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Tables 3, 4, 5, 6 give, in addition to a Summary of all the fatal and non-fatal accidents, details as to the place and cause so far as they could be ascertained. This year the number of separate fatal accidents and deaths were equal, viz., 82 ; that is, there was no case where more than one person was killed in the same accident. Non-fatal accidents reported to the inspector numbered 156, causing injury more or less serious to 159 persons. Under the recent Notice of Accidents Act, the number of non-fatal accidents reported in the future will be largely increased.
Tables 7 and 8 show at a glance the fatalities, the number of persons employed and the mineral produced in this inspection district for each year since the coming into force of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872. These statistics are very interesting, and although there are little set-backs from time to time, they show a gradual improvement, especially in the ratios of accidents to the number of hands employed and the minera raised. Annual Reports do not convey much information unless records of previous years are inserted to enable comparisons to be made.
EXPLOSIONS OF FIRE-DAMP OR COAL DUST,
This is quite a record year, not a single case of death or even injury from an explosion of gas or dust has been reported. For the past four years there has not been a single death to record, but 1906 is the first year with an absolutely clean sheet as regards non-fatal explosions, and bearing in mind that the mines are of such a character that the use of safety lamps has become universal and “ Permitted Explosives” only used, such a result reflects the greatest credit on managers, officials and miners alike.
From time to time in making inspections I come across cases where it is quite apparent that shots have been fired under very risky conditions ; I am compelled to think so, because on testing for gas at particular points I find the ventilation carrying a “ Cap,' that is, dangerously fouled with fire-damp, and further inquiry often reveals that shots have been fired there quite recently, may be an hour or half an hour before my visit ; the person who fired the shot is then called to account but he invariably protests that the place was quite clear when he "fired.” I come across this condition of things so often that the conclusion to be drawn is inevitable. I mention this as a warning to managers because whatever care they may take in the selection of the explosive they use, such a practice may any day end in disaster to the workmen and to the mine for which they are responsible.
Blasting has ever been, with the exception of falls of ground, the most fatal cause of disaster in coal mines, and the legislature has endeavoured to hem it round with every possible precaution, but notwithstanding, very bad accidents continue to occur, and the wisest course will be to take care that it is never resorted to except in those cases where its assistance is absolutely necessary. I am satisfied that in many mines blasting is general where it would prove more economical to almost entirely dispense with it.
Falls OF ROOF AND SIDE.
Forty-five persons were crushed to death by falls of ground, four fewer than in 1903 ; thirty of these deaths were due to accidents in West Lancashire and Cheshire and fifteen in the two North Wales counties, Denbighshire and Flintshire, six of the latter occurring in the Wynnstay Colliery. These figures work out at one death per 1,280 persons employed underground in Lancashire and Cheshire, and one for every 706 employed in North Wales ; the latter is much the worst record in the United Kingdom. North Wales also figures in an unenviable position when we take all accidents from whatever cause into account, the figures then stand West Lancasbire 849 persons employed per life lost, Cheshire 1,157 and North Wales only 499, or nearly double the death-rate. In 1904 I drew attention to the high death-rate from accident in the North Wales pits, and I said then that so far as physical difficulties were concerned North Wales did not appear to be handicapped more than other districts. It is noticeable that the Welsh miner is left to shift for himself more than is the case elsewhere, probably this is a result of the employment of Charter Masters who stand between the manager and the general body of the miners, and prevents that close contact which tends to discipline and the enforcement of better methods and precautions. But however it may be, the Welsh managers can hardly be proud of or even satisfied with things as they are.
Of the total falls of ground, 45 during the year, twenty happened within the zone of . Systematic Timbering" and the remainder on the roads, the care of the roads of course being entirely in the hands of the managers, and to which the new timbering rules have not as yet been applied. I am bound to say that in many mines the roads are not as well timbered and supported as the working places of the miners.
Repairs to the roads are put off too long, and before they can be completed there is a period of considerable danger, and no doubt many accidents occur which greater energy and greater care might have prevented. The mines in which the main roads are kept in really good condition will reap the benefit should the talked of shortened hours come into operation.
Accidents from falls of roof and side can only be made less frequent by a more generous use of timber, iron girders, brick arching and other substantial roof supports. Bars should be put up systematically on all the roads which are liable to crush, and the staff of men who have to maintain and keep the roads safe should be such as can adequately contend with the repair as the need arises.
There were no fatal accidents through ropes or chains breaking on ascending or descending shafts. One man lost his life (Registered No. 11) whilst working at the bottom of a sinking pit, through the engine winder over-winding whilst lowering the hoppet or bucket, and which struck the deceased. It appeared that the winder was a new hand, or at any rate unaccustomed to that particular engine, and he was only learning how to work it under the directions of the regular man when the accident occurred.
The Coroner's jury were of opinion that the lessons should have been given when the sinkers were out of the shaft.
Accidents from overwinding seldom occur but are sometimes very serious when they do ; “ detaching hooks” are in general use but these only safeguard the ascending cage, and if it so happens that men are in the descending cage when an overwind occurs there is nothing to prevent them being dashed violently against the bottom of the shaft. The largest firm in the district (Wigan Coal and Iron Company) have an appliance fitted to all their winding engines which governs and prevents the cages being raised or lowered at a high speed as they approach the top or bottom of the shaft ; automatically, and is I believe reliable and efficient ; it is known as Bertram's Visor.
The manner of “capping” winding ropes is being improved, the old-fashioned method of riveting the capping to the rope is being abandoned, as it is found that a solid casting of white metal embracing the wires will withstand a much greater strain.
The new regulation requiring all breakages of winding ropes to be reported to the Inspectors of Mines will do good ; one or two cases have already been reported and upon making enquiry I found that one of the ropes which broke had been in use for
ACCIDENTS BY TRAMS AND MACHINERY UNDERGROUND.
This class of accident is apparently increasing in frequency, and future legislation will have to deal with it ; at present there is far too mucho left to chance-trams break loose on inclined roads and rush heallong to the bottom, and woe betide anyone they happen to meet in a narrow part of the road. It can hardly be expected, when we consider the large number of full and empty trams which have to be handled day by day, that these mischances can be altogether avoided, but provision can be made by means of stop-blocks, run-away switches, &c., to reduce the risk of people being run down and killed. In some mines mechanical haulage is used to draw the trams rapidly along roads so low and so narrow that the only chance of escape when a train of trams emerges unexpectedly out of the dark, is to rush to a refuge hole ; these are provided at intervals of ten yards, and it is an exciting time until you reach one, and rather like playing a game of “hide and seek for
life. In previous reports I have advised that it should be made a statutory requirement that all underground haulage roads, where the trams are moved by machinery at a higher speed than four miles an hour, should be made and kept of such a width over their whole length that persons may stand clear of a passing train.
Electric power for haulage, pumping and other purposes is coming more into favour, and on account of its ready adaptability it is found in many cases to be more economical than compressed air or steam. There have been no injuries from shock reported, which I think shows that the regulations under the Special Rules cover most of the points of danger.
ACCIDENTS ON THE SURFACE.
Six persons lost their lives by accident on the surface at the collieries, one of whom was a young woman whose skirt got entangled with a revolving shaft at one of the Haydock pits ; the fence protecting this shaft had been partly removed to make some repairs, and whilst reaching forward to put a clutch into gear she was caught. The fence ought to have been put back into position by the person in charge of the repairs. Two other persons were killed through their clothing being caught hy cogwheels whilst oiling the machinery when in motion—there is generally a bye-law forbidding oiling under such circumstances, but I am afraid it is often neglected through the desire to keep the machinery constantly running. The remedy lies in careful and complete fencing of all moving wheels and shafts.
The noise made by the elaborate machinery which is now required to thoroughly clean the coal for market, makes it quite impossible to hear the railway waggons or locomotives moving about the sidings in the vicinity of the screens, and where people are constantly passing to and fro ;. this circumstance makes it more difficult to carry out the work without risk.
ACCIDENTS WITH EXPLOSIVES.
The district has an absolutely clean sheet so far as accidents with explosives and detonators are concerned, no accident with either having been reported during the year. Twenty-nine different kinds of explosive have been used amounting altogether to 1,121,336 lbs. "Ammonite, Roburite, and Westfalite have been patronised considerably more than any of the others. Ninety-five per cent of the total amount has been subject to the regulations and restrictions of the Explosives in Coal Mines Order. At least three million detonators must have been handled and used, and apparently without a single accident, a record which ought to satisfy everyone that electric shot-firing far surpasses every other niethod in safety and efficiency.
A list of prosecutions by employers against officials and workmen, chiefly for breaches of the Special Rules, appears in Appendix II. Only what are considered serious offences are taken to the Police Court; fines varying from two shillings up to ten shillings and in a few cases twenty shillings are inflicted for less serious offences.
In view of the Courrières calamity it is only natural that the question of dry coal dust on the roadways of collieries should be much discussed, and the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Mining Accidents awaited with some anxiety. There are certain almost simple steps which might be taken to alleviate the danger before the interest which has been aroused begins to flag. It has been pointed out again and again that a very considerable part of the accumulated dust on the roads is the result of transporting the coal in badly built trams, many of which are little better than riddles, distributing fine dust along the roads ; this dust is, of course, of no value to the mine owner, if it had been some better method would have been adopted long ago.
Then another source of dust accumulations underground is the close proximity of the screening and cleaning machinery to the downcast shafts, causing the dust created in these operations to descend with the ventilation, when the wind blows from particular quarters, and spread itself along the intake air roads. The present elaborate screening plants have seriously increased this evil. It should not be a difficult matter, if energetically taken in hand, to prevent this poisoning of the ventilation. If the dust made at the surface in this way cannot be kept within bounds by watering, then there is little hope of its effective treatment underground.
It is now almost universally accepted that dry dusty main roads have been chiefly responsible for the large sweeping explosions which have occurred from time to time in collieries both in this and other countries, and that view was recognised when the Explosives in Mines Orders were introduced.
Timbering.—The effective support of the roof and sides of the workings and roads is largely a question of how much timber is supplied and used and, as I have remarked on an earlier page of this Report, the working places of the miners now regulated by the new rules requiring systematic prop setting, appear to be safer than the main roads in many collieries. The loss of life from falls of ground is almost appalling, but perhaps when we consider the amount of mineral which is extracted each year it is inevitable. Inspectors and officials alike have the subject constantly before them but with little avail.
I think the standard of safety which officials have in their minds is too low, and the same may be said of the miners ; all are content to work under conditions which to say the least really involve considerable risk, an attempt is made to secure themselves against visible dangers, but beyond that they do not care to go although experience day by day proves by the numerous accidents that "slips ” and breaks entirely out of sight ought to be guarded against, and this brings us back to “systematic timbering.”
Cannot the men's representatives and the workmen inspectors under General Rule 38, Coal Mines Regulation Act, help us to find a way to reduce the loss of life by “falls ” ? Surely they are the very men who having worked for years as miners themselves ought to be able to tell us how to solve this problem.
Rescue Stations.- Much interest is being manifested in rescue work, and a Station is being established at a considerable outlay by a section of the Lancashire Coal Owners. It is intended to train a number of men from the surrounding collieries at this centre and keep them in practice by frequent lessons. There will also always be a corps specially identified with the station ready to be called on any emergency arising.
The maintenance will be rather costly as the apparatus requires great care to keep it in proper order and ready for use, but this expense is not likely to deter the gentlemen who have the matter in hand.
Examination for Certificates.-Thirteen candidates sat for first-class certificates and three were successful ; thirty-nine sat for second-class certificates and twenty one were successful.
The originals of the photographs appearing in the Report were taken by Mr. Williams, Assistant Inspector.
Legislation.—A Notice of Accidents Act has been passed and a new Explosives in Mines Order promulgated during the year. Mine and quarry owners are now required to report certain dangerous occurrences whether any personal injury results or not, such as overwinding, breakage of winding ropes, underground fires, ignitions of fire-damp or coal dust, inrush of water ; and the statutory requirement as to reporting cases of " serious personal injury” has now been made more definite. An official form has been prescribed by the Secretary of State which has to be used in every case of reporting accident or dangerous occurrence. For the information of owners I insert a copy of the official form.
Form No. 13.
Not to be reprinted without the consent of the Controller of
H.M. Stationery Office,
FORM OF NOTICE OF ACCIDENT OR DANGEROUS OCCURRENCE
PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
A Notice in the Form below must be sent forthwith to the Inspector of Mines for the District: when an accident occurs to any person employed in or about a Mine or Quarry, or to any person employed by or on behalf of the owner of the Mine or Quarry in or about any line or siding which is, used in connection with the Mine or Quarry, and is not part of a railway used for the purposes of public traffic, in the following cases :
(1) Any Accident causing loss of life;
(2) Any Accident causing fracture of the head or of any limb, or any dislocation of any limb
or any other serious personal injury ; (3) Any Accident caused by an explosion of gas or coal dust or any explosive, or by
electricity, or by overwinding. When the Accident occurs in Works connected with the Mine or Quarry, which for the purposes of the Factory and Workshop Act are inspected by the Inspector of Mines, the Notice must be sent, not only in the above cases, but also in the case of every Accident (a) which is due to any machinery moved by mechanical power, or to molten metal, hot liquid, explosion, escape of gas or steam, or to electricity, and so disables the injured person as to cause him to be absent throughout at least one whole day from his ordinary work, or (0) which disables for more than seven days the injured person from working at his ordinary work. In such Works, in addition to the Notice to the Mines Inspector, a Notice must also be sent to the Certifying Surgeon of the district in the case of accidents under (a).
Notice is also required to be sent on this Form to the Inspector in any case (1) of ignition of gas or coal dust other than ignition of gas in a safety lamp ; (2) of underground fire ; (3) of breakage of a rope, chain or other gear by which men are raised or lowered ; (4) of overwinding while men are being raised or lowered, or (5) of inrush of water from old workings, whether personal injury or disablement is caused or not.
[When an accident occurs in any works under the inspection of the Factory Inspector, notice should be sent to the Factory Inspector in the Form prescribed under the Factory and Workshop Act. (Factory Form 43).]