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1990 2000 2010 2015


Robert Bradley
Retired Surveyor

- My History Of Mining -

A List Of Possible Accidents And Ailments Throughout The Life Of The Industry

Unfortunately while working underground many men and boys have been killed or badly injured by:-

  • Explosions of firedamp or coal dust
  • Burns from igniting methane gas
  • Died from lack of oxygen through blackdamp
  • Overcome by afterdamp from fires or explosions
  • Drowned through inrushes of water
  • Falling down a shaft; or other shaft incidents particularly whilst sinking
  • Been badly injured or killed in haulage work
  • Kicked or trampled by a pony
  • Trapped or run over or crushed by tubs, or locos by working looking away, instead of towards the direction of travel of vehicles
  • Hands smashed whilst lockering wheels
  • Head crushed whilst dogging on tubs
  • Crushed or loss of fingers
  • Injuries whilst illegally riding in a tub or on a jotty
  • Suffered strain, mainly back pain lifting tubs back on the rails
  • Many others have been injured with broken bones loading or unloading equipment
  • Broken or severely injured legs when caught by falling coal or roof
  • Slipping whilst riding the rope; or draw bar on a tub
  • Trapped fingers or worse riding a face panzer or belt
  • Dragged into machinery by loose clothing
  • Scalds or suffered burns from boilers
  • Died prematurely through septic wounds
  • Knocking gob props out with a big hammer instead of using a sylvester
  • A broken or damaged spinal cord resulting in paraplegia when coals or roof dirt fell at the face; or whilst recovering timber from the waste; these leading to a life in a wheelchair
  • Using tools such as sylvesters and tirfors or pull lifts improperly by not anchoring them securely
  • Being staked by a prop or bar when trying to lift it off a moving conveyor
  • Electrical burns or shock
  • Trapped or knocked hands and fingers or ‘black’ nails whilst using a hammer or shovel
  • Cuts in the skin leaving ‘blue marks’ or ‘miner’s tattoos’ from coal dust
  • Beat knee, beat hand or beat elbow; or bursitis in the knees, due to kneeling for long periods
  • Falls of ground or coal
  • Arthritis with twisted hands
  • Raw hands and blisters and calluses from constant use of shovels
  • Injuries from crushed foot when not using steel toe capped boots
  • Neck pain from balancing a bar whilst setting props under it
  • Suffered from splinters from the wooden props
  • Grazed skin whilst chopping out the undercut in claustrophobic conditions
  • Bad back syndrome or curvature of the spine through stooping in low places
  • Backache, neck ache and arthritis were a higher level than in other industries. For example damaging the discs in the upper spine (Cervical Spondylosis)
  • Possible injury from flying pieces of coal from shotfiring by being inside the prescribed distance laid down
  • Struck by a piece of coal or stone when standing at the front and too close to a conveyor transfer point  
  • Standing under a set of pull lifts with an unsteady load
  • Slipping or stumbling on uneven ground or slipping on steps or ladders
  • Whip lash or twisted neck injury from striking a low roof girder or roof support
  • Dust or fumes in the eyes
  • Vibration white finger due to long periods using drilling machines etc
  • Deafness from the compressed air drilling
  • Breaks due to rope or chain lash
  • Chains or ropes lifting when stepping over them
  • Hit by a prop flying out due it not being set properly in the first place, such as not set tight to the roof or set on loose material on the floor
  • Head injuries due to not wearing a 'hard hat'
  • Nystagmus due to working in the dark
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Suffered a lingering painful death from chest diseases such as pneumoconiosis (‘black lung’); silicosis (rock dust mainly in South Wales); or emphysema; or bronchitis; or asthma; or cystic fibrosis; and scarring of lung tissue; continual irritating cough; and soreness and dryness to the throat; liable to inflammation; giving a rasping voice; continual cough; or aggravation from shotfiring fumes due to working for years underground in dangerous, dusty conditions
  • Sciatica; or suffered from rheumatics; or lumbago by being in low, dirty, wet or damp or hot humid working areas
  • Colds or chills from working in hot and cold conditions by continually passing from return air to intake air and back on haulage work
  • Suffered from heat exhaustion whilst working at great depth
  • Skin diseases such as industrial dermatitis, from working in oil
  • Burns from chemicals
  • Stress; or deafness due to working in close proximity to noisy machinery
  • Caught in the tension end of a moving conveyor belt whilst cleaning out dust
  • Ended up with a stoop or bandy legged through continually travelling low roadways
  • Some men have died underground through sheer exhaustion
  • Using diesel locomotives or free steered vehicles underground leads to exhaust gases giving off a deadly cocktail of substances including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, unburnt fuel, aldehydes, aroline, and soot containing polycyclic aromatics - these can cause or contribute to heart disease, bronchitis, asthma, and lung cancer. In addition the fumes can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sore throats and other symptoms such as permanent coughs and phlegm and these are all extra to breathing the normal respirable mine dust in the air.
  • Silica dust can be inhaled (leading to silicosis) when boring up into rock strata to insert roof bolts that are used as an alternative to steel arches or girders for roof supports in roadways.

The list is endless, but also includes body damage when leaping from an illegal ride on a conveyor; or eye damage through dust or fly ash; many accidents would come under the category of stumbling and falling; also knocks to the head, face, nose, neck, shoulder, back, body, elbow, wrist, hand, legs, ankles, feet, knees; or trapped fingers in an air-lock door;…..  splashes of emulsion oil from a burst chock hose; burns from a hot motor; skin problems due to working in water or oil or when using chemicals; trapped in tight places or crushed by falling coals or dirt; falling down the sump whilst onsetting.

Then of course there are the unexpected accidents !!!!!  Runaway tubs underground; roof falls caused by deteriorating supports or roof bolts; sudden outbursts of gas or water, oil  etc, (hydro-carbons); or exploding pumps; or ropes breaking; or ropes unwinding and snagging. Overwinds or trip outs with the winding engines.

Sadly there are many instances of men actually jumping down shafts to commit suicide and at least three examples where men have hung themselves. Others have committed suicide at home due to stress at work or lack of money when on strike.

Stress had become a major issue when men who were working earning good money, were suddenly made redundant, when a pit was downsized or the pit was closed prematurely. Lack of jobs in the immediate area where they lived was a major issue.

Working on the pit top was not all it seems

  • Open to the elements with varying temperatures, one day hot and sunny another day dull and windy; and subjected to colds
  • Stumbling and falling over material
  • Slipping and sliding in the pit yard following frosts, rain or snow; strains from shifting snow and ice by shovel; or freeing frozen points
  • Getting kicked by a frisky pony
  • Strains from loading tubs or trams of material
  • Splinters in the saw mill
  • Fingers cut off in the saw mill
  • Accidents with various tools in the Joiners shop or electric shop or mechanics shop or tub thumper
  • Unloading or loading wooden props; loading or unloading steel sheets; loading or unloading arches or girders; or by loading material onto trams; lifting and loading pipes
  • Trapped by tubs or railway wagons during shunting operations
  • Scalding, burning or fly ash in the boiler house
  • Exploding boiler; sparks or ash and smoke from a brazier
  • Dust below the screens; dust from tubs at a tippler machine flying into one’s eyes
  • Cut hands sorting the dirt from the coal on the screens
  • Iindustrial deafness working on a jig or screens sorting coal in the coal preparation plant or washery; hammering in the blacksmith’s shop
  • Showers of sparks when welding
  • Contact with chemicals in a water softening plant
  • Ttractor or crane falling over on a tip
  • Slurry pond bank bursting; or falling into a slurry pond; or a slack or coal bunker
  • Trapped by a gantry collapsing
  • Hit by coal or stone falling from an overhead conveyor on the coal prep
  • Crushed by runaway wagons on the sidings
  • Hurt when vehicles or locos crashing into one another
  • Run down by tip dumper trucks; etc, etc, etc, and in the old days overbalancing whilst decking tubs
  • Trapped by the cage; or falling down the shaft
  • Overcome by fumes from a burning pit tip; or falling into the burning mass. 

None of these factors were ever taken into account prior to the Coal Mines Act of 1842 and the subsequent Acts and Rules and Regulations since, and many were ignored afterwards.

Looking at the list it is a wonder anyone worked in the industry

 – but of course they were all ‘unknown’ or ‘ignored factors’ when first signing on for a job. However it must be realised that many accidents or injuries were caused by not following rules and regulations laid down and common sense, such as illegally riding face panzer chains or non-manriding conveyors or illegally riding on tub clips or ropes etc. Many men began to ‘holiday’ in the working week, called absenteeism, but no account was made as to why. Only a warning of the sack was given for constant offenders. Maybe the conditions at work were not to their liking or for psychiatric reasons but due to circumstances found the easy way out albeit that they lost money. In the past they lived in a tied house with their family and no job, no house so they attended work for the odd shift to alleviate that position.