore your Association would
control the persons who would be entitled to wind men up
and down the pit. That would be the result 7 — I cannot
iay that follows. You might as well say a manager could



not get a certificate except some of tb^ j^t of tbem'taught
him.

27851. Will you deal with the engmemen first 7 Would
not that be the result 7 If your views were carried out
your Association would decide as to the person who should
wind people up and down the pit 7 — No, I do not think
so ; not entirely ; it would to a certain extent.

27852. To what extent would it not 7 If you can
prohibit a man being taught you can prohibit a man getting
a certificate 7 — No. This man needs to have experience
in connection with the work. He needs to be working
about it and understand what an engine is, and boilers»
and so on. It is not necessary that he must have been
winding. With the experience he has in the time he has
been there he can pass the examination.

27853. Do you think it would be safe to have a man cet
a certificate and qualify who had no experience at engine
winding 7 — If that was a hard and fast rule, where would
it end 7

27854. I am asking you. I do not know where it will
end. Do you think it would be a safe thing to give a man
a certificate and authorise him to go to the Tninsvaal to
get a place as a winding engineman if he had not actually
wound 7 — I say it would. I say he has practical knowledge^
he has experience, and he has a certificate which wo^d
enable him to call himselLa fair engine-keeper. He only
requires practical experience of winding.

27855. When is he to get that 7— When he haa had the
other experience.

27856. After he has the certificate 7— No, before he gets
the certificate.

27857. You are going to prohibit people being taught
winding 7 — No.

27858. You say a man cannot be taught in the engine-
house unless your Association approves of it 7 — The men
must approve of everything that happens in tiiat direction.
Someone must approve of them.

27859. I say the manager is the man to say who is to
be taught 7 — My experience is that it is not so.

27860. It is not if you can prevent it 7— If certificates
had to be got it would be an easy matter in having arrange-
ments made whereby men could be taught, and the
Association have not all the say.

27861. If your Association are to prohibit people
being taught it would be an easy matter for you, because
you could limit the persons who are winding engines to
the persons who had got certificates 7 — The Association
is not all-powerful in that. Managers could teach any
man they wish to teach. It is only a question of " Do not
ask me to do it."

27862. Why should he not ask you to do it 7— Surely I
am to have a say in it.

27863. You are to be paid 7— Am I to do anything,
whether I believe it is right or wrong, simply because
I am paid 7

27864. Your view is that you should say who is to be
taught 7 — I did not say so. To give a case, in Bathgate
two members were approached by the manager : " Would
they teach this man 7 " He was a friend of the manager,
and wanted to learn. They said " We are willing to teach
him, but he will have to come in the proper way that all
the other apprentices come."

27865. What is that way 7— He would have to come to
the Association. I am only giving this case as matters
stand. The manager said they woim have to do it. I was
asked to look into the matter, and I told the manager they
would not do it except he came in the proper way. This
was only a matter of winding to trample on the rights of
the men.

27866. It comes to this: you claim your Association
Shan say who shall be taught 7 — ^That is not so. The
manager said : " Have you to tell us who is to work the
winding engine 7 " and I said " No." He said '* Can I
take that man and get him taught 7 " I said *' Certainly
you can, if you wish to ; you can teach the man atany time,^*
but if any man is on duty you cannot teach him.

27867. You do not teach when you are winding 7 — No.
I said "When the engines are worlong we cannot interfere,
but you can teach him,"

27868. The manager could teach him 7 — Yes, or get
anyone to.

27869. What do you do with a person who is a member



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 75 of 177)