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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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together ?^Two skilled men. May I say that in some





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MiifUTES OP evidence:





of the mines that is the practice now— that two skilled men
go together. They generally take the best miners for the
deputies, and two smiled men go together. Then we have
a number of mines where there is a skilled man, and they
put an unskilled man with h'm.

28905. That is what you object to ?— That is what we
object to.

28906. I suppose you would say that if it was neces-
sary to teach men their duty as to timbering, the third
man, who is a learner, should go with the other two skilled
men. How would you propose to teach a man to timber t
—There is never much difficulty in the other mines where
the old practice is carried out : they take the best miner,
and he goes away with the deputy at once, and he only has
to learn the cutting of the timber, because he knows about
the nature of the roof, and all that sort of thing. He is
very soon trained.

28907. Then your proposal is that there should be
some Special Rule applying to ironstone mines, to the effect
that two skilled men should always go together ?— Yes.

28908. At present that is the case in a great many mines. ?
—At present that is the case in a number of mines, and m
a number of others, perhaps five or six, there is a system
which has crept in during these recent years of putting an
unskilled man with a skilled man.

28909. Of late years !— Yes, it has crept up these late

28910. Would you say that that ought to apply to every
ironstone mine in your district ? — Yes. We do not want
to single out any particular mine, if you will allow me to
say so, but we speak in a general sense — ^I mean we do not
want to " spot '^ anybody.

28911. No, but possibly there mav be some mines where
the roofs are not of such a treacherous nature as they
are in others ? — That is so.

28912. Where it may not be necessary always to have
two skilled men going about together ? — Then if the men
have to put timl»r in — to put baulks in — they should be
allowed to go two skilled men together. If there are
two skilled deputies together, the one assists the other,
and theie are two pairs of eyes to see the danger in the
place and to look after the men, and to look after each
other. Now if you take one of the skilled men away
and put a man with him who is not responsible and who
is unskilled, then there is one pair of eyes in the place, and
he not only has to look after the miners but he has also to
look after his mate, and he has only one pair of eyes and
one brain to do what two pairs of eyes and two brains
should do.

28913. What you say would apply to all coal mines as
weU as ironstone mines ? — I think perhaps two ought
to go together in those cases, but I may say that our district
is an exceptional one in the whole of the United Kingdom ;
I have not known one like it.

28914. You go on te say that no men should be per-
mitted to set or put in timber who have no practical
knowledge of timbering. How far would vou carry that ;
do you suggest that in every case the ironstone getter
should be a distinct man from the man who puts up the
timber T An ironstone getter, I suppose, might know
enough of timbering to put up his own timber, to a certain
extent ? — Some of them are competent to do it.

28915. How would you arrange that ? — It is the in-
competent men that we complain about.

28916. How would you decide as to who is competent
and who is incompetent ? — I think you will see that
further on in the statement we suggest that no man should
be allowed to be a deputy unless he has had three years'
experience in getting stone.

28917. I am not speaking about deputies, but about
the ironstone getter who is not a deputy ? — Yes.

28918. Supposing he is there and sees that a certain
amount of timber is required, and required very quickly,
so that perhaps it would be difficult for him to get a deputy
to set the timber in time, might he not be allowed to set,
it himself ? — No. If he knocks a prop out with a shot
or anything of that sort, he can set it up, but he ought not to
put any baulks of timber in.

28919. However skilled the man is ? He might be
just as skilled as the deputy who generally puts in the
timber ? — Yes, but it is not in his calling, and he has
not the tools there to do it with, and he does not do that.

28920. That is not the practice ? — No. If the timber
has been set and he accidentally knocks it out with his shot.

he must either set it or go for ^e deputy ; but with regard
to putting in new timber, he has nothing to do with that at

28921. Is it contrary to the Special Rule that he should
be allowed to set up new timber, or is it the practice that
he should not do that ? — I do not think there is a Special
Rule about it. In some districts of the coal mines I think
some of the men do their own timbering, but in the iron-
stone mines there are specii^l deputies told off to do that
kind of work. 3- i

28922. So that it would be a perfectly wrong thing
for an ironstone getter, however competent he might
be, to set up his own timber ? — It would be, except in
putting punch props in, if he is cutting out a piece of
stone, or if a piece of stone is overhanging. In such
cases as that a deputy would provide him with suitable
lengths to put that timber in, but it is not his business
to do the timbering, and he is not allowed to do it.

28923. You go on to say that none but practical men
should be allowed to examine places that miners hae
to work in before they commence their shift's work. I
imagine that that would always be so. Did you ever know
an unpractical man who was allowed to examine these
places ? — I do not know that we could point out any
particular case ; but we think it ought to be provided
so as to make it imperative that no man should do it.

28924. Would you have some sort of Special Rule to
provide for that ? It is the duty of the deputy to examine
these places, and I suppose the deputv, whether he has
passed an examination or not, is generally a practical man ;
you say that as a general rule the best miners are piade
deputies ? — Yes, under the old system, but not under
this new one.

28925. It is not the case under this new system ? — ^No ;
that is what we are complaining about.

28926. You complain that inferior men are being made
deputies ? — We complain that men who have not had
a practical knowledge of getting stone on the face are
put on under the new scheme. One practical man ha?
sometimes four or five others under his charge ; I can
give you a case where a man had four or five under his
charge, and he went round to examine in the morning,
and he told oS. two of the men to so into one district
to timber, and two in another, and uten he took the re-
maining man with him ; during the day two fillers found
the top was not very good, and they went to one of the
deputies to get him to come and examine the top, and
that assbtant-deputy said that the top was all riffht ;
then before the day was out both men were injurea.

28927. You complain that although matters were
fairly satisfactory some time ago, recently a practice
has crept in of making deputies of men who have n.t
had sufficient experience ? — That is so, with the excep-
tion of about one or two mines. I believe this practice has
prevailed in one mine, or two mines, with a low seam
where the tops are not very bad, for a number of years.
But in recent years other mines, where the tops are not
very good, have adopted the same principle, and we com-
plain about it. Then there is another thing : there should
be a deputy in chai^ge of the men as long as the men are
in. That Rule which you have read out says that they
must see all the men out, the lights out, and that sort of
thing. Now only last Saturday I attended an inquest
where the deputy left at 20 minutes past 12 ; he left his
assistant in charge from 20 minutes past 12 till the men
went out ; that assistant was not competent to examine
in the morning, and he had not done so, but it seems
that he was competent to take charge of the men after
the other man had left. We say that there ought* to have
been a competent man left there in charge of that mine
until the men went out, and that is why we want to keep
there all practical deputies that are setting timber.

28928. The Special Rule says *' Should it be necessary
for any of them to remain he shall ascertain that they
are left in charge of a responsible person 7 *' — Yes.

28929. That is to say, that there must be some respon-
sible person, according to your Special Rule 33, while the
men are in the mine, to look after them P — Yes. We
say an assistant-deputy is not a responsible person.

28930. Well, he may or may not be, I suppose ?— That
is what is done.

28931. I suppose there are some assistant-deputies who
know their duties perfectly well, and as well as the
deputies themselves P

28932. {Mr, Wm. Abraham.) What was the object of
the coroner s inquiry in that case 7 — The coroners do not
understand it.

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28933. (Chairman,) What waa the verdict ?— The ver-
dict was " accidental death." It was not the fault of
the deputies with regard to the accident at all. I am not
speaking about that, but out of the enquiry there appeared
the fact that when the deputy was put in he examined
in the morning him^^elf. I asked him the question myself :
" Is your assistant competent to examine ? " He said,
" No "; and I said, " Then it appears he is competent
to take charge of the men after you leave, but he is not
competent to examine."

28934. (Mr, Wm. Ahrah<im,) Was there a Mines In-
spector at this enquiry ? — ^Yes.

28935. Did he point out that there had been any breach
of any rule ? — ^No, I do not think he did.

28936. (Chairman.) But surely it was the fault of the
deputy, if he did not leave a responsible person in charge
when he went away him^lf. The rule says that he is
to leave a responsible person in charge. I suppose he
m'>ght say that the min he left was a responsible person,
even although he was not capable of examining, because the
examination had already taken place. I suppose that
what you m'^n by a responsible person is that you ought
to have a man who is capable of examining ? — ^Yes, he
ought to be capable of examining at any moment durinc
the shift, because in our mines sometimes it will be all
right at one moment, but an hour afterwards the top be-
comes bad ; we say that every moment during the shift
when the men are iu there should be a competent man

28937. But it certainly appears to me that " a respon-
sible person " ought to be held to mean a person who is
equal to the duties which he is called upon to perform ? —

28938. And in that case it was clear, from what you
said, if you are correct in your statement, that the deputy
did not appoint a responsible person to look after the
men after he went away ? — ^I expect it would be the mana-
ger who would arrange the business, and he had this assis-
tant, and I asked the assistant myself " What happans :
do you put timber up ? " He said, " Sometimes I put up
a^rop," but if there was a baulk wanted he had to go away
into another district to seek a deputy. There was not one
in his district, and he had to go away to another.

28939. Then you think it was not the fault of the deputy,
but that it was the fault of the management for giving the
deputy an assistant who was not a responsible person ? —
Yes, it is the management that is at fault for allowing such
a system to go on.

28940. It does not seem to me that Rule 33 fails to
meet that, because it does appear to meet the case ; but
in my opinion, if what you say is correct, the rule was not
properly enforced — ^the management broke the rule them-
selves by not giving the deputy a responsible assistant ?
— ^There is no doubt that is so.

28941. Is there anything else you would like to say about
Rule 33 ? — I would only Bke to say this, that you have it
stated in your report that a large number of accidents hap-
p3n from falls of roof. The Cleveland district is to a ver^
large extent piUar working, that is to say, it has been
worked once through, and they are now working out what
you might call the supports or the pillars. Of course it
causes sometimes what we call a creep. I do not know
whether you understand that : it puts w;eight on, and it
will burst pieces off the side, and it makes the top give
way. We think that there is now more need for practical
men putting in timber than ever there was.

28942. You also say that the management, according
to your account, are getting more lax in regard to the mm
they employ ? — ^Yes, th'jy are. Of cou'^se it is a question
which I* could not introduce here properly, but, if you
will allow m> to say so, it is simply in order to work on the
cheap— to tell you straight.

. I 28943. What is tho state of things with regard to the
J I accid^^nts during the last few years ? — They are rather
I less than they used to be.

28944. How do you, acount for that; if the management
is m^re lax ? — I do not think tho mxnagement is more lax,
only they are trying to do it cheaper. There are some
mine owners in Cleve&nd who have asked m ^ mys ^If about it,
and they have said that if I can suggest any m^^ans they
would adopt it, but that is where they have an equal
responsibility with the deputies.

28945. I do not qiute follow you, because you began
by saying that the m^naffemint was getting mire and more
lax, and that they were less particular as to the m^n they
employed in responsible situations, and at the samo time
the mines were getting more dangerous to work ; but you

now tell m? that the number of accidents has grown less Mr.

in the last few years ? — ^Tho mine owners are not lax ex- J. Toyn,

cept in this particular point, so far as I know. I do not -

think they would do anything to cause an accident to a man; ' N ov., 1 907.

but in later years the mon have becom:) more accustom3d

to deal with the matter. We adopt the principle laid down

by th^ Act, which we have a right to do, of sending two

mm round every month to examine, and those m3n do go

round to examine.

28946. It is only lately that you have done that ? —
We have been doing it for som:) txni\ but there is mire
of it done now. I may tell you that we advise the min
to do all they can, and they do all they can to prevent
accidents. I think both the managemont and the m3n
themselves have helped, parhaps, to m'uim'se accidents.

28947. You say that the dim'nution in the number of
accidents is to somo extent, at all events, caused by the
periodical exam'.nation by the mon which takes place
now more often than it used to ? — 1 think so ; and the
mines are better ventilated than they used to bo in earlier
times. I have known when there have been 26 fatal
accidents in our district in a year : that wai in the old
times when there was not such good ventilation, and
mon were less capable, probably, than they are now.

28948. But then the ventilation would not affect the
falls of the roof and sides ? — It would prevent the msn from
seeing tho danger. The better the ventilation is, the
more they have a chance to see whether the top is giving
away, bdcause there is a large amount of powder used in
our district — probably 1,100 or 1,200 tons in a year. It
takes about Iwlf a pound of powder to a ton of stone, I
should think.

28949. S>m')timis there would bo clouds of dust, and
so on, from the explosion of the powder, which would ob-
scure the view and tend to make it more difficult to prop
up the roof and sides ? — ^Yes. I have seen the ventilation
so bad when I was getting stone myself, that, after we fired
the first shot in the morning, we could never see one another
during the day. But it is nothing like so bad now.

28960. You go on to deal with Rule' 65 with regard to
drilling machines, and you say that young and inexperi-
enced m3n should not be permitted to take charge of a
machine or bo entrusted to fire shots unless^they have had
at least three years' experience in getting stone in the face ?

28951. Have you anything to complain of with regard
to that ? — ^There have been men appointed to these machines
who never did any mining, and am an who does the charging
after the machines, has to examine a place after the shots
are fired, before the fillers are allowed to go in, and if he
is not a competent man he would not know whether the
top was safe or not.

28952. I see that there is nothing about incompetency
in Rule 65. It says, " Where drilling ^machines are used
each chargemin shall before commencing work in any
place, and each shot-firer after firing a shot, shall examine
the face, sides, and top," and so on. I suppose it is under-
stood that a chargemon should be a man who is competent
to discharge his duties ? — ^Yes.

28953. (Mr, Ratcliffe EUis,) Who is the chargeman ?
— He charges the shots after these power machines.

28954. (Chairman,) He jp trusted to fir© the shots —
Yes. If I might explain to you, a power machine will go
into a place and porhaps drill 8 or 10 holes before it comes
out, and then a man to charge the shots follows in, and
he fires them all. After he has done that he has got to
examine the roof and sides to see that it is safe before the
unskilled men, the fillers, come in, and therefore we think
he should be a thoroughly competent man.

28955. Would the deputy do that, as a rule ?— No, the
chargeman would do that. The deputy examines the
plao3 in the morning.

28956. The chargeman has not necessarily had the
exparience of a deputy ? — ^No. Of course he has to hav6
som*) practice before he is allowed to fire his shots.

28957. You say that there ought to be somo stringent
rules and regulations applying to chargem')n, and that
nobody ought to be allowed to exercise the duties of
chargeman unless he has had a certain amount of ex-
perience ? — Yes.

28958. That is not so now. Inexperienced men ai«
employed, you say ? — ^Well, it is only now and again that
one hears of men who are not competent.

28959. Have you ever complained to a Mines Inspector
that inexperienced men are employed as chargemon ? —
We do not like to do so very much. ^

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J. Tayn.

7 No^l907.


28900. What are you afraid of ?— Well, when we have
oomplained to them they never make much out of it.

28961. (Dr, Haldane,) The danger you refer to is from
falls of roof after the shot ? — ^Yes — to see that the place
is all right hefore the fillers go in. The reason why we
have put this down in the statement is that we have
known cases where young men have come in and taken
charge of a machine. Of course the chargeman drills the
holes, but be has never had any practical work in mining
at all, but he has to have a youth or a young man with
him to chance the drills, and of course he has charge of
the drill, ana the place, and that young man's life while
he is doing that work. Therefore, we think he should
be someone who understands the nature of the roof before
he is allowed to go and drill — ^f or his own sake and for the
sake of the young man who is with him.

28962. (Chairman.) But do not the managers of these
mines consider that that is a reasonable proposition on
your part ! — ^They do not pay any regard U> ua — they set
on all they like.

28963. But you say it is only in exceptional cases that
you have known such things happen ? — I grant you it
is exceptional, but we want to make it so that they cannot
do it.

28964. You would like to have a Rule to the efifect
that a man should have a certain amount of ex-
perience before he is made a chargeman ? — ^Yes, especially
the chargeman, more than the driller, because the charge-
man has to fire the shots, and he must know that the
place is safe and pass it as safe before the unskilled filler
comes in.

28965. A filler need not be skilled in general mining T —
No : he knows nothing about it : he just goes and breaks
up the stone and fills it.

28966. There is no reason why he should be skilled in
general mining, is there : an inexperienced man who
knew nothing about mining might be a very proper
person as filler if he had a proper person appointed as
chargeman over him ? — Well, the more skilled they are
the better, but unfortunately this class of men who
come in as fillers are quite inexperienced. Sometimes I
have known them to be men who come in off the road,
and they have been given money to get candles with,
and then they come the next day, and perhaps such a man
would not know how to see to that.

28967. No, it is the duty of the chargeman to see to it ?

28968. Then you deal with the question of the inspec-
tion of mines, and you complain that Mines Inspectors
have tDO extensive an area to cover, and cannot possibly
visit and inspect the mines in their respective districts
as they ought to do. I should like to hear your views as
to that ? — I should say in the first place that we do not
complain about the work the inspectors are doing, but we
are absolutely certain that they cannot possibly inspect
the mines as they ought to be inspected : they have too
much work to do. Of course our own district is connected
with South Durham for inspection. In our own district,
with the exception of one mine up in Weardale, which is
under the Metalliferous Mines Act, there are 20 mines
and 16 quarries that we cover, and that is only a portion.
Now when the Mines Inspect^^rs go to a mine, it is not
enough that they should go jAt into two or three places
and see them. We say that all the air-courses and every
working place ought to be thoroughly inspected by an
Inspector once at least in six months. As a rule now,
the inspectors cannot do it. I believe they work very
hard, but we find that most of the inspectors will go,
after an accident, to see the place,

28969. How would you propose to deal with that ?
— ^woold you propose more inspectors and more assistant
inspectors than there are at present ? — ^Yes.

28970. Or would you have a third class of inspector,
who perhaps had been a working miner, and who would
be very much in the position of a deputy 7 — That would
be the best policy.

28971. Do you suggest that somebody like a deputy
should be appointed ? — ^Yes — a thoroughly practical man.

28972. That a thoroughly practical man should be
appointed mine inspector ? — Yes, because the inspectors
now, with all due deference to them, only have the
theoretical part of it, most of them. Of course they
haee been mine managers, I daresay, but they have not
the practical knowledge.

28973. How many of this class of inspectors do vou
think it would be desirable to have ? I suppose tney

would not be men who would expect to become in the
course of time assistant inspectors or inspectors ; they
would probably be a class by themselves who woidd
always remain in a third division of inspectors ? — I have
not thought about that point, but if they could work
themselves up and pass so as to get up higher, I would
allow them to do so.

28974. What would you consider should be the re-
muneration of those people : should it be something like
£150 a year, £3 a week ? — Yes, there could be good men
got to do it for that.

28975. How many would you suggest ? — I think there
is plenty of work for one in our own district.

28976. Then I suppose you have two assistant inspec-
tors in your district ? — ^There is a chief inspector and there
are two assistant inspectors, and they have to cover
Cleveland, South Durham and a part of Westmoreland,
I believe — all the mines and quarries.

28977. That is to say, you have three ?— Yes. They
cannot possibly do it.

28978. You think that one working-man inspector
would be sufficient help 7 — ^In our district : I think he
ought to be set down in Cleveland, and there is abundance
of work for him there.

28979. Do you mean for iron-stone mines alone 7 — ^Yes.

28980. You would have a working-man whose duty it
would be solely to inspect the iron stone mines, not the
coal mines at all 7 — Yes.

28981. You suggest that his duties should be confined
to Cleveland, Whitby and the Rosedale Abbey districts.
Does that comprise all the ironstone mines of tlie district 7

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 85 of 177)