Letter: Safety below ground

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The Independent Online
Sir: Eddy Hindmarsh's letter, written on behalf of the Coal Board (4 January), is deceptive. First, it correctly applauds the safety record of British Coal as the best in the world. This is clearly based on the effective system of management laid down by the Coal Mines Act 1911 and the Mines and Quarries Act 1954. But Mr Hindmarsh does not make it clear that over the last three years the Coal Board, together with the government and the Health and Safety Executive, has been pushing forward draft regulations which, in the opinion of experts, will seriously reduce the present standards.

Second, Mr Hindmarsh refers to the role of officials in enforcing regulations. He means the role of the deputy, which he and his associates are trying to abolish altogether. The deputy has a unique function in British industrial safety development. He is in sole charge of the groups of men at the coal face. He has many statutory duties for safety which only he can perform. The manager has to see that he does these duties, but cannot interfere with the deputy's discretion in doing them. This is seen as an interference with management control. In fact it is a vital factor in preventing excessive risks in the drive for production.

Third, Mr Hindmarsh fails to refer to the context at Point of Ayr. The background is of on-and- off closures, with men being encouraged to save the pit by increased production. In this situation it would not be surprising if management, deputies and miners saw the advantage of short cuts.

Yours faithfully,

P. McNESTRY

National Secretary

National Association of Colliery

Overmen, Deputies and

Shotfirers

Doncaster,

South Yorkshire

7 January

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