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Mine Safety Reports

 

 

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up 1936

SHALE MINES SAFER - INCREASE IN FATALITIES IN SCOTS COAL PITS - BAD PACKING MENTIONED

An unexpected increase in fatalities in Scottish coal mines during 1935 is revealed by Mr E. H. Frazer in his report as H.M. Inspector of Mines for the Scotland Division. Mr Frazer says that, as regards accidents from falls of ground, Scotland's shale mines were three and a half times as safe as her coal mines. Most of the accidents were due to "falls," and it is suggested that bad packing was the cause of the increase. There were, during last year:—

364 mines at work in Scotland.

86,759 miners employed.

1,630 clerks &c., employed

31,346,952 tons of coal mined.

2,388,476 tons of other minerals mined.

129 persons killed.

497 persons injured.

The total output of coal was slightly greater than in 1934, when the output was 31,332,648 tons, and there were increases of 10 deaths and 12 injuries.

The percentage of the total output of coal handled by conveyors was 52.

Falls of ground accounted for 63 and haulage for 26 of the deaths, and 17 occurred in surface accidents.

Fifty-six per cent. of the fatal and 60 per cent. of the non-fatal accidents were considered to have been avoidable, while, of the haulage accidents, all the fatal and 85 per cent. of the non-fatal were considered to have been avoidable by the use of commonsense or by more careful examination. Mr Frazer furnishes diagrams showing that the accident rate from falls of ground has increased consistently over the last 11 years, and that the increase is entirely accounted for by falls of roof and side at the face. He discusses at some length the reasons for this increase, and suggests that it may be due to bad packing, Diagrams are given illustrating new ideas in roof supports.

WORST RATE FOR LAST EIGHT YEARS

It may be recalled, says the report, that 1934 was a bad year for accidents, having four more deaths and 98 more reportable incidents than in 1933. There should have been a reduction in 1935, but the figures were unsatisfactory, particularly in regard to the two principal classes of accidents "falls" and "haulage." Sixty-three persons were killed and 187 seriously injured by falls of ground, compared with 50 and 180 respectively in 1934. There were 22 more reportable accidents. The year was more prolific in accidents from "falls" than any year since 1927, and the accident rate was, whether calculated on persons employed, tonnage, or man-shifts, the worst for the last eight years. The most serious accident of the year happened at Carriden Colliery, West Lothian, on a Sunday evening in October, when an explosion during coal-cutting operations occasioned the deaths of three men and serious burning injuries to three others. Two machinemen were turning the coal-cutter, when about a ton of coal fell from the face upon the machine. Probably a sharp edge of coal struck the trailing cable where it was tight and unyielding upon the pulley, and crushed the wire earth screens into contact with a live core, thus causing a burst cable. The ensuing flash lighted an explosive mixture and caused an explosion which spread 90 feet down the conveyor run and 30 feet out by along the top road.

CARELESSNESS CAUSES EXPLOSIONS

Twenty explosions, most of which were caused by naked lights, occurred during the year. They resulted in five deaths and 27 reportable injuries, and the report states that all but one of these accidents would have been prevented by strict compliance with the provisions of the Explosives in Coal Mines Order. It is surprising, is the comment, that year after year such large numbers of mishaps due to carelessness, callousness of danger, and disregard of the law should occur without steps being taken by managers generally to effect a drastic reduction. The report points out that nearly 64 per cent. of all portable lamps used in mines in the Scotland Division are electric cap-lamps, which give the best illumination for working purposes of any kinds of approved lamps. It is pointed out, however, that although the 1934 lighting regulations gave increased facilities, in suitable cases, for the use of "mains" lighting in the vicinity of coal faces, little advantage has been taken of these facilities, despite the allegations formerly made that the regulation previousl in force stifled initiative and progress.

PRAISE FOR SHALE MINERS

There were only three accidents, one fatal and two non-fatal, in shale mine for an output of nearly one and a half million tons of mineral. As regards accidents from falls of ground, these mines were three and a half times as safe as coal mines, which, considering the height of shale mine workings and the difficulties involved in making efficient inspections of roof, is a matter reflecting great credit upon the workmen and officials of these mines. Generally speaking, the ventilation of Scottish mines is said to be adequate, though there are perhaps half a dozen collieries which give the officials some anxiety and a score or so in which particular parts do not receive all the attention they should, probably owing to the fact that inflammable gas is so rarely seen in them. The result is that when firedamp occurs, it catches officials and workmen napping and another ignition has to be added to the already long list. The Scotland Division is not behindhand in the use of steel props. Some 92,370 were in use in coal mines at the end of 1935, about 2½ per man employed at the coal face, which is a good figure, considering the large number of thin seams, where the height does not encourage the use of steel props on the grounds of safety, convenience or economy. Steel arches supported 482 miles of roadways—an increase of 55 miles during the year.

SAFETY DEVICES

In dealing with the use of explosives, the superiority of sand-clay stemming over clay stemming is stressed, and Mr Frazer carefully describes the procedures for making sand-clay stemming in correct constituents, and observes that arrangements for the supply of sand-clay stemming to a fixed specification have been made by an Ayrshire firm. He also draws attention to a smokeless fuse, and to a mist projector intended to reduce the fumes and mist from shot-firing. Among the other safety topics discussed are included water problems in Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire, the use of protective equipment and first-aid work and rescue organisation, in which connection Mr Frazer records the opening of two orthopædic centres in Lanarkshire for the treatment of mine-workers. Five boys (i.e., under 16) were killed and 20 injured, and four youths (i.e., 16 or 17) were killed and 30 injured, by reportable accidents in, and on the surface of mines, in 1935: a worse result than in 1934 when four boys and four youths were killed and 19 boys and 21 youths were injured in reportable accidents. Much has been written regarding the impetuosity and inexperience of boys which, of course, are characteristics of youth and cannot entirely be altered, but it has been found that accidents due to young persons are not always due to these characteristics and that they are occasionally exposed to unnecessary risks. It is sincerely to be hoped that officials and workmen who have charge of boys at mines will do their utmost to ensure that no accidents, avoidable by human care and foresight, can happen to those who, by reason of their tender age, are not fully competent to ensure their own safety.

HORSES IN MINES

Since 1912–the year when statistics regarding horses began to be collected under the Coal Mines Act, 1911–the number of horses working underground in the Scotland Division has decreased from 5304 to 886. An enquiry was made into the accident rate, which has tended to grow during late years. The increase was attributed to the fact that, as horses died or were taken out of the mines, they were not replaced by younger one, and so the average age of horses used became greater.

The Scotsman, 10th July 1936

 

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