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Rescue Stations.-After the unfortunate accident at Lumphinnans Colliery by an underground fire, I wrote the managing director of the Company, and expressed the opinion that the time had come when something should be done to have rescue appliances for the County, and at a meeting subsequently of the Fife coal owners the matter was put before them, and a committee was appointed to make inquiry and report on the best type of apparatus, and, if so resolved, the most central position for a station. The committee asked me to assist them in their enquiries and deliberations, and I accompanied them to several places in England and saw various types of pneumatophors. After mature deliberation the committee came to the following conclusions :
1st. That a Central Station equipped with a certain number of sets (say twenty) of apparatus ready for use in case of emergency is necessary for Fife, and that it should be in telephonic communication with every colliery. The committee suggest that its position should be at Cowdenbeath as being the most central situation.
2nd.— That a certain number of sets of apparatus (say not less than five) should be kept ready at every colliery.
3rd. That at least twenty men in every colliery, including all the officials who know the mine, should be instructed in the construction and use of the apparatus.
4th.—That an intelligent man should have the care of the Central Station and be capable of instructing the men in the use of the apparatus and keeping the apparatus in order.
5th. That the apparatus designed by Mr. Garforth is the best suited for our mines, being lighter, smaller, and more flexible than any others inspected by the committee.
Perhaps in no other part of the district is there more need for pneumatophors than in Fife; two of the seams are known to be very liable to spontaneous combustion; and even when the fire has been built off, carbon-monoxide makes its appearance, and the apparatus would be of great use in case of accident by deadly gases or in building off an area where fire is known to exist. There is a tendency to claim too much for the apparatus, but it cannot be too strongly stated that it is not so much to save the lives of those who may be in an atmosphere of gases of a deadly nature, as such unfortunately will be beyond hope, but to protect the lives of the men who will form rescue parties, and enable a devastated mine by explosion or a fouled mine by combustion gases to be quickly
Fatal Accidents Inquiry.-This Act which came into force in 1895 was amended, and the Amending Act became law in August, 1906.
Under the principal Act the verdict by the jury had to state "when and where the accident, and the death or deaths took place, and the cause or causes of such death or deaths," and a few of the sheriffs took such a limited view of these provisions that any matter relating to the circumstances of the accident involving a breach of a rule or indicating blame was not permitted; this has now been remedied, and the power very much extended, and evidence can be submitted to prove fault or negligence, want of precautions, or defects in the system of working. The extension of the power enables all the facts relating to the accident being brought out, which was not possible hitherto.
Exemptions.-The following table shows the mines to which exemptions were granted during the year :
Electricity. This power is still increasing in the district, and is much in request for driving coal-cutting machines.
In connection with the two fatal accidents by shock where coal-cutting machines were in use, the question of proper earthing was raised: it is unfortunate that owners do not adopt some form of earthing for these motors, which will have the effect of reducing shock to a minimum, a third wire properly earthed would take up any leakage, and save shock to a considerable extent. In all mines where electricity is in use competent persons having a technical knowledge of electricity should be appointed, and such are necessary if the requirements of the electrical special rules are to be properly carried out.
Appliances for conveying coal underground.-At a few of the collieries the coal is conveyed along the face, where the longwall system of working is in operation, to the road, where it ultimately falls into the tubs.
The Blackett machine has been in use for some time and recently an improved conveyor has been in operation at Bowhill Colliery, Fife. Its principal features are a light frame made in sections, which can be easily handled, in which a belt fixed to a chain moves towards the discharge end of the run, on this belt the coal is placed and conveyed to the roadway and filled into the tubs: the machine has given satisfaction and appears well suited for the seam in which it works.
Hitherto the machines have been used in seams of moderate thickness, but a machine having for its object the conveying of the coal and discharging it at the terminus of the run, similar to the others, has been invented and is now at work in a colliery in Stirlingshire in a seam 20 inches thick, and a total height of working of 24 inches with a bad roof. It is called a "Transporting carriage" and consists of parts running on broad wheels.
An endless rope runs from the engine, supplying the motive power, at the terminus, to a wheel at the top of run, and the carriage is hauled by this means to the place where coal has to be filled, and when loaded is hauled back and on arriving at the the terminus the hauling ceases, and by means of a simple device the rope works the belt, without stopping, and the coal is discharged into the tubs.
There is an increase of 76 persons employed, as compared with a year ago; underground 62, and surface 14; the County of Edinburgh contributed 57 of the increase.
There has been an increase of 293,837 tons over that of last year, this increase is almost wholly accounted for by the increase in limestone, which amounted to 287,088 tons: the County of Edinburgh accounts for 292,806 tons of the increase, almost wholly of limestone. A quantity of sandstone and oil shale were mined during the year.
During the year four accidents were reported, one being fatal. Of the non-fatal accidents one was caused by a stone falling off the side of a stoop, one by an explosion of shot, and one by bogies on the surface. The fatal accident occurred by a fall in a
limestone mine, where several accidents of a similar nature have taken place. The limestone is troubled with clay joints, and the stones come away from the partings with tragic suddenness in huge masses.
SUMMARY OF FATAL and NON-FATAL ACCIDENTS, classified according to PLACE
Mining operations were started at Hailes Quarry to obtain sandstone.
The limestone mines were busy during the year by reason of brisk trade at the ironworks, and the miners had constant work, causing a large increase in the output.
REPORT UNDER THE QUARRIES ACT, 1894,
The persons employed inside and outside the quarries shew a decrease of 519, as compared with 1905; with the exception of 25 the decrease is inside the quarries.
The persons employed occasionally, and which are not included in the Table numbered 641 in 20 counties; this was caused by many quarries having been stopped during the year at various times owing to bad trade.