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Fire At Michael Colliery, Fife, 9th September, 1967 - Page 4

A Report By Eric Savage Of The Mines Rescue Service, Cowdenbeath
9 Died in This Tragedy

The Inquiry

The inquiry into the disaster was conducted by H.S. Stephenson, B.Sc., C. Eng., M.I.Min.E., H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines and Quarries and D.G. Wilde, a Principle Scientific Officer in the Safety in Mines Research Establishment of the Ministry of Power described a series of experiments that were carried out at the Establishement’s  Buxton Station.

These experiments centred upon the behaviour of polyurethane foam when it was burnt. The hazards on the foam came to light. There was little doubt from the experimentally generated fire, that a P.V.C. belt within range of the fire would be consumed by it and it was found that the P.V.C. belting and the foam produced thick black smoke and poisonous gasses.

As to the cause of the fire, there was no evidence produced at the inquiry to show that it was from spontaneous heating and it was conjectural how sufficient air got behind the lining to sustain a heating. It was difficult to be more precise than to say that the heating occurred in the roof coal somewhere in the Loader Mine that was lined with polyurethane.

The Inspector recommended that:-
1) (a). polyurethane foam as at present constituted, whether or not treated with fire-retardant coating, should not be used underground at any mine, or at the surface of any mine in such a situation that the products of it’s combustion would be likely to enter the mine.
(b). any foam which has been placed in moving ground or in a situation where there is a spontaneous combustion hazard shall be removed immediately, or sealed off, or be given adequate fire-retardant coating and removed within 12 months.
(c). any foam which has been placed in a situation other that in (b) above shall be given an adequate fire-retardant coating and be removed as soon as practicable or sealed off.
2) The National Coal Board should review the present procedures for implementation of the Emergency Organisation (including charts posted in offices) and give specific instructions to managers that the senior official at the mine available at the time of an incident should be authorised, without prejudice, to call on the Rescue Station services and to declare an Area emergency.
3) The Board and H.M. Inspectors should examine the possibility of improving the checking systems.
4) The methods of signposting all means of egress should be examined and a standard method instituted.
5) Overmen and deputies shall at least once every month inspect and report on the state of every means of egress from the parts of the mine assigned to them.
The recommendations were submitted to all interested parties in February 1968.

In the report Mr. Stevenson commented:-
“I can not conclude this necessarily brief account of the escape of the men from the mine without referring to their general behaviour. That the evacuation was completed in extremely difficult conditions in such a commendably short time in itself a tribute to the very high standard of self discipline exercised by all. Under-officials displayed their concern for the safety of the men in their charge and the men an equal concern for the welfare of their workmates. That there was at times some confusion, is in the circumstances which obtained, quite remarkable. That there was at no time the slightest degree of panic is remarkable. Had there been, the death role in this incident would have undoubtedly have been much higher.”

To my knowledge the mine was never reopened.

The Michael’s Pithead Gear was demolished in the 1990s

The Michael Colliery Memorial
which tells it's own tragic tale of miners who lost their lives in the pit disaster of 1967

From Ziggy & Anne's Postcards From Home

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