« ZurückWeiter »
IGNORANCE OF DANGER ARISING FROM COAL Dust.
All the employees of the Company from the Manager downwards appear, from their evidence, to have been unappreciative of, indeed generally sceptical, of the danger which may arise from coal dust. Mr. Armstrong frankly confessed himself a sceptic as to the explosive capabilities of coal dust, until the happening of the present explosion in his mine. I think it is not too much to say that no one of the employees of the Colliery had regarded an explosion of coal dust, pure and simple, as a factor in the danger of coal mining until the occurrence of this disaster.
On the other hand, every expert witness stated that an explosion of coal dust, pure and simple, was a scientific fact which had been repeatedly proved, and was now admitted to be possible by all the niining experts in the kingdom who had studied the question.
The inference which I think should be drawn from the foregoing facts connected with this disaster, is that this accident was a preventible one, and would not have occurred if the officials and servants of the mine had been more fully alive to the danger of explosion from coal dust. In saying this I make no reflection on any of the officials or servants.
The colliery appears to me to have been admirably managed, and it cannot be treated as a reproach against either officials or men that they did not more effectively guard against a danger of which they were in ignorance. The conduct of the officials of the mine and members of the rescue parties after the disaster is deserving of all praise.
Mr. Bain, Mr. Atkinson, and myself endeavoured to extract from the expert witnesses their opinions as to the best mode of rendering harmless the coal dust which will collect on main haulage roads. They all recommended watering as an effective
means, but these recommendations were all accompanied by the qualification that it must depend on the character of the material composing the roof and sides of the ways as to whether watering can be resorted to or not, and this must be left to the manager of each mine to judge.
They all agreed that in some cases it would be unsafe to water roof and sides, but towards the end of the inquiry Mr. Charles Spearman Carnes, the present agent of Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan & Co.'s Collieries, was called. He had recognised the danger of dry haulage roads, and had had to deal with them at the collieries which he managed. He admitted that there were many main haulage roads which could not with safety be watered, and said there were some such at Messrs. Bolckow Vaughan & Co.'s Collieries, but that his practice, in all such cases, was to have the dust brushed from the roof and sides by men with hand brushes.
I think a few answers given by this gentleman so important that I venture to set them out in his own words :
Q.-Are they large collieries which you manage ?
water the road.
to do it.
Later, Mr. Carnes said, in reference to a suggestion, that if the dust brushed from the roof and sides on to the roads was considerable, it might make the roads either objectionable or more dangerous, that he had the dust removed from the roads at night when there were not many travelling on
I am of opinion that if the system pursued by Mr. Carnes in his collieries were adopted generally it would greatly minimise the risk of explosions by coal dust.
The jury, who included among their number several practical miners, returned the following verdict :-
“That the said Edward Hardy, aged 63 years, of the Row, Wingate Grange Colliery, shifter in coal mine, was on the 14th day of October killed in the Five Quarter seam of the Wingate Lord Pit by an explosion, caused by the firing of a shot in the main haulage way in the Low Main seam of the said Wingate Lord Pit, some 676 yards or thereabouts from the shaft, on the said 14th day of October last, and we leave the question of the future management of the pit in the hands of the miners, inspectors, the owners, and the representatives of the Miners' Union, and therefore say
that the said Edward Hardy, in manner and means aforesaid, accidently came to his death."
The coroner subsequently wrote me, under date 2nd November, 1906, a. letter in which he says that the jury, after signing the inquisition, remarked that “they intended to add that there was no blame attached to the managers of the pit,” but he told them, the inquisition now having been signed, it was now too late to add anything.
It will be noted that the jury did not find, by their verdict, that the shot was fired by Maddison, and, what I regard as more important, refused to say whether the explosion was or was not a coal-dust explosion.
When it is remembered this jury contained a large element of men with practical experience of mining, this omission in the verdict is very significant, of the attitude still held by miners, with regard to coal-dust explosions.
I do not recommend any prosecution against any person connected with the mine.
I am strongly of opinion that steps shouid be taken to bring the dangers of coal-dust explosions more vividly before the minds not only of the officials of the mines, but of the miners also.
The result of this Inquiry has been to convince me that great ignorance on this subject exists.
As I have stated before, the Wingate Mine was not a particularly dusty one.
Many mines in which the deposited dust on the main haulage roads is as great if not greater than was the case at Wingate, probably exist in the county of Durham.
What an ever present source of danger this dust is, is shown by an extract from the book entitled “ Explosions in Coal Mines,” by W. N. and J. B. Atkin
They state at page 20, on the authority of Mr. Galloway, that one pound of coal dust to 160 cubic fert of air are the proportions necessary to form an inflammable mixture, and, therefore, assuming 40 square feet area in haulage road, one pound of dust is required for each length of four feet, or a quarter of a pound of dust for each foot.
They add, “on dry and dusty haulage roads the quantity of dust in excess of this often exists as upper dust only.”
I think, if a circular was sent from the Home Office to the managers of all coal mines, pointing out what the Home Office has ascertained from its Inspectors and from reports, as to the danger of coal dust, and requesting the managers to bring this in turn to the notice of all the miners engaged in the mine, it would be attended with considerable advantage.
I also think it would be advantageous if the Home Office required that every licensed shot-firer should have the General and Special Rules as to shotfiring printed upon his form of authorisation.
I would also recommend that the attention of the mine owners should be called to the risk of dust being carried into the haulage ways by means of the down-cast shaft when, as was the case at Wingate, the coal is screened quite near the top of the down-cast shaft.
My strongest recommendation, however, is that all main haulage roads should, as far as practicable, be kept clear of dry coal dust. I think this should be made compulsory.
The evidence of Mr. Carnes, before referred to, shows that this is not a difficult or expensive matter.
Either the dust should be kept constantly wet by watering roads, roofs, and sides, either in their entirety, or by the method of providing wet zones, or where this is inadvisable the roofs and sides should be brushed at short intervals, and the roadways periodically cleaned ; or both of these precautions may, where thought advisable, be insisted upon.
I am aware that the Royal Commission on Mines has taken much evidence as to dry coal dust in mines, and the best methods of avoiding the danger arising from its collection in considerable quantities in main haulage roads. I know that many of the witnesses called have spoken of and pointed out the dangers involved in the general watering of roof, sides and floor of main roads, and have recommended zone watering. It may be that an effective system of watering in zones, and the removal, as far as practicable, of dry dust by means of periodical brushing, may in the end be found to be the best means of securing safety.
It may probably be truly said, that it is very rarely that a shot is fired without authority in a main haulage way, as was done in this case, and that consequently the risk of explosion of dry coal dust in a main haulage way is very remote.
Though it is probably true, that with adequate precautions as to shot-firing very few explosions would commence in the main haulage ways, all the expert witnesses agreed that an explosion wherever and from whatsoever cause originating, would
spread more rapidly and be rendered far more serious if the haulage ways are dry and dusty.
I have the honour to be,
ALFRED HENRY RUEGG.
To the Right Honourable
On Sunday, the 14th October, 1906, about 11.40 p.m., an explosion occurred at Wingate Grange Colliery situated near Wingate in the County of Durham, the property of the Owners of Wingate Grange Colliery, causing the death of 24 of the 204 persons then underground.*
At the outset we wish to place on record our appreciation of the efforts made by all the officials of the mine, from the agent and manager downwards, to rescue the imprisoned miners who survived the explosion, to recover the bodies of the dead, and afterwards to arrive at the cause of the disaster; every facility and source of information was at once afforded us in our investigations.
The inquest on the bodies of the persons killed was opened, on the 17th October, at Wingate Grange, by Mr. * Crofton Maynard, Coroner for the Easington Ward of the County of Durham, when only evidence of identification of the 23 bodies then recovered was taken, and an adjournment made to the 31st October, when it was resumed and continued over the 1st and 2nd November.
Forty-five witnesses were examined.
“ That the said Edward Hardy, aged 63 years, of the Row, Wingate Grange Colliery, shifter in coal mine, was on the 14th day of October “ killed in the Five Quarter seam of the Wingate Lord Pit by an “explosion caused by the firing of a shot in the main haulage way “ in the Low Main seam of the said Wingate Lord Pit, some 676 yards or " thereabouts from the shaft, on the said 14th day of October last, and we " leave the question of the future management of the pit in the hands of " the miners, inspectors, the owners, and the representatives of the Miners' “ Union, and therefore say that the said Edward Hardy in manner and
means aforesaid accidently came to his death.”
The relatives of the deceased men and the Durham Miners' Association, of which they were all members, were represented by Mr. H. F. Heath, Solicitor, of Sunderland.
* On the 24th November, George Mason, aged 60, a shifter, who had been in the Harvey seam at the time of the explosion, died at his home. A medical certificate was given that death was due to bronchitis. The relatives were not satisfied and applied to the coroner, who held an inquest, after a post-mortem examination, and the jury found that death was due to " sub-acute pneumonia set up and caused by cold, wet, and exposure suffered in the Harvey seam of Wingate pit for some afte he explosion on 14th day of October last.”
The following officials of the Durham Miners' Association were present :
Alderman W. House, President ; Mr. J. Wilson, M.P., General Secretary ; Mr. J. Johnson, M.P., Financial Secretary ; Mr. S. Galbraith, Joint Committee Secretary ; and Mr. T. H. Cann, Treasurer.
The owners of the colliery were represented by Mr. A. Mulligan, barrister, instructed by Messrs. the Hon. Charles Russell & Co., the legal , representatives of Mr. James Lynum Molloy, the Trustee in whom the legal
estate of the mine is vested.
Mr. A. H. Ruegg, K.C., to whose skill in eliciting the facts we are much indebted, was present representing the Secretary of State. We were present, as was also Mr. H. Walker, the only Assistant Inspector at the time in the Durham District.
Valuable expert evidence was given at the inquest by the manager and under-manager of the colliery and by Mr. Simon Tate, agent for Trimdon Grange and other collieries, by Mr. W. C. Blackett, agent for Charlaw and Sacriston Collieries, and by Mr. C. S. Carnes, agent for the important group of collieries owned by Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan & Co. We also gave evidence.
Mr. Tate referred to cases similar to the present where charges of explosives fired on dusty roads to dislodge timbering. or break up a haulage wheel had caused explosions of coal dust and air.
Mr. W. C. Blackett gave sound advice as to the course miners should pursue after an explosion, and Mr. C. S. Carnes detailed at some length precautions he had taken with respect to dust at Murton Colliery where he was formerly manager and at the collieries he is at present connected with.
DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLIERY.
Wingate Grange Colliery, employing underground, in all the various shifts, about 1,200 persons, is situated near the southern edge of the Northern Coal Field where its termination is concealed by the overlying Magnesian Limestone resting unconformably on the Coal Measures. The shafts after passing through 14} fathoms of soil and clay, pierce 44} fathoms of limestone before reaching the Coal Measures, which they penetrate for 94} fathoms further to the Harvey seam, the lowest seam proved.
The Coal Measures and the seams contained are lying nearly flat, the general rise being in a south-westerly direction.
The coal field worked is traversed by several faults, the largest having a throw of 30 fathoms.