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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 94 of 177)
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with a wire rod.

29900. No, but to what extent would a wood guide
vibrate with the cage coming up 7 — ^I should think it
would be possible for a wood guide to be forced out an
inch, if the oscillation was great, with a heavy cage.

29901. What are the distances in such case of the cross-
stanchions used in support of the guide 7 — ^I could not
give you the distances in that shaft, but I have known
them 6 and 7 yards apart, and so on.

29902. Do you mean 6 or 7 yards, or 6 or 7 ft. T —
Well, 5 and more yards apart.

29903. Do you really mean 21 ft apart? You say
that those supports ot the guides are 6 yards apart —
18 ft 7 — Well, I cannot say that I have known them
6 yards : I should say 4 or 5 yards apart I have seen them,
so far as I have been able to judge of the distance : I have
not taken measurements, and I cannot speak as to measure-
ments, my knowledge being from observation that they
would be that distance apart.

29904. Were any of the aooid^nts which you told us of
just now when men were thrown out of the cage, accidents
with guide ropes 7— Yes. In the accident in Yorkshire,
when seven men were thrown down the shaft there were wire
guides, so far as I can speak now : I am not quite positive
as to that : I have not seen any information as to whether
they were wire guides or not^ but I believe they were wire
guides. ^^

29905. You cannot tell us 7— No.

29908. (Mr. En-ych Edwards.) The inquest in that case
is not to be held until the 4th December 7 — ^That is so,
but they sat on Monday last as a preliminary meeting.

29907. (Sir Lindsay ^Wood.) You told us that you
considered that the persons who inspected the mines
should be two persons from anywhere in the district, and
that the men at the colliery should have the power of
appointing those persons 7 — Yes.

29908. And that they should be paid by the Govern-
ment 7 — Yes.

29909. Do you consider that those men ought to be men
of any employment 7 — I think it would be much better
if their whole time was given up to inspecting.

29910. Yes, but should they be practical men 7 — Yes,

29911. That is to say, practical miners 7 — Yes.

29912. Miners who are engaged in mining as their
employment 7 — ^Yes.

29913. How does that differ from the present rule,
Rule 38 7 — ^It differs in this respect, that now they must
be chosen from the men who are actually working in the
mine at the time, and they must be paid by the men.

(Mr. Batdiffe EUis.) That is not so, as you will see if
you look at tiie rule : they are not bound to be chosen
by the men working in the mine, but they must be practical

(Chairman.) They must be practical miners at the

29914. (Sir Lindsay Wood.) Your opinion is that they
should be practical miners 7 — ^Yes : they should have had
practical expsrionce at the coal-face and in the mine.

29915. Irrespective of whether that practice is now
being carried on by them or not — ^irrespective of whether
they continue to be practical miners 7 — Yes.

29916. You would not call a practical miner a man who
has not been in a mine for 10 or 15 years 7 — ^Yes, I should
say there are men who have been out of the mine for 10
years who are in every respect practical men.

29917. (Chairman.) Your suggestion must be thai
perhaps for 25 years afterwards they would continue to be
practical men because they are always going down the mine
and inspecting the mine, and that inspection would keep
up their knowledge of mining matters 7 - »I am thinking
now more of candidates applying for a position : I do not
think it would be right to exclude a man who has been
out of the mine a few years, but who has previous to that
been in the mine a large number of years.

29918. Then also those men you say would have nothing
to do with mining after their appointment: so, in the
course of time, as they went on with their work it might
be 25 or 30 years since they had had practical experience
in the working of mines 7 — ^25 or 30 years since they had
actually got coal, yes.

29919. But still that would be no objection, from your
point of view 7 — ^No, I do not think so.

^29920. They had been practical miners, and they had
since been in the habit of going down the mine, and you
do not think that the mere fact of their not having worked
as miners for perhaps 30 years would be any objection to
their acting in the way you propose 7 — I do not see that
it would interfere wi&i them any more tiian it would
with the chief inspector.

29921. (Sir Lindsay Wood.) I think you said that the
firemen ought to be appointed from the hewer class : that
it was essential that a man should have been working at
the face in the mine for a certain period of time more dian
one year as a hewer before he should be competent to be
a fireman 7 — ^Yes : I think a man ought ta have had
some practical experience at the coal-face if he is to be
appointed to the position of fireman 7

29922. How does he gain the experience by being a
hewer 7 — ^Well, he gets practical knowledge of the presence
of slips and of the dangers that arise in taking coal away.

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iFhei^ most of the accidents due to falls of roof and sides
^o occur in actually winning the coal : he gains knowledge
hore which he cannot gain elsewhere.

29923. Do vou go so far as to say that the inspector of
mines would be an incompetent man to make a Sreman 7
— ^No, I am not going so far as that.

29924. That is exactly what you say ?— I do not think

29925. Because he does not hew coal, and never did
hew coal. TTien you say that the districts which the
firemen have to overlook are too large. What system of
working is adopted in your district ? — Principally longwall.

Ilien how many men have the firemen as a rule
in yotir district in longwall workings, that is to say at one
time in a district ? — The districts vary : they have a
■couple of hundred men, perhaps.

29927. One fireman for 200 men working all at once ?
—Yes. Not 200 colliers : probably 100 colliers, includmg
their drawers, and then the haulage hands in the district
as well, of course, he has to cover. Oftentimes he is
responsible for the haulage in the district as well as looking
«fter the men at the coal-faces.

29928. There would be 100 coal-face men in the district
looked after by one fireman ? — Yes.

29929. What distance ot face would that cover ? —
The distance of the coal- face would amount to probably
500 or 600 yards in many cases. He cannot visit them
successively along one coal-facc : he has to travel in and
out, and through drawing roads, and get through the cross

29930. But the actual hewing-face would only be 500
or 000 yards ? — Yes, 500 or 600 yards of coal-face.

29931. And that would occupy 100 men ? — ^Yes. A
collier in long-wall places is usuauy given say six or seven
yards to work in— or five yards.

29932. And that amount of face you think would be too
much for one fireman to attend to ? — I certainly think
it is too much coal-face for one man to examine, and too
many roadways for one man to travel and be responsible

29933. To what extent would you reduce that ? — I should
say there ought to be a fireman to not more than say from
40 to 50 colliers.

29934. You stated that you considered there should be
one manager for each pit. What do you mean by " pit *'
in that case ? — Each winding shaft.

29935. Therefore there might be several different levels
from which coal*? were drawn, and all those would have
to be under one man ? — Yes, coal might be sent through
different shafts and different tunnels to one pit mouthing
and to one shaft, and yet that might be one pit.

29936. In your district does the appointment of managers
cover more than one shaft ? — ^Yes, we have chief managers
over five or six shafts. •

29937. Situate at some distance from each other ? —
Yes, some of them ; others are in close proximity.

29938. You say that you consider there ought to be
manholes every 10 yards apart on the engine roads 7 — On
engine rockds where men have to travel.

29939. That is very much the same as what is provided
for by the present Rule 7 — I think the rule is 20 yards,
is it not 7

29940. It is twenty yards where there is sufficient room
for the men to travel alongside the engine- way 7 — It is
20 yards apart in engine brows, is it not, emd 50 yards
apart where horses draw the trams 7

29941. There must be sufficient room for the men to
travel alongside the railway where the manholes are
20 yards apart. If there is not room, then the present
Rule specifies that they should be 10 yards apart 7 —
I think independently of there being a sufficiently wide
foot-path for men to travel, apart from coming into contact
with the trams, there ought to be manholes at more fre-
quent intervals.

29942. That is to say, more frequent intervals than
20 yards 7 — Yes. If a tub runs away and you are midway
between two manholes 10 yards is a long way to go — when
a tub is running away down an incline of one in four.

29943. {Mr. Wm. Abraham,) What is the practice
within your experience as to having lids provided for
propping 7 — The practice is that the supply of such timber
IS very scant indeed, but the desire for it is very great.

29944. When you have such a supply of that timber,
is the timber supphed suitable for hd making 7 — No ; it
is oftentimes old broken timber sent down from the surface,
taken out of broken boxes and bits of prop-ends that
have been sawn off and chopped in two, and that kind
of thing. It is merely scrap timber ; it is not provided
as suitable as it ought to be. A lid to be really serviceable
should be from an inch to three inches thick, and should
be say from six inches to nine inches long and four or five
inches wide, and then it forms a good solid substantial
cap. But if it is a piece of an old broken tub or a piece
of a prop-end, it is not very serviceable.

29945. A lid, generally speaking, has two services to
render : to make the prop fast, and to lengthen the space
of top that it is under 7 — Yes. You may say that it has
three services : it covers more roof space, it receives the
weight, and prevents the prop from capping. Often-
times it also saves the life of the prop itself, because it
is first of all the lid that gets damaged and squeezed,
and not the foot or head of the prop. In the thira place,
you can make your timber more secure and fast when
setting it if you have lids to set it with.

29946. In fact, if a squeeze comes on it prevents the
prop ruiming into the top or breaking it 7 — Yes.

29947. So that in your opinion, as a practical collier, it
is essentially necessary that suitable timber should be
provided for lids P — Yes, it is very essential.

29948. Do men sometimes use sleepers, and things
like that, because of the unsiiitability of the timber P —
Do you mean road sleepers P

29949. Yes. — ^Yes, I have seen them used.

29950. Is that because they consider them more
suitable or because there is a greater supply of them P —
For two reasons : one, because there has oeen no supply
of lids, and the other because the prop would be of bttle
utility unless they had something on it. .

29951. And if they do use a sleeper what happens P —
I know of places where men are subject to fines,
or to very serious threats if they use road sleepers for
that purpose.

29952. Do you remember since when the practice has
existed of managers being able to fine men at all for offences
against discipline 7 Is it a recent practice or an old
practice 7 — It is both an old prcM^tice and a recent practice.

29953. Since when has it been legal for colliery managers
to do that 7 — I should say the passage of the Truck Act
gave them power to agree with the workman.

29954. When did the Truck Act give them t^t power
do you remember 7 — My memory does not serve me as to
the exact date.

29955. Is it further back than 1896 ?—Yes, I think you
will find it is much further back than that.

29956. Your opinion is that the fear of appearing in a
public Court is often a greater deterrent ageunst breach
of rules than a man being fined at the oolhery 7 — ^I am
quite sure of that.

29957. Do you think it is a good practice to give the
colliery manager the power of deciding for what offence
a man should be fined, and what degree of fine a man should
incur 7 — I do not. I think often enough those fines are
inflicted when the manager is not in the best frame of mind
to do justice to the case.

29958. With regard to the practice of reporting things
to the Mines Inspectors, have workmen been in the habit
of doing that frequently 7 — One does know of occasions
idiere it is done, but it is often done anonymously.

29959. On very few occasions 7 — Yes, I should say,
comparatively speaking, very few.

29960. I do not want to put words into your mouth,
but I wiU ask you this : until recently what was the opinion
of working men with regard to Mines Inspectors when they
saw them coming 7 Were they coming to inspect in the
interests of wor^g men 7 — Well, the general opinion is
that inspection by chief inspectors is far from being ade-
quate and far from being efficient, because a great many
men have been down the pit and been |kt the coal-face
practically all their lives, and yet they may never have
seen an inspector, the number of inspectors being insuffi-
cient to allow for complete inspection.

29961. I am putting this to you simply because it
appears that we should be neglecting our duties if we
did not inquire what the prcM^tice has been. Until
recently, was it not the opinion of working men that the


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laNUTES OF evidence:





QoTemment Inspectors favoured the employer more than
the workmen ? — The general opinion of the workmen has
been that the inspector has not been as favourable to the
workmen as say to the management, that is to say, that
he has been lenient towards the management. The general
opinion is that the inspector has been lenient towanls the

29962. I put it to you as a practical man. It is your
opinion that the man should be well trained in every grade
of colliery work to be a thorough practical man ? — I
think he must have served his apprenticeship completely by
working in a mine from his youth upwards, having per-
formed as nearly as possible every grade of employment
in the mine.

29963. And you want us to understand distinctly that
there is a danger against which a man must work in the
face before he can guard against it ? — I am quite sure of

29964. And it may be that no practical work whatever
in the roads can give him that knowledge ? — I think there
is something to be learnt from the actual hewing of coal
that cannot be learnt from books.

29965. Let us try and explain it together. You speak
about slips ? — ^Yes.

29966. Slips in the coal sometimes run up into the soft
roof ?— Yes.

29967. It is impossible to see such a slip in the top
until a piece of coal is broken ? — ^Yes.

29968. Then that being so, a man could not gain that
experience in any other part of the work ? — ^There is a
large amoimt of knowledge that can only be obtained by
actually hewing the coal itself.

29969. So that it is there at that spot that a man requires
practical experience where to put and how to put his props
m order to temporarily support the roof T — Yes.

29970. And for the want of that propping even a prac-
tical man, if he did not put it up, often receives an injury 7
— ^There is danger of injury being done.

28971. Are there not a great number of accidents hap-
pening in the face from, not exactly falls of roof, but the
clod above the coal falling down with the coal ? — Yes.
The majority of accidents from roof and sides are at the
actual coal-face.

29972. So that at that place the man can and should
gain an experience which it is impossible for him to obtain
anjrwhere else ? — ^That is my opinion.

29973. Hence it is essential for a man who has to direct
aiKither man where and how to put the prop, to have that
experience 7 — Yes, it is essential. I do not see how he
oan intelligently direct him unless he has had the

29974. That is what I thought you had in your mind.
With regard to travelling roads, I thmk you admitted
that it would be very expensive indeed to make the neces-
saiy roads in the old mines 7 — It would

20975. But you think that a good broad pathway should
be maintained so that men should safely travel in and
out by it when machinery is at work 7 — 1 think that is a
Bubatitute to a travelling road which ought to be insisted

29976. In laid-out mines and mines which are already
opened, do you think the return airways could be driven
in such a manner, and maintained in such order, that they
could be made good travelling roads 7 — I am quite sure
they could if attention was paid to them.

29977. And if that attention were paid to them, and
they were made of sufficient size and kept of sufficient
size, that would be a means of improving the ventilation
aa well 7 — Certainly.

29978. So that you would kill two birds with one stone 7
— Yes. You would improve the ventilation as well
as provide a safe travelliD^ road.

29979. So that at least in future that can be provided
without any extra cost 7 — Yes. I do not see that it would
be much additional cost, in opening out a new colliery,
to provide a proper travelling road and to maintain it.

29980. {Mr. Satdiffe EUis.) With regard to the question
of inspection, you said that there should be an inspector
for every 10,000 persons employed 7— Yes.

29981. How many inspectors would that mean 7 —
It would mean 82 to 84^

29982. Yes, there are about 800,000 people engaged
and 80 to 90 inspectors would have to bie employed 7 —

29983. You propose to do that by not necessarily
increasing the number of inspectors at present engaged
in the district, but by increasing the number of the
districts 7 — ^Well, perhaps, by bot^L

29984. Then you propose three grades, I understand:
the chief inspector, an assistant inspector and a sub-
inspectgr ? — Yes.

29985. All those are to be Government inspectors 7 —
That is so.

29986. Inspectors appointed by the Government 7 —
Paid by the Government ; with regard to the sub-inspectois^
appointed by the men«

{Ohairman.) I thought there was a fourth class.

29987. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellia.) Yes ; then I thought *8gain
there was to be another class of inspectors appointed by
the men, according to your suggestion. As I understand,,
the sub-inspectors, the third grade of inspectors, would
be appointed by the men but paid by the Government 7
There seems to be some doubt about this point ; do you say
that there are to be three classes who are ai) to be appointed
and paid by the Government, or that the sub-inspectors
should be appointed by the men 7 — ^We think that ^b»
sub-inspectors should be appointed by the men.

29988. What would be the qualification of such a sub-
inspector 7 — ^That he should give proof of his competency
by possessing, say, a certificate.

29989. To whom should he prove his competency 7 —
I suppose there would be boards of examiners.

29990. Appointed by whom 7 — Appointed by the State..

29991. But what has the State to do with it 7 These
sub-inspectors are to be appointed by the men 7 — But
I am speaking of them now obtaining their certificate;
that a board of examiners should examine these men a»
they now examine men for first-class or second-class
certificates, but that the men should have the opportunity
of sitting to possess a certificate, the examination for
ndiich would not be so severe, but where practical know*
ledge would be considered a great qualification.

29992. I have no doubt you have* carefully thought thia
over. Would you require that they should have a first-
class certificate to begin with 7 — J^o, I should not.

29993. A second-class certificate 7 — ^Yes ; I should say
that a nxan ought to possess the qualifications sufficient
to enable him to secure a second-class certificate.

29994. Then is he to pass an examination beyond that f
— ^No, I should think that would be sufficient, with practical
experience, to enable him to perform tlie duties of a sub-

29995. You know that the men who get the second-class
certificates are not men quite of the " first water " 7 —
Many of them or some of them may be good men who' do
not go in for the first-class.

29996. But the men who get the second-class certificates
are not men who can get first-class certificates, I should
say 7 — Well, all men do not try for the first-class oertifi-

29997. They are in the nature of under-lookers 7 —
That is BO.

29998. Then it must be from that class that the examiners,
would have to appoint the sub-inspectors 7 — ^There are
many colliers now possessing second-class certificates.

29999. I only want to know what your scheme is ; it
would be from that class thfi4; you would appoint these
sub-inspectors 7 — Yes — men possessing that theoretical

30000. No — ^men possessing those certificates 7 — ^Well,.
yes, men possessing those certificates.

30001. Would they be under any restraint as to the use
they would make of the information which they got in
inspecting the pits 7 — ^Under any restraint 7

30002. Yes ; you see a mine inspector now is imder
certain restrictions ; would these sub-inspectors be at
liberty to make what use they thought fit of any informa-
tion they obtained in the course of their inspection 7 —
The information would be used, I should take it, with a
view to securing safety.

30003. But what I want to know is, would they be at
liberty to make what use they might think fit of any
information for any purpose ; would they be responsible
to anybody, and if so, to whom 7 — ^They i^ould be responsi^
ble, in the first place, to the chief inspector.

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30004. What has he got to do with it? These sub-
inspeotors are to be appointed, as I understand, by the
Miners* Federation ? — Yes ; there is to be popular election.
We believe in popular election.

30005. By ballot ? — By the men of the colliery.
30006i Then what men are to aj^point them 7— The


30007. Of any particular pit— or in what way 7 —
Working in the area over whidli the man has to travel

30008. As I say, I have no doubt you have carefully
thought this over ; I want to know what your scheme is 7
— ^I should say there ought to be one sub-inspector to
every 2,000 work-people, so that he could periodically
inspect the working places.

30009. Now we have got to Uiat ; then he must be a
man who has got a second-class certificate 7 — Yes.

30010. That is the only qualification. Then how is he
going to be appointed 7 — ^He is going to be appointed by
the votes of the men.

30011. What men 7 — The colliers, the people working
in the mine.

30012. But what colliers 7 Supposing you say you
want a man or you want two or three men for Lancashire,
would it be the Lancashire colliers who would vote for
him 7— Yes.

30013. I want to know what your scheme is for appoint-
ing these people 7 — We should appoint them by the votes
of the men.

30014. And they would be responsible only to the men
who appointed them 7 — And their reports would be subject
to the criticism of the chief inspector.

30015. Yes, but in regard to their conduct, they could
not be removed by anybody except the persons who
appointed them 7 — No.

30016. They would not be responsible to anyone except
the persons appointing them 7 — They would be responsible
to the persons appointing them.

30017. That is your scheme. Now do vou say that
that is a scheme which has the sanction of the Lancashire
Federation which you come here to represent 7 — ^Yes, so
far as I have been able to ascertain.

30018. What steps have vou taken to ascertain it 7 —
Only conferring with my colleagues, and from resolutions
which have been carried at a conference.

30019. Then in your opinion you have expressed the
view of the Lancashire Miners* Federation on this subject 7

30020. Now as to the inspection under Rule 38 ; the
alteration which you wish to make is that the inspection
may be made under that rule by any persons who have

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 94 of 177)