HC Deb 14 October 1941 vol 374 cc1237-9
60. Mr. T. Smith

asked the Secretary for Mines what special steps he proposes to take to deal with accidents underground, particularly at the coal face?

Mr. Grenfell

As my hon. Friend knows, the number of fatal accidents from falls at the coal face has caused much concern, and I am taking action to give effect to the proposals which I outlined in an answer recently given to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). Eight experienced inspectors, who will hold senior rank, and an additional inspector at headquarters, have been selected and will be at work within a few weeks. They will devote their whole time to the particular problem, under the general guidance, respectively, of the eight divisional inspectors and the Chief Inspector of Mines. The consequent vacancies in the inspectorate will be filled as speedily as possible. Associated with these inspectors in each division will be an informal committee or committees of influential representatives of the different sections of the industry chiefly concerned, namely, the owners, the managers, the deputies and the workmen. The progress to be made along these lines depends very largely on the measure in which the co-operation I am seeking in those quarters is forthcoming; and I am confident of a full and effective response.

Mr. Smith

Will the Minister take the fullest care to have a report made on the work done by these special arrangements? Will he also get out a separate classification for fatal and serious accidents for hand-getting as compared with machine-getting? We may be able to draw some remarkable conclusions from the comparisons.

Mr. Grenfell

I shall ask them to go very closely into the comparison between the risk of accidents in the shield-getting as compared with the hand-getting faces.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister also pay particular attention to the inspectors to see that they have some engineering knowledge which will be useful to them, now that mechanisation has gone so far in many mines? Is not mechanisation one of the reasons for so many accidents?

Mr. Grenfell

I am asking that men of special qualifications shall be appointed for this job, and I hope that these good men will be able to give their full time to the investigation.

Mr. Lawson

Will attention be given to the various kinds of support that are being used at the faces, and to such questions as the class of timber—whether it is as hard as it might be—and whether the position is affected in any way by the increasing use of steel supports?

Mr. Grenfell

All these are highly relevant questions, and I have given very close attention to the whole of this problem. I may say that I have not been able to satisfy myself that any considerable part of the increase in accidents is due to the immaturity of the. timber. Even in places fully supported by steel supports the accident rate has gone up. All these factors will be borne in mind, with other considerations.

61. Mr. T. Smith

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of fatal and serious accidents during this year and the various causes of the accidents?

Mr. Grenfell

During the first 40 weeks of this year, that is, up to 4th October, 712 persons were killed and 2,208 seriously injured in accidents at mines under the Coal Mines Act as compared with 719 killed and 2,475 seriously injured during the corresponding period in 1940. The chief classes of fatal accident this year are 381 from falls of ground, 144 on haulages, 65 from explosions and 67 on the surface. I am circulating the rest of the particulars in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the details:

Number of persons killed and seriously injured by accidents at mines under the Coal Mines Act, in the 40 weeks ended 4th October, 1941.

Place or Cause. Number of persons killed. Number of persons seriously injured.
Falls of Ground—
(a) At the Face 329 936
(b) On the Roads 52 110
Haulage and Transport 144 538
Gases, Coal Dust and Fires—
(a) Explosions 65 73
(b) Others 10 5
Machinery 3 42
Other Underground Accidents 42 268
Surface 67 236
Total 712 2,208
Injuries which, because of their nature or severity are, under the terms of Section 80 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, required to be reported to His Majesty's divisional inspectors at the time of their occurrence.