Colliery Rescue Work
Breathing apparatus and its Employment
Practical Paper by Mr. W. Clifford
The Coal Mines Act, General Regulation 143, states that there shall be kept at every Central Rescue Station not less that 15 sets of breathing apparatus, with means of supplying sufficient oxygen or liquid air to enable such apparatus to be constantly used for two days and of charging such apparatus.
Twenty electric hand lamps, four oxygen reviving sets an ambulance box of the St. John, or similar type with antiseptic solution and fresh drinking water.
George Brock in the Lamp Room
At each colliery served by the voluntary system, there must be kept two small birds for testing carbon monoxide, two electric hand lamps for each brigade ready for immediate use and capable of giving light for at least four hours. One oxygen reviving set, a safety lamp for each member of the brigade for testing for firedamp and an ambulance box of the St. John or similar type, with anti septic solution and fresh drinking water.
Pete Barton (Dick), with canary. A full-time brigadesman from Chesterfield Rescue Station, 1980.
At each colliery served by the permanent brigade system there shall be kept: Two complete sets of breathing apparatus, or two smoke helmets, (that is, appliances for supplying fresh air to the users by mean of a pipe and bellows) or one each in an efficient state, and constantly ready for immediate use. Two, or more small birds for testing for carbon monoxide, one electric hand lamp and safety lamp for testing for firedamp, for each person trained and one oxygen reviving apparatus.
The Deadly Carbon Monoxide
In addition to being able to wear a breathing apparatus, and to carry out rescue operations underground, a rescue man should have a good knowledge of gases and gas poisoning, with first aid treatment for the same. It is not proposed in this paper to review the properties of such gases as firedamp, blackdamp etc. But doubtless a short account of the chief enemy of mining men, and particularly rescue men, carbon monoxide, would be of some interest for guarding against and treating the effects of this, gas forms part of the work of rescue brigades.
>Carbon monoxide is found after an explosion and it is often given off from fires, especially gob fires. It is the result of incomplete combustion, due to the fact that there is not enough oxygen in the atmosphere to combine thoroughly with the carbon of the exploding or burning material. If sufficient oxygen is present, the explosion or combustion is complete, and carbon dioxide, a comparatively harmless gas is the result. If however, there is insufficient oxygen, the carbon can only combine with an equal amount of oxygen instead of double the amount, and carbon monoxide is formed. Carbon monoxide is composed by weight of 56.59 per cent of oxygen, and 43.31 per cent of carbon. Its specific gravity is 0.975, air being 1 so that is very slightly lighter than air.
It is a colourless odourless gas, and will burn with a faint blue flame. If present in sufficient quantities, 5 per cent, to 9 percent, it explodes with great violence on contact with flame. A safety lamp is of no use whatever for testing for this gas, as although a cap similar to a firedamp cap may be detected, the percentage of gas which would produce a cap would have killed the observer long before he had drawn the wick of his lamp down. It is essential that the very slightest trace of carbon monoxide should be discovered and guarded against, so that the only safe way is to employ a small bird or animal such as a canary or mouse using a breathing apparatus at the same time.
To understand the reason for it, it is necessary to explain to some extent the action of the gas on the system. The blood contains certain cells corpuscles, whose function is to convey oxygen, taken from the air in the lungs, to every part of the body. These cells have a great affinity for oxygen, but unfortunately they have a far greater affinity for carbon monoxide, over 250 times. In fact if air containing the least percentage of carbon monoxide is breathed, the blood will pick up every particle of it, leaving the oxygen to be exhaled. Every blood cell, which comes into contact with carbon monoxide, is actually poisoned, and the poison is thus carried round to every part of the system. The system then suffers in two ways, first, by actual poisoning, and second by oxygen starvation, the body being deprived of the oxygen, which has been displaced by the carbon monoxide. In time, which varies according to the percentage of gas inhaled and to a certain extent to the amount of work being done, the body is rendered helpless, and death follows very quickly.