Letter: Safety in the pits

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Sir: You report on some of the recommendations of the 'secret' Boyd report on British Coal (8 December). This report has very serious implications for the health and safety of British coal miners.

In the area of health and safety it recommends three actions: extending the working hours of coal miners (currently seven and a quarter to up to ten hours, on a seven-day per week work schedule), using rock bolting 'as the sole roof support, except where conditions absolutely prohibit', and reducing - or possibly eliminating completely - the role of the pit deputy, the 'safety officer' of the coal mine. Experiences from the First World War onwards show that increasing working hours, in such hard working environments as coal mines, just raises fatigue and accidents without necessarily increasing productivity. The use of roof bolts alone, as opposed to their use as an addition to traditional steel girders, has been condemned by the Chief Inspector of Mines. The last major investigation into UK coal mine health and safety, the 1938 Royal Commission, praised the pit deputies' crucial role in mine safety, as have working miners ever since.

Recent years have seen massive increases in UK coal mine productivity and in the last two we have seen large increases in the death and accident rates. The UK safety record was once the envy of the world. If the Boyd report is implemented, in addition to making thousands of coal miners redundant, we shall kill and maim more of those who are left.

Yours sincerely,


Senior Lecturer in Health

and Safety

Centre for Industrial and

Environmental Safety and Health

South Bank University

London, SE1