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No. 300 occurred at Hazelhead Colliery, owned by Messrs. Tinker Bros., on July 14th, causing injury to a deputy.
On the day previous to the accident some colliers, working in the Halifax Soft Bed Seam reported to this deputy that a brattice sheet in one of the gates required refixing. The pit was idle on the following day, and, therefore, he went in with a safety lamp to make the statutory examination under General Rule 4 before a few bye-workmen, who had work to do in the pit, began. He also had a candle with him. After seeing the men to work he went to refix the sheet of which he had been told the day before, and he was returning through it to travel the working places, when a small quantity of gas exploded at his candle and burned him about his face, arms, and hands. Fortunately, he was wearing a shirt and waistcoat or he would have been badly burned about the body.
On more than one occasion a very small quantity of gas had been found in the vicinity of this sheet, and this deputy had been instructed, in consequence, to see that all the sheets were in good order, and taking this into consideration, it appears to have been a reckless proceeding to go where he knew one was misplaced with a naked light when he had a safety lamp with him. The accumulation was due, no doubt, to the sheet being displaced, and as soon as it was refixed being brought by the air current on to the naked light.
I had several meetings with the managing director and the agent of this colliery, and they eventually agreed to work the coal, in future, with safety lamps, and so dispense with naked lights altogether. This is satisfactory as, although the quantity of gas was small, and the history of the pit did not show that there has been anything but a trace of gas on a previous occasion, it is necessary, in my opinion, in all cases where gas is found, even in small quantities to use safety lamps afterwards.
FALLS OF ROOF AND SIDE.
I am pleased to be able to report a decrease in the number of deaths due to falls of stone or coal during the year under notice. Sixty-seven accidents caused the death of 69 persons, showing a decrease of four in the number of accidents, and three in the deaths, as compared with 1905. This result, at first sight, when it is considered along with the increase in the number of persons employed, and the quantity of mineral raised, appears to be more satisfactory than it really is. It, as a matter of fact, is the outcome of the more regular working of the collieries, due to the demand for coal being so much greater than in the previous year. Where faces are moving regularly the weight of the super-incumbent strata is gradually thrown on to the goaf behind, and the stone forming the roof close to the coal face is not broken to the extent it is when the rate of progress is irregular and spasmodic. The more quickly the coal is extracted the less is the liability to accident from falls of roof, and everything should be done to achieve this end, for in it, and system, both in the method of working and timbering is I feel assured, the remedy for the present large sacrifice of life from accidents under this head in this country.
At many mines in this district the length of face worked for the output obtained is much too large, and if the work were so concentrated as to have only one half it would be a boon in all respects and especially as far as safety to those employed is concerned. The coal would be extracted at twice the rate it is at present, and there would be a consequent diminution in the risks of falls, fewer roads to maintain, and a less area of workings to ventilate. I would strongly urge both the management and workmen to take this view of the question into serious consideration, as I am convinced if the suggestion were adopted the reduction in accidents, which is the first consideration, would be considerable.
Several accidents have been caused by the strata being broken and rendered dangerous by the leaving of pillars or large blocks of coal for the support of the surface and buildings, and I doubt very much whether any counterbalancing gain is obtained by leaving the coal. If it were extracted regularly and at as rapid a rate as possible, by the longwall system of working, in the absence of dislocations, such as faults in the strata, the surface and buildings would gradually subside without any serious damage to either. In addition to the greater immunity from accidents from falls, which, in my opinion, would be the result, the gain to the country's mineral resources by many thousands of tons being worked which are now left underground without any useful purpose being served, would be considerable. This is a phase of the question of the reduction of falls which deserves more attention and consideration than has hitherto been given to it.