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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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hotiTB, 9ome i^rk 12 houilB : and we hAve collieries where
they are now working, the trade being brisk, one full
shift and another following on relieving them ; and, as
Mr. Smillie says, the engine-winder would have to contend
with those people just the same unless an eight-hours,
shift was being worked.

28S30. (Mr. SiniiUe,) Supposing Mr. Ellis's suggestion
were adopted, the day-shift winder would lower it might
be 200, 260, 300 or even 700 men into the mine ?— Yes.

28331. Is there not at the present time in modem col-
lieries a considerable stress on the day-shift winder ? —
More so than erer.

28332. He scarcely gets a chance to lift his eye from his
signals from morning till night f — Yes, he is taxed more
than ever.

28333. The stress is greater on him now than it ever
has been before ? — ^With modern and up-to-date machinery
there is a greater tax on the winder Uian theie ever was.

28334. Supposing that a winder lowered the men in the
morning by coming on a bit earlier in his shift, and then
had eight hours or eight-and-a-half hours' continuous
winding, is he in a fit state, after the strain of winding,
to raise those men at the end of the shift V — He is not —
and that is our contention for the eight -houis' day.

28335. He would not even bo in as fit a state to raise
the men that night as the day shift man would be to raise
the men in the morning ? — He would not ; he would be

28336. (Mr, Wm. Abraham.) But would it not be im-
possible to eurango it in that way unless the shifts are
12-hour shifts ?— Yes.

28337. There would be some portion of time that the
man would not be there at all — unless he is to be there
from 12 to 14 hours ? — Yes.

28338. (Chairman.) My suggestion was that, m order
tlkat the man should do the greater part of his winding
at the beginnmg ol every shift, it might be advisable, so
far as possible, to make the winding shifts coincident
with the working shifts, that is to say, that when an
engine-winder has come early in the morning and wound
the men down, then ho should work on until the time
arrived for the men to come up again ? — ^Yes.

(Mr. Smiltie.) That would be about eight hours.

28339. (Chairman.) Yes, or it might be eight-and-a-
half or nine hours ? — Yes, it might be.

28340. If it was considered to be dangerous to employ
a man in winding for more than nine or ten hours, or a
specified number of hours, then that state of things
could not exist — ^you could not always make sure that a
man did the most of his winding at tho beginning of his
shift as you would like to do ? — ^That is so.

28341. (Mr. SmUUe.) We know that Mr. Ellis would be
^ with us in regard to regulating the hours of engine-winders

if it could be proved to his satisfaction that there is really
a danger to human life underground by reason of the
engine-xvinders working too long hours ? — Yes.

28342. And I take it that his difficulty is to arrange
it so as to provide the safest course ? — ^We have collieries
where they bring the winder on at 6 o'clock in the morning,
and he winds until 12 noon ; then another man goes on
at 12 noon, and winds till 2 o'clock : but the one that
went on at 6 simply looks round the machinery and oils
it up and so on, and then takes charge again from 2 o'clock
till 3 o'clock, and then he goes home having been there
nine hours and having been winding for teven hours.
Colliery owners recognise the responsibility of the duties of
these people to that extent. The man who then goes on at
12 remains imtil 9 o'clock in the evening, finishes the draw-
ing of coal, draws aU the men oiit and remains till 9
o'clock. Another man comes on at 9 and remains till
6 o'clock the next morning. There are three winders
at that particular colliery. But then there is the other
illustration I gave of two shifts of ten hours and one of
14 hours — the night man who is on 14 hours with all this
number of men to get down.

28343. Are there many eight-hours' shifts ? — A good
many in Nottingham.

28344. The colliery owners have themselves recognised
the desirability of it ? — They have.

28345. Do you know of certain collieries in Scotland
where the same thing is recognised, and where the' engine-
winder has to wind for an eight-hours' shift and a certain
amount of output ? — That is so, I believe. We have an
application before our coal ownora at the present time for
the same purpose — an eight-hours' shift

Mr. S. W.


28346. What is the greatest number of men riding in
one cage in Nottinghamshire ? — ^20.

28347. Therefore, in certain oollierieB in Nottingham- 6 Nov., 1907
shire, there may be 20 men ascending and 20 descending 7 —

— ^That is so.

28348. So that there might be 40 men in the ahaft ?—

28349. You are aware of some ooUieries where tibere
might be 40 men in the shaft at the same time ? — ^Yes.

28350. Would the lives of those 40 men in a colliery
in Nottinghamshire depend upon the nerve, ability and
skill of the engine-winder ? — That is so.

28351. Their lives depend even on more thAtk that —
they depend upon whether he is absolutely healthy and
strong ? — ^Yes.

28352. He might, by reason of sodden illness, heart
failure, or anything of that kind, accidentally fail, and
the probabilities are that under those circumstanoeB the
lives of those 40 men would be saerifioed ? — ^Yes.

28353. In answer to his Lordship, you said you were not
in favour of two men being in the engine-housfe? — ^That is so.

28354. Have you known of any case in which through
heart failure or sudden illness an engine- winder has fallen
down in his eE^pne^house and an accident has taken place ?
— ^I have heard of a case in Lsmoashire, but we have not
experienced one in our counties.

28355. Do you know that the Mines Inspector^ have in
some of their Beports called attention to Sfich eases ?
One Inspector has called attention to two oases at least
where that has taken place ? — Yes, I believe that is so.

28356. Where there is a considerable number of men
being raised and lowered at the same time, do you not
think it is a very serious risk to put upon the health of one
man the lives of 40, 50 or 60 men who may be going up and
down a shaft ? In a case of that kind, where men are being
wound up and down, would it not be well to have another
engine-winder for the time being there ? — It would in a
case of that kind.

28357. For instance, the Commissioners visited a colliery
in Germany at which 140 men were in the shaft at the same
time, and the lives of those men depended not only upon
the engine -winder being skilful and steady, but also upon
his health for the time being ? — Yes.

28358. There were two engine-winders in that room ?
'^Mr. Batdiffe ElUs.) Not engine-winders, but learners.

28359. (Mr. SmiUie.) There were two persons, either
of whom could have stopped the engine, I think. I do not |
think any person on the score of expense would object to
a second winder being present for an hour each day ? — |
It would be a very good thing indeed.

28360. Your objection to Rule 24 is that the intention
of the rule is not carried out ? — It is not.

28361. Do you consider that the intention of Rule 24
was that the engine- winder should at all times be in the
engine-house beside his engine while men were under-
ground ? — Yes, whilst there were men down the mine, I do.

28362. And the point really is that the intention of
that rule was not carried out, if that was the int<ention of
tho rule ? — If that was the intention, it is not carried out.

28363. Because night-shift winders, as you say, have to
look after their boilers ? — ^Yes.

28364. And very often they have to look after a fan
engine, or sometimes a pumping engine, and they have
many other duties on the surface ?— Yes, being in charge of
boilers, and so on.

28365. You think that interferes with their being able
to look after the safety of the men underground ?— It
does indeed.

28366. Is it not the case that engine- winders, as an
association, and I believe individually, object to more
than one engine being in the same engine-house ? — ^Yes.

28367. They are desirous that only one winding engine
should be in an engine-house ? — ^That is so.

28368. There are cases where there are more than one
winding engine in the winding engine-house, and there
is a considerable noise caused? — \g&^

28369. It may be that there is a pumping engine or a
h fljilin g engine side by side with the winding engine ? — ^Yes.

28370. And sometimes even the signal bells of the
haulipg engine are in the engine-house where the winding
engineman has to attend to his own engine ? — ^Yes.


Digitized by




Mr, S. W.

6 No^l907.

28371. That very often leads to misunderstanding, I
think, or at least it may lead to the engine-winder mis-
understanding the signals ? — ^It has heen so. The winders
have started away with the impression that the signal
has been given when it has not been given.

28372. Consequently you think it would be in the
interests of safety if it were laid down by law that only
one engine should be in the winding engine-house, and
that an engine- winder should attend to it only for the time
being ? — Yes.

28373. (Chairman,) I should like to ask you with regard
to this question of who should decide as to whether persons
should be taught engine-winding or not ; do you think
that it ought to be entirely in the hands of your Union
to decide as to who should be taught engine-winding 7
—Well, yes.

28374. That it should be absolutely in the hands of
the Union that they should have x>ower, without giving
any reason, to say that they did not consider that any
particular person was eligible ? — We take it in this way :
we do not like to dictate to the management in this
respect, but we do take into consideration competent men,
and by promotion bring them from other engines ; we
first teach them to generate steam and then how to use
it, and those of our members whom we know, we say are
the men to be the future winders, and that it should not
be left exactly in the hands of the managers to say who
shall or who shall not be the winders.

28375. You say you insist upon certain preliminary
training — ^that a man should not get a certificate until
he has gone through certain processes and fully under-
stands them. But supposing a man wants to begin at
the beginning and says that he wants to learn a particular
process, say the first process that is learnt in the
course of his studies, why should you object to any man
being taught ?— He cannot get the knowledge except
by experience.

28376. That is so, but supposing a man wishes to get
that knowledge by experience, or supposing a person of
the usual and proper age to begin instructions in engine-
winding says * ' I should like to be taught engine- winding,"
on what grounds would you refuse the application ?
Would you refuse the application simply because there
were enough certificated engine-winders and you did not
want any more ? Would that be sufficient ground in
your opinion ? — ^No.

28377. Perhaps you would insist upon a man being a
member of your Union ; or promising to become a member
of your Union ; would that be a condition? — ^Yes, we should.

28378. Supposing a man did say " I am quite willing
to become a member of your Union and to subscribe to
your Rules, and I want to learn engine- winding " : would
you say to him '*We have got enough engine- winders
and we do not want any more " ?— No.

28379. You would not desire to restrict the numbers 7

28380. You would simply inquire whether he was a
man of reasonably good character and fair ability ? — ^Yes.

28381 . And if you found that he was a man of reasonably
good character and fair ability you would not refuse him
simply on the ground that this particular business of
engine-winding was likely to be overdone ? — ^No ; if he
had those necessary quaUfioations we would take him.

28382. Have you ever refused to allow a man to be
taught if he said he would belong to your Union t — No.

28383. {Mr, SmiUie,) The position put forward by
Mr. Ellis was, would you object to the msuiager at hip own
colliery going into his own engine-house and saying '* We
want you to teach this man." Your position is that you
ought not, as an engine- winder, to be forced to teach any
person whom the manager sent ? — ^No.

28384. But if it were laid down by law that engine-
winders must hold certificates of competency, it is just
possible that there might be schools for teaching engine-
winders just as there are schools now for managers ? —
That is so.

28385. You would have no objection to men trained
in those schools becoming certificated ? — ^No.

28386. Consequently there might be no limit to the
number of certificates granted 7 — No.

28387. And it would not be fair to say that you would
object to trained persons merely in order to prevent a
certain number getting certificates 7 — ^That is so.

28388. It is only that you feel you ousht to be entitled
to have some say as to whom you should give instruction
to 7 — That is so.

28389. {Mr. Wm, Abraham,) You feel that the traming
you give now is essential and necessary in order to make
those persons qualified winders 7 — ^I do.

28390. {Chairman,) But supposing the managers, for
instance, were to set up a training school for winding-
enginemen, and they were to teach boys how to wind and
to get them to a certain degree of proficiency in the schools,
would you insist that after they had passed a proper
examination in those schools they should belong to your
Union before they could go in for their certificates 7 —
I do not say that.

28391. (Mr, Ratcliffe EUis,) There is a Bill which you
are promoting again, or intend to promote again, during
the coming Session, to provide for certificates 7 — Yes, I
believe so.

28392. And that is also to be confined to winding engines
at collieries, as the last Bill was 7 — I believe so.

28393. The Select Committee reported that colliery
engines were the engines as to which certificates were
least needed. That is so, is it not 7 — ^I do not think so.

28394. I see the Report says : " The Committee are
of opinion that the provisions of the Mines Regulation
Act, 1887, the General Rules incorporated with that Act,
and the Special Rules which are fully detailed in the evi-
dence of Mr. Ellis (Questions 2210-2220) are admirably
adapted to secure the selection of competent i>ersons for
taking charge of engines and boilers and for fixing the
responsibility in the case of mines." Your Bill at that time
applied to all engines and boilers 7 — Yes.

28395. The Committee said that the present regulations
are admirably adapted, with reference to mines, for the
selection of competent persons : and still you are proposing
a Bill to legislate for that very industry which the Commit-
tee decided was at present sufficiently equipped with
General and Special Rules to secure competency 7 — We
do not agree with that.

28390. No, I understand you do not agree with thut
but that is a fact 7 — That is a fact.


Mr. WmjAM Hopkins, called and examined.

W. Hopkins,

28397. (Chairman,) You appear here on behalf of the
South Wales Enginemen's Association 7 — Monmouth-
shire and South Wales.

28398. The South Wales Colliery Enginemen of all
grades. Stokers and Surface Craftsmen's Association,
which has a membership of about 8,000 7 — Yes.

28399. How many are employed on sinilar work that
are not in your imion 7 — ^I could not say exactly as to the
number in the coalfield altogether. Mr. Jones, the gentle-
man who is coming after me, represents a large number
of winding enginemen who may be able to do that : the
majority as regards winding enginemen are his^ but I have
a large number.

28400. The majority of winding enginemen belong to
your union 7 — ^The majority to Mr. Jones', as far as
the winding enginemen are oonoemed.

28401. You mean you and Mr. Jones together 7 — Yes,
but I have a large number in my organisation.

28402. I want to find out what proportion of men are
in your imion and what proportion are outside it. Can
you tell me at all 7 — Taking the whole of the enginemen
and stokers, in the mechanical department, I think we have
got at least 80 per cent. I will put it in that way.

28403. Eighty per cent, belong to your union 7—1
should put it at that.

28404. The gi-eat majority, at all events. You have
heard what Mr. Rowarth has said ; do you wish to make
any comments on his evidence 7 — I should like to touch
upon all the questions with the exception of an adequate
brake. I agree with what he has said upon that point.

28405. The steam and foot brake 7— Yes.

Digitized by






28406. With regard to safety detaching hooks or
automatic apparatus for the prevention of over- winding,
you agreo pretty well with what Mr. Rowarth said, that is
to say, that some sort of apparatus ought to be used,
not necessarily a safety detaching hook. Possibly the
question might be dealt with by automatic shutting off
of steam, or in some other way ? — Quite so.

28407. At all events something must be done to prevent
over- winding ? — Yes.

28408. You have over-winding accidents in South Wales ?
— We have been very free from over-winding accidents in
South Wales.

28409. You say that a speaking tube should be erected
at all colUeries for the pui-pose of communication between
banksmen and enginemen. Do you agree with what
Mr. Rowarth said, that it need not necessarily be a
speaking tube, but some other means of communication —
the telephone ? — Yes.

28410. There must be some means of communication ?
—That is right.

28411. You go on to say that periodical inspection of
all colliery engines and boilers should be made by an
Inspector appointed for such specific work by His Majesty's
Government. There is a very considerable inspection
now going on. There m an inspection when boilers are
insur^ by the Insurance Company? — Yes, but there
are a large number that are not in the Insurance ('ompany.

28412. You do not think those are sufficiently in-
spected ? — That is so.

28413. What do you go upon when you say that ?
Have there been a<!cidonU> ? — From what I have heard
from the men, some boil*jr8 are allowed to go for a number
of months without being cleaned properly. I may say
at other collieries they do it monthly, but not at all

28414. 1 suppose underground boilers are constantly being
looked at? — Just in the same way. I do not know that
there is any more inspection of them than upon the
ones at the surface, unless they are insured.

28415. You say they are not all insured ? — ^No, not to
my knowledge.

28416. I see the Factory Act only requires every steam
boiler to be examined thoroughly by a competent person
once at least in 14 months. That would hardly bo enough?
— It depends ujion the water. There is water in some col-
lieries where it requires the inspection every month.
There is a vast difference in the water used in boilers.
I may say that locomotive engines, where the water is veiy
poor, they inspect or clean every week, but where the
water is better, it may be every fortnight.

28417. Would you suggest that there should be any
General or Special Rule on the subject ? — ^What I would
suggest would be that tliere should be an inspection at
least every month by the colliery management, at longer
periods by Government Inspectors.

28418. (Mr, Wm. Abraham.) Do you have a rule to
that effect ? — ^I should suggest that.

28419. (Chairman,) A rule that every boiler should be
inspected once a month ? — Yes.

28420. You would put that into an Act of Parliament ?
— I would suggest it.

28421. Then you say that protectors should be fixed in
front of all water-gauge glasses of boilers so as to prevent
steam issuing and fragments of broken glass injuring the
person who may be in charge, in case of an accident. Is
that done generally ? — It is done at large collieries, but
I may say there are many that ai*e not adopting that.
Steam recently has been raised to such pressure, as much
as 140 and 150 at some collieries, that if men are before
those boilers and there is an explosion, fragments injure
the men. We have sent in several claims recently upon that

28422. Yon have had several accidents ? — Yes, in
that way.

28423. Do you find that there is any difficulty in getting
the managers to agree to this ? — ^Wo have not enforced
that upon them. I know some managers adopt it them-

28424. That would be a very small matter ? — It would
be a very small matter, but it would be a great safeguard
to the men. It might be the means of saving a man's
face or head, and saving him from serious injury.

28425. In point of fact it has caused serious injury ? —
Yes, to some of the men.

28426. Then you say that each and every engine- Mr,
house, either above or below ground, where steam pipes W. Hopkins,
are carried under the floor or through such houses, shall —

be provided with two ways of ingress or ogress. Is that ^ Nov., 1907.

generally done ?— There are instances where it is not done,

but very few. As a rule the managers are attempting

to do that, but we put this down so as to have it a general


28427. What is the object of it ?-— Suppoemg, for in-
stance, a pipe explodes, and there is only one way to get
out, a man would have to go through the steam ; whereas
if he had two ways he could get out by the other.
There would be two ways of escape.

28428. Have you known stccidents happen in that way ?
— One happened at Tredegar, I think it was two years ago.
The men were repairing pipes down below in the shaft.

28429. (Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) In an engine-house ?—
It was not in an engine-house. It was going through ;
I thought that meant the same thing. There is also an
accident which happened in Clydach Vale in the same
way. I am not sure whether there are two ways of egress.

28430. (Chairman.) In some cases it would be very
difficult to provide this second egress ? — I cannot say.
Underground, supposing there were two ways to go into
the engine-house, so that the men could run out
whichever way it was possible to escape

28431. Do you think it would be reasonable to compel
all mine managers to provide two means of egress ? Would
it not involve very considerable structural alteration
very often ? — I do not think so, espociaUy in engine-
houses, as is mentioned here.

28432. Do you think it ought to bo made a General or
a Special Rule ?— Yes.

28433. You would have it put into an Act of Parlia-
ment ? — I would.

28434. (Mr, Wm, Abraham.) You are speaking of
on the surface ? — At any engine-house, not only on the
surface, above or below the ground. Allow me to give
one instance. I was working an underground engine,
and our engine was about 300 yards or more behind the
pit. The place where the engine was situated was in an
arch, and that was bricked l^hind, and the boilers were
in front. If something happened to our pipes we should
have to run through that steam, but I am pleased to say
that our management saw the ad\nsabihty of knocking
the wall down and making a hard heading, so that we
could get out another way. If something happened in
front of the boilers we -could go round the other way.

28435-6. (Chairman.) You want some alteration in General
Rule 24.

(Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) It is a very imx>ortant alteration.

(The Witness,) 1 will explain the idea we have. If
you read Rule 24 it states : * ' Where any shaft, plane,
or level is uaed for the purpose of communication from one
part to another of a mine, and persons are taken up or
do\vn or along such shaft, plane, or level by means of
any engine, windlass, or gin, driven or worked by steam
or any mechanical power, or by an animal, or by manual
labour, the person in charge of such engine, windlass,
or gin, or of any part of the machinery, ropes, chains,
or tackle connected therewith must be a competent male
person not less than 18 years of age." Sometimes there
is only one man riding, and to meet such a case I would
suggest that the rule should read ** where any shaft,
plane, or level is used for the purpose of communication
from one part to another part of a mine, and any person
or persons, etc." I had a discussion with some of

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 80 of 177)