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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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tant position of fireman ? — That is my experience.

29695. Can you give any statistics as to the length of
time a man has been working underground when he has

^been appointed fireman, in Uie mines which you know
of ? — There is the case I have just given you.

29696. Yes, you know of one case of a yoimg man aged
28 who was appointed after six months : but do you think

it is a common thing that a man is appointed as fireman y^
after he has been six months in a mine ? — I will not say \ ^
it is a common thing. ^

29697. Is it a common thing that men should be ap-
pointed after they had served say a year in a mine ? —
No, I do not think it is a common tiling even after a year's
experience. Such appointments are made.

29698. Not often, but sometimes ? — Sometimes such
appointments as I have mentioned are made, and made
from a class of men who from their experience cannot be
competent to discharge those duties.

29699. How long should you say that a man of ordinary
inteUigence must work in a mine in order to be competent
to perform the duties of a fireman ? — It depends upon
what age he enters the mine : if he enters the mine as a
boy he should have gone through the whole grades of
occupation right from a boy's work to the work at the
coal face, and he should have some years experience at
the coal face.

29700. That is to say, even when he works his way to
the coal face, although he has had considerable experience *
of mining before he gets to the coal face, at all events
of the inside of a mine, he must work — what would you
say, two years at the coal face before he can become a
fireman ? — I should say he should work two or three years
at least at the coal face.

29701. Do you think that this is ordinarily the case
that men have worked at least two years at the coal face
before they have become firemen ? — I should say 25 per
cent, of the firemen are men who have not actually worited
at the coal face — ^not actually got coal as colliers.

29702. That is to say that they have never worked as
hewers ? — They have been in the haulage roads.

29703. And you do not think that is sufficient experi-
ence ? — I do not

29704. You say that it is the common practice in your
part of the world where you are working, that a man should
be appointed as fireman who has not worked at the plaoe
at all — that is your statement ? — Well, a large number of
the appointments are made, so far as my experience ex-
tends — I can only speak as wide as my experience — from
men who have not actually got coal as colliers.

29705. Men who have not got coal at all ? — ^Not at alL
They have come from the haulage roads, have performed
the duties, say, of a day wageman or bratticeman, and
then ultimately got to be firemen.

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29706. Without any experienoe at the face at all? —

29707. About what sort of percentage of men would
you say are appointed in that way ? Would you say a
quarter of the men are appointed without having worked
at the face at all ? — Without committing myself to any
percentage, I should say that 25 per cent, of them, if not
more, are appointed who have not worked at the face.

29708. You think from your experience that about a
quarter of the men are appointed as firemen who have never
worked at the face at all ? — Yes.

29709. (Mr. Wm, Abraham.) That they have never
worked as coal hewers ? — They have never worked as coal

29710. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) In your view they are in*
competent, I suppose, at the present time ?

29711. (Chairman,) I suppose those men are not neces-
sarily incompetent. I suppose if a man works as fireman
for a year or two, at the end of that year or two probably
he would be competent, although he might not have been
competent at first. He learns his competency by experi-
ence as fireman ? — Yes ; I think a man who has to direct
another as to his timbering and spragging the coal face
should have had practical experience himself of getting
coal, or else how can he advise a man who has actually
got it ?

29712. Mr. Ellis suggests to me that you go further
and say that these firemen who have not worked at the face
must necessarily be incompetent. They must necessarily,
as I gather from you, be incompetent when they first begin
their duties as firemen ? — Quite so.

29713. But I suppose an intelligent man who is always
giving advice as to timbering, spragging, and that sort of
thing, will in the course of time learn his duty ? — Yes, of

29714. So that although you would say this 25 per cent,
of firemen who have never worked at the face must be
according to you, more or less incompetent for their duties
when they first begin them, still, at the same time, they
learn competency by experience as firemen ? — I do not
see how they can avoid learning.

29715. So that you would modify what Mr. Ellis sug-
gests by saying that these men who have not worked at the
face, although they are incompetent at first, are not
necessarily all incompetent now ? — Certainly not.

29716. Some of them may now be quite competent ? —

29717. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) That a man who was not
competent at the beginning may have become competent ?

(Chairman.) Yes, certainly, by exercising other duties.
My suggestion is simply that these men, although they are
not competent at first, may become competent by per-
forming the duties of firemen.

(The Witness.) I should say that if a man who is ap-
pointed to the position of a fireman has not had at his ap-
Ctment practical knowledge as a coal hewer, he is,
i that standpoint, an incompetent man on the day
of his appointment.

29718. Just so, but if he is an intelligent man, and
carries out his duties faithfully, he will in course of time
leom to be a competent fireman, even although he did not
b^gin by being competent ? — He will, if he is attentive to
his duties.

29719. (Mr. SmiUie.) But would you say that he never
would be as competent as he would have been, other things
being equal, if he had had two years' experience at the
face ? — A man who has not had the actual experienoe
of the getting of coal, can, in my opinion, never be as com-
petent as a man who has had the actual experience.

29720. (Chairman.) He may attain greater competency
by the exercise of his calling, but he can never be a really
first-rate man like the man may be who has been

I working at the face ? — It seems to me to be impossible.

"4 j 29721. You say that the firemen's districts are too
* large?— Yes.

29722. Is that so throughout all the mines with which
yon are acquainted, or is it the case in certain mines ? —
taie work given to firemen varies under different managers,
but I think in most cases managers seek to get as much out
of their firemen as they can, and call upon them to cover
as big an area and take charge of as many men as they can.
I think it would conduce very largely to safety if the size
of the districts was reduced, and the number of men whoir
the firemen have charge of were reduced.

29723. Do you say that the districts are too large all
through the mines which you know of, or do you think that
the districts in some of tne mines are of a proper size ? —
I should say they are for the most part too large.

29724. But there are some that are not too large ? —

29725. So that you level up, so to speak, the worst mines
to the standard of the best mines ?— Yes, I should attempt
to fix a limit upon the number of men over whom a fireman
should have charge.

29726. There are some mines where the limit is at present
fixed at a reasonable number ? — ^Yes.

29727. You say that certificated managers should be
limited to a certain number of underground work-people
over whom they should have charge. Do you mean that
a man who has a first-class certificate as a manager of a
mine should not have complete charge over a whole mine,
but that there should be some other manager appointed :
is that your idea ? — ^No : our idea is that the tendency
at' the present time is to give a man supreme charge over
too many collieries.

29728. Too many pits ?— Yes : and our idea may be
perhaps tersely expressed in saying that we believe i\^ one
pit one manager.

29729. However many men may be working in a pit,
you think you could not very well divide authority in one
pit, but that you ought to have one head manager over
the men in one pit ? — ^Yes.

29730. You would not have divided authority on one
pit however many men were working ? — No : I think
there ought to be one man as chief manager over one

29731. With regard to discipline, you say that it would
be best secured by more efiicient supervision and visitation,
and that if workmen break any rule you prefer prosecution
to fining as a means of its enforcement. I suppose the men
sometimes greatly prefer fining to prosecution, do they
not ? — Occasionally the men may prefer to suffer a small
fine rather tJian be hauled off before the magistrates and
have publicity given to the case.

29732. But on the whole it is the opinion of your Federa-
tion that discipline should be generally and usually enforced
by prosecution and not by fine ? — We think that prosecu-
tion conduces much more to safety and to discipline
generally l^ian fining. '^ ■» -^

29733. But surely there might be small minor offences
which could be easily dealt with by fining — small offences
not endangering life ? — ^Whatever the offence be, I should
prefer, if Siere is a law to deal with it, that prosecution
should proceed rather than that a fine should be imposed.

29734. Then you say that in every case a man should
be prosecuted rather than fined ? — ^Yes.

29735. Even for the first offence, do you say ? — ^Yes.

29736. Well, that is your view: and you think that
is the view of the Federation ? — ^Yes : our Federation is
totally opposed to fining as a means of. effecting discipline.

29737. Now I will come to the question of accidents,
You think that many accidents arising from falls of roof
and sides would be prevented by systematic timbering,
chocking and packing, and with better attention to wastes
being drawn off as coal is removed. What do you under-
stand by " systematic timbering " ? — We mean that
having ascertained the nature of the mine, stipulated
distances should be fixed according to the Mines Regulation
Act, and that they should be strictly adhered to, that is
to say, distances between props. In addition to that, we
believe that in long- wall work there ought to be systematic
chocking. Much long-wall work is done now without
any chocks at all.

29738. (Mr. Cunynghame.) What is a " chock " ? I
suppose it is the same thing as a sprag ? — ^No, not exactly.

29739. (Chairman.) It is a cross-piece, I am told ? —
Yes : a chock is a stack of timber laid crosswise, which
when built would cover anywhere from a square yard
to almost two square yards of roof.

29740. But now there are rules laid down that the
supports must not be more than so many feet apart, are
there not ? — ^Thoee are the mere props— like this pencil,
oomparatively speaking, as compared with a chock.

29741. Then you would say that systematic timbering
as I understand it is not duly carried out in the mines
with which you are acquainted ? — ^The systematic timber-
ing that we should desire to be made compulsory is not
carried out.






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Mr. 29742. You want it to be made oompulsory ?— Yea.

' 29743. Then you say also that if suitable timber were

2Q Nov. 1907 oonstantly provided and taken to the ooal faoe or actual

working place by the management, many accidents would

be prevented. Your complaint is, I understand, that
the timber is sometimes some little distance from the face,
and that the man has to go and fetch it ? — It is sometimes
hundreds of yards from the faoe and has to be conveyed
along roads where you cannot put your timber on the top
of the tub, and the timber has to be dragged the whole
distance : that conduces to negligence and to scarcity of
timber at the working face, the difficulty being so great
in getting it to a man^s working place.

^ 29744. So that the man prefers sometimes to run a
certain amoimt of risk rather than lose time in going for
this timber and hauling it along ?~Well, their wages
depending upon the coal they send out, it leads to that.

29745. And you say that that is a matter of complaint
in your mines — ^that it is a common thmg for the timber
to be a considerable distance off the working face, and
that it requires a good deal of time and labour to get it ?
— ^That is so. If you would permit me I should like to
say this with regard to suitable timber: one thing of
which we have to complcun very largely is the almost total
abeence in many collieries of what we call caps or lids.
Nothing ]fl more valuable to a miner working under a
broken roof than a cap or a lid — ^in order to cover more
roof spsMe. Invariably the men themselves exparience
very very great difficulty in getting a sufficient supply
of suitable caps for setting on props : it gives to the prop
a longer life and a greater supporting power, and adds
very largely to the safety.

29746. Is the cap a thing in the nature of a mushroom,
which you put on the top of the prop and which spreads
out T — No, it is in the nature of, say, a short plank, two
or three inches thick, which is put on the top of the prop
in that manner {lUuttrating).

29747. A cowl, it might be called ? — A cap or top.

• 29748. {Mr, Enoch Edwards,) It is called a Ud ?— Yes.
We think it should be a stipulation that a plentiful supply
of lids should be provided.

29749. (Chairman). And that is not the case ?~That
is not the case.

29750. With regard to better lighting and attention
to lamps, what have you to complain of 7 — I do not
profess to have any exp3rt knowledj;e about lamp3, but
still our men complain largely of the light.

29751. That- the light is bad ?~Ye8. Oftentimes it is
the quality of the oil, and sometimes the lamp. The
choice of the lamp I suppose being"with the management
tiiemselves, the lamps are not what they mi^t 1^ : the
light is not so good as one would desire oftentimes at the
coal face.

29752. You think that more attention might reasonably
be paid by the management to seeing that the lampi are
in thorough repair /md that they give as much light as in
the nature of things they can be made to give ? — ^Yes.
One is almost constantly approaching the management
with a view to obtaining better attention to the lamps,
as the result of complaints from men that their lamps
will not bum.

29753. Now as regards accidents in shafts : you believe
C that in all shafts where men are wound the use of de-
' tachina; hooks, catches, rod-grips and gates to cages ^ould

(^ be made compulsory. There are other means of preventing
, overwinding besides detaching hooks : it has oeen sug-
gested that there are contrivances by which steam is
^automatically shut off, so that you would get better
winding in that way. I suppose you would not be par-
ticular as to how overwinding is prevented, so long as
^there is some means adopted of preventing it 7 — Yes :
/there is Bertram's Visor, which is used as a mechanical
\appliance for shutting off steam and stopping the cage.

29754. Is that satisfactory 7—1 do not think it is ab-
solutely reliable : I do not think it would be wise to trust
to that only.

29755. You think there ought to be detaching hooks
under all circumstances 7— Yes.

29756. And that gates to cages should be made oom-
pulsory 7— Yes.

29757. We had it stated in evidence, I think, that on
one occasion an accident had been caused by a gate
to a cage — ^that something happened to the cage and a
man wani^ to get out in a hurry, but he was kept in by



the gate and was consequently very seriously injured:
but I suppose that would very seldom happen. On the
whole you consider it would be desirable to have gates 7 —
I should consider that iax more lives would be lost by gates
not bein^ used than by gates being supplied. As a matter
of fact there has been an accident in Yorkshire, into
which a Ck)roner and his Jury are now inquiring, in which
seven men were thrown out of the cage, and had there
been a gate to the cage those men's lives would have been

29758. Then you say further that when men are being
wound the cage should be free from full or empty boxes
or other material. Is it a common practice to load the
cage that is carr3ring man up and down with material 7 —
Where they have two and three deck cages.

29759. You m3an one deck would be loaded with men
and another with materials 7 — One deck would be loaded
with materials and two with men, or one with men and
two with materials.

29760. You object to that 7— Yes.

29761. Why 7 What danger do you apprehend from
that 7 — ^We consider that the cage should not contain
any greater weight than the men themselves when the
men are being wound, and we do not see what good purpose
it serves.

29762. What would you do: would you have the
particular platform of the cage empty 7 — ^Which cage
are you speaking of 7

29763. Supposing you have only a certain number of
men wanting to go down, perhaps only sufficient to fiU
one of the three decks: what would you do with the
other two 7 — Do you mean of the corresponding cage—
the ascending cage 7

29764. Yes 7—1 should have that empty,

29765. But supposing they wanted to be woimd 7 —
I should wind men against men.

29766. Siu>poeing one cage, the ascending cage, was
quite full ot men, all three decks crowded up with men,
and supposing the other cage, the descending cage, was
only a third full of men, how would you propose to balance
the cages except by putting something in the other cage 7
— I do not think that that would be essential.

29767. (Mr, F. L, Davis,) That is not essential 7—1 do
not think that is essential at all.

29768. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) You would wind men
against men, but not m^n in one cage and material in the
other 7 — ^I should say it would be quite safe to wind men
opposite men, that is to say, to have men in both ascendhig
and d33cending cage, but not minerals in either cage.

29769. (Mr, Cunynghame,) When the men are sent down
at the beginning of the shift would you have coal then
raised — because I do not see how you could get it up 7 —

29770. What are you to put in as a counter -weight to
the men going down 7 — ^There is no occasion for it ; you
would not wind coal against men.

29771. There would be nobody to send the coal up at
the end of an eight-hours' day; there would be nobody
down there. I do not want to argue it, but I do not
understand what you mean, do you mean that there is to
be nothing wound against the men 7 — Nothing.

29772. (Chairman,) Then you say that men should be
wound at a reduced speed. They are not wound at the
extreme speed that coal is sometimes wound, are they 7 —
The rule applying to that is that on reaching 20 yards
from the landing place, they shalj not wind at more than
l^ree miles an hour. We believe that in addition to that
there ought to be a reduced speed at the meetings. '

29773. That is when the two cages meet 7 — Yes, when
the two cages pass the speed ought to be reduced.

29774. But otherwise, subject to that, you would not
have any maximum speed for winding men different from
winding coaJ 7 I believe in Germany there is a difference
—that you may wind coal up to 20 miles an hour, or more,
and that with regard to men you may only wind tliom at
a less pace. You do not suggest that 7 — ^I think that the
speed at which men are wound ought to be generally
reduced, but particular attention ought to be paid to
reducing the speed at the meetings, and the speea ought
to be reduced at a further distance from the landing place
when men are in the cage, than applies at the present


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( f ac



29775. Then you say as to accidents in hatilaf;e roads,
that travelling roads should be provided apart from main
haida^e roads. Is that not rather a large order, that
travelling roads should be provided apart from main
haulage roads ? How would you do that in some collieries ?
— ^Many collieries do provide separate travelling roads.

29776. Tes, I quite tinderstand a good many do, but
supposing they are old collieries which have been built on
a different principle, would it not very often be an enormous
expense to provide separate travelling roads ? — Where
^-^avelling roads have not been provided m the opening out

' the mine and they are not existing at present, then it
certainly would be a great expense ; but we find that
accidents in the haulage roads to men travelling often
occur in those mines where there is no special travelling

20777. Then would you make it compulsory to have
in every mine special travelling roads ? — Yes,

29778. However expensive it might be ? — Yes, we think
•^y that alongside main haulage roads there ought to be a

f travelling road.

29779. And 3rou say that the main roads themselves
should be made and kept of sufficient width to allow a
space on one side for travelling purposes. That has been
very often suggested. You do not think it would be
enough if the main roads themselves had this space on one
side sufficient for travelling purposes, but even where that
is done you say it ought to be made compulsory that there
should be separate travelling roads ? — I should prefer a
special traveUing road to, say, a footpath on the side of
a main haulage road.

29780. But then it would be extremely difficult and
very expensive to make a separate travelling road. Would
it not be sufficient to widen the main road so as to have
a gangway at the side for the men to go along ? — ^Yes,
I mink the provision of a sufficiently wide footpath with
a more plentiful supply of manholes on that side of the
main road would be sufficient.

29781. You say that there should be a more plentiful
supply of manholes on the travelling side. At what
intervals do you suggest there should be a manhole space ?
— At every seven or eight yards.

29782. What is the distance now— 20 yards ?— 10 yards :
and more in some places.

29783. Is there any General Rule about the distance
between manholes ? — ^Yea.

29784. But you do not think that General Rule is
sufficient ? — ^No. We think that the manholes should be
more plentifully supplied on the travelling side, and not
thrown across from one side to the other. If two man-
holes have the required distance between them, although
one is on one side of the road and the other on the other
perhaps, that seems to satisfy the law.

29786. The GJeneral Rules applying to this are Rides
14, 16 and 16 : Rule 14 says that " Every underground plane
on which persons trav^ which is sdf-acting or worked
by an engine, windlass or gin, shall be provided . . .
with sufficient manholes for places of refuge, at intervals
V of not more than 20 yards," and under certain conditions,
' ^ 10 yards. You suggest that there should compulsorily bo
a manhole at every eight yards ? — Every eight or 10
yards in main haulage roads where the whole of the men
have to travel in and out of the mine : that is what I

29786. And where horses are used what would you
say ? — I should say one at every 20 yards would be
sufficient there.

29787-91. Then you go on to say that more appliances
should be used to prevent runaway tubs, and naulage
or drawing with scotches should not be allowed where
mechanical appliances may be used What are " scotches '* ?
— ^Those are scotches put in the wheels, sometimes wood
and sometimes iron.

29792. I do not understand what you mean by
" scotches " ? — ^If I may explain, there is a good deal of the
drawing done by colliers' drawers in Lancashire that is
done down inclined planes, ranging in gradients say from
1 in 10 to 1 in 4, and this is done by the drawer himself
getting behind the tub with two scotches which are put
in the wheels and the scotches skid the wheels the whole
distance ; that is very often done and it is an exceedingly
dangerous practice. We find oftentimes that the supply
of ^at we call a balance wheel at a cost of a few shillings
in labour and material would enable the man to travel

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 92 of 177)