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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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— If it was unnecessary 7

29457. Are you aware each locality or district was to
adopt its own Special Rules with regard to systematic
timbering, that is Cleveland could have adopted rules for
Cleveland alone, fixing the distance between the props or
orowns 7 — Yes, but they simply asked for exemption
without introducing any other system.

29458. I think Mr. Abraham put it to you, and I want
to make it clear. Supposing you had systematic timbering
in Cleveland, that would not by any means bind you to
only put up props where it was laid down by the rules.
You would be expected in addition to that to put up all
necessary timber, and six or three times as much timber
as laid down by the rule 7 — In cases where it was not
necessary we should be supposed to carry out the Act

29459. To carry out your own Special Rules if you
adopted them 7 — Yes, I see.

29460. I do not think you agree altogether with Mr. Toyn
on the question of unskilled workmen being employed
as fillers. I take it that where men are fiUing ironstone
after it is blown down there is a danger there too of falls 7
—Of course there is a danger, but they are protected by
the examination by the parties responsible for their safety.

29461. The chaigeman, when one or two, or 10 shots, it
mav be, have been fired, has to make an examination to
find out whether, as the result of the shots, the place is safe
before the fillers go in 7 — Yes.

29462. Does he remain in that place afterwards 7 — ^No.

29463. He has to ascertain at the present time at least
that the place is safe 7 — Yee.

29464. Or if it is not safe, it is his duty to see that it is
made safe 7 — He gets the deputy to make it safe.

29465. How long might he be away before other shots
are necessary — a period of some hours, I suppose 7 — It
would take some time. There may be a good deal, and it
would be part of a shift to clear that stone out of the

29466. While it might be perfectly safe when the charge-
man examined it and left it, it might not be safe three
hours afterwards 7 — ^That is so. He could not avoid
what happened if the place was safe when he admitted the
fillers. He would have done his duty.

29467. You mentioned the creep coming on 7 — ^Yes.

29468. In taking out pillars the creep will be con-
tinuously on 7 — Yes.

29469. The moment you take out pillars there is always
a creep on ? — I want to make plain that the chargeman
is not absolutely in charge of that place. There are
deputies in charge of that district at the same time, who
are round the district to see the places are safe.

29470. I am really wanting to find out now whether it is
more dangerous for unskilled persons who have never been
down a mine as fillers, because Mr. Toyn said he had
really no objection to unskilled persons coming down from
the surface who had not been down before and acting as
fillers. I want to find out whether there is any real danger
from the roof 7 — There is a certain amount of danger from
their occupation, but when the machineman examines the
place and the filler goes in the deputies are commonly in
the place. It would not be unusual to go in two or three
times during the shift.

29471. They are expected to do that 7— They are
expected to make a second examination.

29472. As a matter of fact, in your district the deputies
do all the necessary timbering, unless occasion arises
to put up a prop when the deputy is not there 7 — ^Yes.

29473. The man at the working face is not expected
to do the ordinary timbering at your work 7 — ^No.

29474. The deputy is supposed to do that 7 — ^Yes.

29476. Would it be as safe for an unskilled person, who
had no practical experience as a miner, even to fill at the
face as it would be for a skilled person who knew the
nature of the roof 7 — I do not suppose it would ; but still
the place is thoroughly examined by the parties in charge
of those men when commencing to work. If the men
have to work at all they must be exposed to a certain
amount of danger.

29476. Any person unskilled or skilled 7 — If we said
that was not safe it would mean the exclusion of all who
were not skilled persons in the mine. Taking our experi-
ence with reference to accidents, the fillers we think have
got on fairly well for that matter. They have not had a big
number of accidents.

29477. What is meant by a creep 7 It is understood
thoroughly by miners and deputies and all experienced
people that where there is a creep on the roof, the roof
might be sate at this moment, and an hour afterwards be
very dangerous and require timbering 7 — ^That is so.

29478. Would it not be more 'safe in a case ot that kind
that practical men with experience should be in that
working place than unskilled persons without experience 7
— There is no doubt of that. You could not work it in
that way. If you had to have all experienced men in the
mine there would be no room for the inexperienced men
at aU.

29479. At least you could have one experienced man in
each place ? — Yes.

29480. As a general rule, you have at least one experi-
enced man in each place filling 7 — Not fillers, you put
fillers in to fill stone. They might be men who have no
real experience in the mine, who have been in a week or

29481. Is that a breach of any general rule 7 — We think
not, as far as the filling is concerned.

29482. Is it not at the working face 7 — No, filling the
stone down at the face.

29483. They are engaged there as ironstone getters 7 —
They do not get any stone at all, they fill it after it is got

29484. It is at the working face ? — As near the face as
they can get to fill.

29485. As a matter of fact, it is absolutely close to the
working face. It is blown out and lying at the working
face 7 — Yes.

29486. They are employed at the working face. Do you
allow one or two or Ihree or four unskilled persons to fill
ironstone at the working place 7 — Yes.

29487. You allow that without a skilled person in
charge 7 — Yes, the fillers follow in and fill the stone in the

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2048S. Is that understood to be carrying out the rule
with regard to unskilled persons — Rule 39? — Yei. I think so.

29489. Is that the general feeling among the mine
managers and deputies of your county ? — There has not
been any complaint raised on that point at all.

29490. Have you had any experience in a coal mine ? —
Not as a worker.

29491. You know a coal mine ? — Yes.

29492. And the Coal Mines Regulation Act ?— Yes.

29493. Would you say that where coal has been cut by
machinery underground, and falls to the Hoor, that persons
filling that coal would not be coal- getters ? — I should not
say that they were coal -getters if somebody got it for

29494. Would you say two or three unskilled persons
might be employed filling coal which was cut by a
coal-cutting machine at the face without a breach of the
Special Rule ? — Is that not done now ?

29495. No, it is not allowed at the present time, but
evidently in Cleveland it is allowed ? — ^Tliat is so.

29496. I was particularly anxious to know that ? —
Yes, that is so.

29497. I did not take it from Mr. Tojrn's evidence that
that was so, but you are perfectly clear upon that ? — Yes,
they are not considered to b^in any wav qualified to take
charge or anything of that kind, l^ut they are considered
to be capable of looking after themselves and filling the
stone after it has fallen.

29498. As a deputy, you gave very frankly your opinion
about General Rule 38, as to the examination by the
workman. It is your opinion it does some good in keeping
the mmagement up to the mark ? — Yes.

29499. While you could not give any cases in which
workmen had been unfairly treated for giving adverse
reports, you, as a workman yourself and a deputy, say that
there is always the fear that there might be f— ^That is
the natural feeling amongst the workmen.

29500. Whether there is any cause is not for you to say ?
— ^No, that is so.

29501. You do know that the feeling always exists
that they may be injured in thoir employment ?— Yes.

29502. Consequently you, as an official of the mine,
say that it would be an improvement if there were Govern-
ment inspectors who were clear altogether from any
influence of that kind ? — I think so.

29503. Even where the mines are well managed, and
everything is done for the safety of the workmen, it would
still be well to have inspectors making a periodical ex-
amination ? — ^Yes, I would not suggest doing away with
local inspectors.

29504. Still leaving it in their power to do it ?— Yes.

29505. I suppose the ordinary examinations by the
Inspector of Mines are usually made when an accident
takes place ? — ^There are occasionally visits where there
are no accidents.

29500. Surprise visits ? — I do not know about that.
I have not heard of inspectors coming, but I notice that
they turn up on certain days.

29507. Wlien a fatal accident takes place there is
invariably an examination ? — ^Yes.

29508. Do the inspectors in making an examination
after a fatal accident, examine usually only the place
where the accident has taken place ? — ^I think that is all.
They visit the mine for that pmrpose.

29509. They do not on that occasion make a general
examination of the mine ? — Not as far as I know ; I thifxk
they do not.

29510. They would make a general examination of the
mine, or any part of the mine, S their attention was called
to anything being wrong there ? — ^Yes, the inspector asks
us to notify him if there is anything, in a quiet way.

29511. Do you consider it is a physical impossibility
for the present number of mine's inspectors in your district
in South Durham to thoroughly examine the mines ? —
Absolutely impossible.

29512. And that while mines inspection, as it at present
exists, has done a great deal of good it would do more
good if there were sufficient to make a thorough examina-
tion of the mine T — ^That is so. As Mr. Toyn pointed out,
it takes three days to go over some, and it is a physical
impossibility to do that.

29513. If they work all their time it is an impossibility ?
— Yes : we have no fault to find with them.

29514. You do not complain of the inspectors, but you
say that they could not do the work you would like to see
them do T— Yes.

29515. {Mr. BatcUffe Ellis,) With reference to Rule 39,
how is the ironstone got down — ^by machinery ? — By

29516. Then the men who go in are fillers ? — Not
always : in a good many cases there are some hundreds
of men working back with a rotary drill, which is a small
drill they get the stone down with between them, and
they fill between them. They are what we term *' miners."

20517. Have those men had the tw« years* experience
at the face ? — ^Yes, many of them have been working a
lifetime in the place.

29518. Rule 39 is "No person not now employed as a
coal or ironstone getter." You consider the persons who
are gou3g to fill are fillers and not getters T — ^Yes. I may
say that in a case where a stranger wants to g3t in the
place as a miner, he works in the place as a practical

29519. This only applies to fillers and not to miners ? —

29520. (Mr, SmiUie,) Are the men who work boring
machines g3tters 7 — ^Rotary machines ?

29521. Yes.— Yes.

29522. Is the man who stems the hole and charges it
a getter 7— The two work together on the general mining
principle, but where the machines are electric or com^
pressed air machines those men blow the stone down and
leave it for somebody to fill : but two working together
get their own stone and fill it.

29523. They bore their own holes, charge their own
holes and fire their own shots, and that may bring down
some stones. They are ironstone getters during the time
the^ are doing that, and they are not ironstone getters
during the time they fill 7 — ^The Cleveland miners get their
own stone and fill. They work one place the whole of
the time. They drill a single hole and fire it and fill it

29524. An ordinary miner getting his own stuff, filling
and sending it out 7 — Yes.

29525. Under this new system, one man prepares the
hole, another man fires the shot, and then the fillers come
in and fill 7— That is so.

29526. The reason for this rule was because it was
considered dangerous for unskilled persons to work at the
face 7 — ^Yes.

29527. Do you know why it was dangerous 7 — ^Was it
from falls at the face 7— With regard to the blasting, and
that kind of thing.

29528. Supposing there is no blasting, are persons
prevented from working at the face if they have not had
three years' experience 7 — According to that, you say
our fillers are not working under the Act, really.

29529. My point is, is there not a danger which was
anticipated by this Act here when men are filling stones
which have previously been gotten at the face ? — ^If they
have to work undergroimd at all they could not work' under
more favourable conditions, because their working places
are, as a rule, thoroughly examined and looked after.

29530. There is supervision to look after their safety 7

29531. They may be six hours at the face filling this
material without a person being in charge there 7 — I
would not like to define whether they were working imder
the Act or not.

29532. {Chairman,) They might be six hours alone
without anybody looking after them 7— JThe deputies are
in charge of those men. He goes in at variou^i times
during the shift to see that they are all right. He does
not continue with them.

29533. {Mr, Smillie.) I want to be clear. The charge-
man after shots are fired makes a thorough examination
of the place in order to make sure whether the roof is safe
and other things. Then the fillers who may be unskilled
persons go in to fill, but it may be three hours before the
deputy comes round to make his examination. He may
come in 10 minutes, or half-an-hour, but it may be three
hours. If the witness is correct in this, we have sometimes
coal-cutting machines which cut 70 or 80 or 90 yaids of
coal face, and the material falls down on to the bottom.
Then you would be correct in saying 60 or 70 unskiUed
persons may go in and fill this coal and they are not coal-
getters. That is not the Act of Parliament.


W. Stephens



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Mr. {Mr. Raidiffe EUi^,) He has given evidence fairly.

W. Stephens, The witness says, m his opinion if a man has to work
— - underground he could not work under more favourable

7 Nov., 1907. conditions than these people work.

{The W tineas.) They are looked after by the parties in
the mine appointed for that purpose.

29534. {Chairman.) Do you know about ooal mines 7

29535. {Mr. SmiUie.) The same clause applies to both.
It says coal or iron-stone getters ? — ^Those are not iron-
stone getters.

29536. A coal miner who fills the coal at the face after
it is blown down is a coal getter ? — If he does nothing but

29537. Yes.

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) I do not think so. You may
suggest that this clause should be extended to cover these
men» but at present it only extends to the man who gets
the coal. It is not the drawer.

{Mr. SmiUie.) The drawer is not a getter.

{Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) Neither is the filler a getter ; that
is the point.

{Witness.) He is not a getter at all ; he does not get any

2953S. {Chairman.) If you have nothing more to say
we will now have Mr. Braithwaite ? — No.


Mr. James Braithwaite, called and examined.

Mr. J. 29539. {Chairman.) I understand you are a working

Braithwaite. miner ?— Yes.

— 29540. How long have you been working underground ?

— 40 years.

29541. Iron-stone only ? — Yes.

29542. Do you agree with what you have heard said
here to-dav about the qualifications of the deputy, that
he should have at least three years' expdrience in getting
iron-stone, and pass an examination ? — Yes, I do.

29543. You have worked under a good many deputies
yourself ? — Yes, and I have been a deputy myself for a
good many years.

29544. Why did you not remain as a deputy ? Is it
too hard work 7 — No, the last time I was deputy, I was
deputy at a place we are now making complaint about,
and which we wish to have altered. It is where one
deputy takes charge of a big district and has four or six men
under him, and this is the method that I understand we
have come up here to try and get remedied. We do not
agree with that method.

129545. You gave up being a deputy because you were
asked to take charge of too big a district ? — I had charge
of it for four years, and I felt that the responsibility was
too great, and that I would rather work in the stone as
a miner than bear the responsibility.

29546. You thought too great responsibility was put
on you, and e responsibility you did not care to face 7 —
Yes. I was in a district where there was a tremendous
lot of timbering to be done ; sometimes I had four, some-
times six under me, and I have had eight. I have had to
send men away in the morning to put timber in, and I
have not been in a position to examine it for the day,
and I did not care to have the responsibility on my

29547. You had such a big district that you could not
get round in the course ot the shift to see what was going
on ? — ^No.

29545. The consequence was that sometimes working
faces would be left unexamined by you during the whole
shift 7 — Yes, till the next morning.

29549. Therefore, you complain not only that in some
oases the deputies are not properly qualified, but that
there are too few deputies to perform the duties 7 — ^There
were more day-men than deputies. I was the only

1 recognised deputy in the district ; the other men were
^classed as day-men.

29550. They were not sufficiently qualified to do deputy's
work 7 — I should not like to say about qualifications.
Tliey had to p:it the timber in ; although they put the
timber in, I had to bear the responsibiUty of it being put

29551. You often could not be there to see it put in 7 —
I could not be there.

29552. You come hero to make quite a different com-
plaint to what we have heard already. Your principal
complaint is that there are not enough deputies to do the
work, and that the districts of the deputies are too large 7
— ^Too big for one deputy to have the responsibility of.

U 29553. There ought to be more deputies appointed,
you think 7 — I contend that there ought to be two men
appointed to work practically as mates and have a district
they can manage.


29554. Supposing you had a mite, would you consider
your district woufi be too large for the two of you 7 —
Yes, that district would.

29555. That district was too large for two 7 — Yes.

29556. Do you think that still goes on ; did anybody
succeed you in that district 7 — Yes.

29557. Is he still continuing to do that district by
himself 7 — I could not say ; it is some years ago, and I
have not worked at the same mine since.

29558. Would you like to give the name of the mine,
or would you rather not 7 — I do not know that I have
any occasion for not doing so. I am speaking the truth
I will tell you — it is Stanghow.

29559. Would you like that put in the evidence or not 7
— Just as you like. It is the truth, and I am not ashamed

. of it.

29560. You do not know whether that state of things
still continue 7 — I could not say, I have not been there
since I left.

29561. With regard to the qualifications of a deputy,
do you consider as a rule that the management choose
the best men to act as deputies they can get 7 — Yes, I
behove that they do.

29562. On the whole, the deputies are equal to dis-
charging their duties. They are equal as regards quaUfi-
cations, but they have too big districts to attend to 7 —

29563. Do you consider it necessary that a deputy
should pass an examination 7 — A practical examination.

29564. Not necessarily a written examination 7 —
If a man passes an examination for his certificate it would
bo no worse for him if he is a young man. I think they
ought to be examined as regards the practical part of the
work, because the roofs vary very much. In some places
they may seem very solid and sound for a considerable
time, but through shots being fired and cuttings into the
top, it lets air in, and, as is commonly known among
miners, the place blows, and it is on the floor in a very
few minutes. It may be sound in the morning and two
hours after that place may be stopped for want of timber,
or on the floor.

29565 {Dr. HaUane). What do you mean by " the
place blows " 7 — ^The working of the place, by the ox-
plosion of the powder it cuts into the top, and the air gets
into this up the fissures, and there is so much gas and
shale at the top that the gas and air work together, and
• the place blows.

29566. You feel it 7 — Yes, it caases the place to crack

29567. {Chairman). Have vou anything to complain of
with regard to the examination of places the miners work
in before they begin their shift 7 Do you think unpreustical
men and men of insufficient experience are ever told off
for that duty 7 — No, I have never known unpractical
men sent to make an examination. At the time I was
speaking of, I had to go in at half -hast four in the morning,
an hour and a half before the miners, to make my exam-

29568. In general I may take it you agree with the
evidence as regards the appointment of deputies which
has been given by Mr. Toyn and ^Lr. Stephens, but you
add a complaint of your own, namely, that the deputies'
districts are far too large 7 — Yes.

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20669. At least, they are in a particular mine ? — Yes.

29570. This particular mine you worked in ? — Yes.

20671. Are they too large in the mine you work in now ?
— I am thankful to say in my mine two practical men
work together, and they have a district between them.

29672. It is not too large ?— No.

29573. You have nothing to complain of where you
are working now ? — ^No.

29574. With regard to these power machine miners,
do you agree with the evidence given, that the safety of
the mines suffers from young and inexperienced men
being sometimes made chargemen ? — ^I know it would not
be right to put a young inexperienced man as a shot-firer,
because it is a very responsible position.

29575. Or in charge of a machine ? — ^The driller is not
so responsible as the shot-firer. He has no explosive,
and very often the shot-firer has the place to chalk where
he has to drill the holes. He has not so much respon-
sibility as the shot-firer.

29576. With regard to the man in charge of a machine,
it might not be necessary to insist that he should have,
three years* experience in getting stone. That might
not be necessary in his case ? — For the driller or shot-
firer ?

29577. The driller ? — He wants experience to know how
to lay his holes on. No man can do the work without
practical experience.

29578. He would not g^t much experience of drilling
by stone getting. He might or might not ? — He wants
experience to know how to lay his holes on

29579. In some cases it would not be necessary to
work with a drill at all in getting the ironstone ? — No,
I do not know. Well, in some pits there are what they
call the " pick- work " districts.

29580. Getting stone where no drilling was necessary
would not make a man competent, if he worked ten years,
to take charge of a machine. A man could probably in
less that three years learn how to'take charge of a machme ?
— Yes, he could in less than three years.

295S1. He must have fair experience. Do you think
inexperienced persons are often put in charge of a machine
and shot-firing ? — I could not say about that.

29582. Are they experienced or not experienced, do you
think, to be in charge of a machine and shot-firing ? —
They must bs experienced.

29583. Are they, as a matter of fact, experienced 7 —
They must be experienoed.

29584. You have no complaint to make as to what
occurs in your mine ? — ^They must be expsrienced msn.

29585. You have no complaint as to what occurs ? —
We have no power machines in our mine : it is all hand
drillers, hand miners.

29586. With regard to shot-firers, do you think that
shot-firers are generally men of sufficient experience to

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