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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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• of the mine when he visits the district.

29343. Perhaps you agree with Mr. Toyn that it is a
great advantage that you should have inspection under
General Rule 38 ?— What is that rule ?

29344. The rule with regard to workmen's inspection ? —

29345. How often is that done ? — Perhaps the advantage
of a separate inspector would be that the man would be
really an independent inspector. You understand the
position of a workman as a rule. He examines, but
sometimes those inspectors do not give the actual report
that they would on account of their position as working
men. lliat qiight be jeopardised.

29346. Do you think that is so ? — I do not say that is so,
but there is that fear naturally with the men. Sometimes,
perhaps, they feel afraid to take the course they probably
would with respect to inspection.

29347. Has anybody ever complained to you to that
effect ?— No.

29348. Has anybody ever complained that he has been
afraid to make a truthful report ? — ^No.

29349. Do they often make reports calling attention to
defects. I mean these workmen when they inspect under
Rule 38 ? — They make their report of course.

29350. Do those reports often contain notices of defects ?
— ^Not often.

29351. You think probably not so often as they might ?
— Probably so. We almost think that is the case.

29352. Still they do occasionally call attention to them 7
— ^They call attention to certain defects.

29353. You are not aware in your experience of any
man having suffered from having drawn attention to
defects in the working of a mine ? — ^No.

29354. Do you agree with Mr. Tojm that the managers
are getting more lax than they used to be in the selection
of deputies and other men in authority ? Mr. Toyn
appeared to think that some years ago the management
was more careful in the men they appointed as deputies.
Do you agree with that view ? — As Mr. Toyn pointed
out in the illustration he gave this morning, in allowing
certain districts to work with one practical man and an

29355. That is a new thing ?— Yes, that Is new. It
has come into operation the last few years. I quite think
the managers are anxious to secure tlie safety of the
workmen in every way, but as far as we are concerned
we feel that it is decreasing the efficiency of the manage-
ment, as the deputies have a very great deal of responsi-
bility with respect to the management of the mine. We
think it does not keep the management up to the standard
it would with two practical men.

29356. Do you agree with Mr. Toyn that these mines
ought to be inspected totally every six months, and that
all the working places, air courses and tram roads should
be inspected ? — I think that is quite long enough, six
months. In a mine working in Cleveland great alteration
would take place in six months.

29357. Now that you have come to the point of having
to take out pillars, you consider that mining is more
dangerous than before ? — They certainly have the appear-
ance of more danger ; unless there is greater care exercised
there will be a great many more accidents. I would fike
to mention one point with regard to the decrease of
accidents referred to this morning. Some years ago a lot
of strangers were being introduced into the Cleveland
mines, and the probabifities were that there were accidents
then that would not have occurred if they were practical
men as they are to-day. The men working in the Cleve-
land m*nes have been working there from boys, and they
have been acquainted with the mines up to becoming miners.
If strangers were introduced, as they were 20 years ago,
there is no doubt that the accidents would considerably

29358. With regard to the statistics I drew attention
to at the beginning of the day about the surface accidents,
those statistics are compiled from very few men, only
about 1,500 men, and it so happens that there were three
accidents last year which brought the percentage up
enormously. I find on comparing the percentage for this
year with the percentage in former years that the surface
accidents in ironstone mines do not compare unfavourably
with the number in coal mines ? — I am glad to hear that.
We were surprised at the statement you made, but it
has proved to be an exceptional year in the Cleveland

29359. There are so few men that the percentage of
accidents appears very high ? — ^We were rather concerned
about that matter.

29360. The under-ground accidents are rather more
than in coal mines, and that is a matter of great import-
ance ? — Yes.

29361. (Mr. Cunynghame.) Are there any rules in force
in your district about the spaces apart at which the timber
should be placed ? — No, we had an exemption from that
rule. An Act was passed with respect to timbering in
mines, and we asked for exemption from that Act

W. Stephens.

7 N^^907.



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Mr. 29362. Why did you ask for that exemption ?— In

W, Stephens, many parts of our district you might work without any

^ 7 timber at all being put in ; but m other parts of the district

i Nov., 1907. yQjj^ ^ant three times as much timber as the law would
provide for.

29363. The law permitted in certain places that there
phould be a rule that timbering was to be quite close
together, and in other places that timbering should not
be put at all. The law did not compel you to have a
uniform space right through, and yet you applied for
exemption ? — ^Yes, we did.

29364. Do not you think it would be wiser to alter that
and have what is called " systematic timbering " ? - I do
not think systematic timbering necessary in the Cleveland

29365. Why not ? — There is no necessity for so much
timber as is required by the law in some places, and in
other places three times as much is necessary.

29366. In places where it was necessary to have a lot
of timber, would it not be better to have systematic
timbering for such a place ? — ^We put m as much timber
as is required. I do not think that there are complaints
as to the amount of timbering put in. Wa timber the
ground according to the requirements of the nature of
the ground.

29367. I thought some accidents were due, seven at
all events, to the fact that timbering was not sufficiently
done in certain places.

29368. {Dr, Haldane,) How do the accidents usually
occur — from falls of roots and sides ? Is it after the blast
or before ?— Sometimes. Supposing this is the width,
you baulk it as close as you can to the face where the stone
is got, and so much stone must be got out before you get the
timber in. It is often the case before you get more timber
ready the roof comes down. If you get 100 yards square
you timber as much as you can, but it often happens that
the timber breaks down. The top is of such a brittle
nature, and there is only a very small place, and if a
Bmfdl piece falls it kills a man. We have known oases
where pieces of 9 or 10 lbs. weight have killed a man.

29369. {Mr» Cunynghame.) If it is not due to the want
of setting proper timber that the accidents occur, what
is it due to ? — It is due mainly to the brittle nature at the
top. There is no doubt about that.

29370. Is it unpreventible ? — T do not think any acci-
dents are unpreventible ; but you can see after an accident
has occurred in many cases that it might have been

29371. What can be done 7 You say the timber that
is put up is sufficient 7 — Yes.

29372. What else can be done to prevent these accidents ?
The roof is treacherous and pieces fall off in spite of the
most careful timbering. What can be done to prevent
that happening 7 — I say exercise all the care we possibly
can by employing the most competent men that can bo
employed for the purpose of examination and timbering.

J^ 29373. I gather from you that the men are competent
I at the present time 7 — They are. Do you say they were
1 not or they were 7

I 29374. I understand it is your opinion that the men are
[ competent 7 — Yes, as a rule.

29375. There does not seem very much more that can
be done 7 — Perhaps there is not in that respect.

29376. I am only anxious to know 7 — I understand ;
that is right.

29377. With regard to the examination of deputies,
as a general rule, aU over England the plan of examining
workmen has not been generally adopted. It would be
rather an unusual thing, would it not 7 — In what respect.

29378. It would be rather unusual examining pecjple
in their duties. For instance, take the men engaged
in making steel in the crucible process. I do not know
l^hether you know it. They do not pass an examination 7
— ^No, I suppose not.

29379. This suggestion of an examination is rather
unusual 7 — For deputies.

29380. You are of opinion with steel that it is unusual ?
— ^There has been no examination previously.

29381. Your proposal is that there should be an exami-
ni^tion for deputies 7 — A practical examination.

29382. Who should conduct that examination 7 — I
should say the mani^er of a mine ought to know before
he selects a deputy that he is competent.

29383. I sgree with you, but I want to oome to the
examination and what is your view. I doubt whether ai(
inspector would be the best person. For instance, take
the present Government Inspector of Mines, would he be
tiie best person to examine him 7 — No, I should say not.

29384. Who would you have to examii^e them 7 — A
suggestion was made this morning, but we have not
porhapa sufficiently considered that question. On the i /
face of it, it appears to me that the management or \ ^
the manager of a mine should be the person who should
be capable of selecting the very best man he has for that

29385. This kind of rule should be adopted, that no man
should be employed as a deputy until the manager of the
mine had certifiod in his opinion, in writing if you like,
that he was capable and propor to be a deputy. Is that
the sort of thing you are aiming at 7 — Yes ; I would add
also the three years' experience Mr. Toyn mentioned thi#

29386. You would make that an absolute rule — three
years' experience 7 — I do not think much less than threp
years would be sufficient to gain the amount of experience.

29387. Would you make it a hard-and-fast rule 7 —
You would have to say a person of experience.

29388. I have known people with five years' experience
who never seemed to be able to do anything, sweep a room
for that matter 7 — As I said before, there are some men
who will gain as much experience in twelve months as
others will in five years.

29389. We know there are accidents, and that you are
impressed with the necessity of choosing proper deputies,
and you want the greatest possible care to be taken that
proper deputies are chosen 7 — That is so.

29390. You would favour any rule that can be brought
about to secure that 7 — Yes.

29391. You are not prepared to give in exact detail
hovf the thing should be precisely done 7 — Not with
respect to the examination. I do not think we have a
mature idea, because we feel the necessity ot a district like
ours taking every precaution for safety.

29392. You must remember you asked for the exemption
yourself. Why did you propose it 7 — In respect to
timbering 7

29393. Yes 7 — I do not think we have any coipplaint
in that direction. There is plenty of timber, and plenty
of men to put it in. I do not know any complaints in
that direction.

29394. (Mr. Wm. AbraJuim.) Where do the majority
of your accidents take place, in the face or on the road ?
— On the face.

29395. Have you occasionally accidents back on your
roads 7 — ^We have some accidentu caused by sets of wagons
running to the shaft bottom and the wagons being drawn
out by the drivers.

29396. With regerd to the stones falling from the roof
and sides, have you any accidents of that kind on tide
roads 7 — Yes, we have a few.

29397. Would the systematic timbering of a certain
distance not tend to prevent that kind of accident 7 — If
you visited our mines you would see most of the roads are
full of timber. There is scarcely room for any more timber
at all. Accidents occuring back do not come as a rule as
the result of a fall. It might be that a wagon ran oS and
nipped somebody between the wagon and the side.

29398. Is there any possibility of having improved
timbering in the face by using iron logs between the last
pair of timbers and the face 7 — I do not think so. We have
some iron baulks used back over the district, but they
would not be workable in the face.

29399. They would not be practicable 7— No.

29400. Why 7 — ^Many of the pillars are split into small
portions. You drive a few yards, and come again to cut
timber out to make room for the men to set to the stone.
If you had iron baulks it would be very difficult. If you
put an iron baulk in, in four or five days that place would
be finished, and you could not get it out again. It would
be too expensive.

29401. You are a practical miner. Is it not possible to
use those and place them at certain distances 7 It may
mean a little extra cost, but they can be regained each time
to prevent the falling of the roof and the crushing of the sides
between the first part of the timber on the face 7 — ^It would
be possible, but I do not think practicable.

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oTAii ooiansnoN os vmss.




2M02. Why ?— I oantiot see ho^ H trdnld work. You
might as well pat a baulk oi wood in as a baulk of iron.

29403. A thin layer of iron cotild be placed where yon
could not place a baulk of timber ? — ^You would want the
width for it.

29404. Yoti would not want the game width for a bar of
iron as for a baulk of timber ? — ^Where a whole baulk will
not do we have split baulks. We have every kind of
timber necessary for keeping up the top. There is no
deficiency of timber. Sometimes timbCT breaks down
suddenly. The tops are extremely heavy.

29405. We are now dealing with the working in the face 7
— ^In the face sometimes.

29406. When we visited a colliery in Nottingham the
other day, we saw that kind of thing being done. It saves
accidents from a very treacherous roof T — I wish you could
visit Cleveland.

29407. We are only asking, la it practicable 7^1 think

29408. 19 there any more difficulty there than to make
d little hole in the solid to put the first end of the bar on ? —
Where it was convenient to put an iroti baulk in we could
pnt in a wood baulk.

29409. It would not require the same space to put a thin
iton bar 7 — ^There Is plenty of height as a rule.

29410. You put them across 7 — ^We put timber in every
iinaginable position. Where we feel that it is necessary to
I^ut in timber to keep the place safe, we put it in, and you
could not work Cleveland mines imless you put in the
necessary timber in every position to keep the place safe.

29411. It is not a question of when yoti agreed with the
management to ask for an exemption of that rule. It is
not a question of cost, but a question of impracticability 7
— ^Yes.

29412. You are certain upon that point 7 — It was not a
question of cost. We had an interview with the employers
before we made application for the exemption, and if the
mines could have been worked under that rule it would
have saved the employers hundreds of pounds. If we put
timber in on those lines and worked the mine on those lines
it would have been a great saving to the employers, because
more timber is put in than is provided for tiy the Act. It
is not a matter of economy at all.

29413. Mr. Cunynghame put it to you that putting up
svstematic timbering would not prevent you putting extra
timber at all 7— No.

29414. You are distinctly of opinion that it is not a
question of cost, but a question of impracticability 7 — I
think so.

29415. We are to sit here and believe then that there is
no possible way of reducing the accidents in your mines 7 —
There will always be accidents in those mines, so far as
my experience goes. The only thing we can do is to take
every precaution.

29416. You are taking that now 7 Is there any extra
precaution possible 7 — ^We think the efficiency of the
manageioietit is reduced by the introduction of incompetent

29417. Your desire for competent men and examinations
id based Upon the fact that there are a few here and there
employed that are not competent 7— That is quite right.

2d4lS. With regard to the Inspectors, can you tell us
how the Government inspection that is done at present ia
being carried out 7 — ^There are considerable intervals
between the visits of the Inspectors to the various mines.

29419. When the visit is made, how much of the mine
is inspected 7 — Just a district or so, I should think. When
the Inspector comes he meets the manager at the bottom of
the pit and they agree oh a district ; they do not go over
all the pits, I know quite well.

29420. That district is taken as a sample of what the
condition of the whole mine is 7 — ^Ftobabl^ the Uext time
the Inspector comes he will go in another district.

29421 -3. His inspection in one district is taken as a sample
of the condition of the whole mine 7 — ^The Inspector could
not spend three days in a mine.

29424. The one district that he inspects at the time is
taken as a sample of the condition of the whole mine 7 —
I suppose that is the opinion the inspector arrives at.

29426. In getting another class of men as practical
inspectors they would be able to make a thorough inspec-
tion of the whole mine 7 — ^That is so.

29426. That is the reason you want them 7 — Yes.

29^7. (Mh Batdiffe Ettia.) You do not suggest that
two deputies should adways be there when timber is being
set 7 — ^What we do siiggest , is where it is necessary for
deputies to have charge of miners, that two deputies
should work together. We do not say where timber is,
because there are places where timber can he set by naen
not considered to oe deputies at all. They may w con-
sidered to be labourers who set timber in certain places
where miners are not working. Where miners are really
working, two competent deputies should set the timber
and look after them.

29428. A deputy has a good deal to do besides looking
after the timber 7 — ^Yes.

29429. An examination by one deputy would do 7 —
That is done now.

29430. You do not suggest two deputies to do any other
duties 7— No.

29431. Except the timber setting 7— Yes.

29432. Part of your time ia occupied in setting timber
as a deputy 7 — ^I will give the day's woik of a deputy : we
commence at 5 in most places and examine for one hour,
and see every place is safe before the minerd commence to
work. They set to work about half -jiast six. The deputies
follow the miners in their placed till 10 o'clock, and theti
they have time for their refreshments, and then examine
those places again, which perhaps takes them half-an-hour.
Then they work till about half -past one and then see the
men out of the districts again. In actually setting timber
it will perhaps be 6 hours.

29433. During this time when are ydu setting timber 7
We are setting timber from half-past six till 10 o'clock.

29434. After you have made your inspection 7 — And
signed your report and sent the miners to work.

29436. Would it be practicable to have one of the
deputies who had been examining another district to join
a deputy who had been examining another district to go
and set this timber 7 — You would have to have somebody
in place of the one you have taken out of the district.

29436. I want to see what the deputy is going to do
after setting timber. If you had a deputy and he had a
competent man with him, I should think it was immaterial
whether deputies or not, if competent men 7 — ^There are
two deputies working together in charge of a district
where there are 12 to 18 men. One goes in at 6 o'clock
in the morning and examines the whole of the places the
men go in. Tne other goes in at 6 o'clock and after the
man has come in at 5, he signs the report and sends the
men away. They set timber and keep the men safe
during the remainder of the shift.

29437. It would not require another two men to be en-
gaged as deputies in setting the timber after the inspection
is made 7 — The one that comes in at 5 goes home and
leaves the man who comes in at 6 to take charge of the

29438. That is the practice in many cases 7 — I believe

29439. You wish to make that general 7— That is so.

29440. It has been suggested sometimes that a deputy
leaves the men in charge of a person who is not a com-
petent man, but is that possible under the Rules as they
now stand 7 I see that the duties of a deputy in Rule 33
are that " He shall, at the end of each day's work, ascertain
that all men and boys are out of the district under Ids
charge : but should it be necessary for any of them to
remain he shall ascertain that they are left in charge of
a responsible person." Then again, with regard to the
back overman, " He must ascertain that all workmen and
boys under his charge, in his shift, are safely out of the
mine, it being his special duty to remain until thev have
quitted it, but should it be necessary for any of them to
remain, he shall ascertain that they are left in charge of a
responsible person." There would be the same obligatioU
on the overman 7 — ^Yes.

29441. lliere are three people, the overman, the back
overman, during his shift, and the deputy. They are
each responsible for stopping in the mine until everybody
has left, or putting it in charge of resxtoasible persons 7 —
The deputy rejiorts to the back overman that these men
are out when ho leaves the district clear and that he has
charge over.

29442. What is the difficulty that Mr. Tojm mentioned 7
— ^He mentioned a case where a deputy left a district
without anybody being responsible— nobody in charge.

29443. That was contrary to the rule 7 — It was wrong
of the deputy. I supi>ose he was carrying out th«


W. SUphena.

7 Sor^dOI.

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Mr, infltructions of the management. It would be wrong to

W, Slejihew, leave the distriot without someone in charge.

7 Not., 19(^j 29444. It does not want any alteration of the law : it
only wants the law carried out ? — ^Yes.

29445. The law ia very clear ?— Yes.

29446. {Mr. SmiUie,) In giving reasons why you claim
exemption from the timbering rules, you said that in the
Cleveland mines they are sometimes a considerable distance
and it does not require any timber because the roof is so
good ?— Yes.

29447. Would you be surprised to know that most
accidents from falls take place where the roof is good ? —
No ; I do not know that I would be surprised.

29448. I think that perhaps might be your own ex-
perience where the roof is exceptional and there is less
care taken very often ? — ^Where the roof is exceptionally
bad there is more care taken.

29449. That is putting the other side of it ?— But for
that in some of our mines there would be a great number
of accidents.

29450. Have you any considerable part of the roof in
Cleveland which we as miners understand as solid rock
roof which does not require timbering. It is strong enough
of itself ; it might be for a long distance without a prop
at all 7 — ^We have some of that kind.

29451. Is there at any time what is known as slipping
l3rpe3 coming in from which stones fall without giving
much warning T — ^That is the top ?

29452. Yes t — We have not a great number like you
have in coal mines.

29453. Are you aware in many coal mines that rules
for svstematio timbering have been adopted where the
roof IS exceptionally good ? — ^Perhaps that is so, I could
not say.

29454. Systematic timbering really goes on every yard
or two yards where there is no apparent reason for timbering
at alL Do you think that is wrong ? — ^No, I would not say
it was wrong at all.

29455C That is one of the reasons why you claim
exemption ? — ^That was one of my reasoas, but whether
that was one of the reasons given at the time the exemption
was claimed I could not say.

29456. I thought that was one of the reasons. Are you
awaro the proposals made by the Qovemment did not
make it compulsory that timbering should really take place.
Are you aware that it was not laid down by law that
timbering must take place if it was unnecessary it should 7

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 89 of 177)