Mining: Mining and Safety

Table of Contents

Initially miners broke coal from the face using picks and wedges and then loaded it by hand onto coal cards.  Undercutting, drilling and explosives-including gunpowder and dynamite-were used to loosen the coal and increase productivity.

By 1927 the following equipment had been developed and started integration primarily into Northern mines: cutting machines, automatic loaders, continuous miners, conveyors, and numerous other devices.  As early as 1905 electrical and lighting was added to mining.

A Cutting and Loading machine cuts the coal and loads it in cars, one man operates the machine.  This machine nearly doubled the rate at which coal could be cut and loaded.

Safety Problems: workers could be “crushed, run over, squeezed between cars, or electrocuted on contact with bare trolley wires.”  New cutting machines produced tremendous amounts of coal dust key ingredient in explosions and black lung and electrical equipment including haulage equipment generated sparks. Mechanical fans were eventually added to prevent buildup of coal dust (also helping prevent explosions) and safety lamps and electricity were added.

Slogans to promote safety:
“Carelessness and Sorrow Travel Arm in Arm”
“Make Safety Part of Your Every Day Work”
“Through Co-operation All Things May Be Accomplished”
“A Careless Man is Dangerous Not Only to Himself but to His Fellow Workers”
“Loyalty and Skill Are Essential to Industrial Success”
“The Bravest Man is One That Never Swerves from the Path of Duty”
“Genius Counts for Less than Diligence and Perseverance”
These are primarily taken from WWI era but this sort of sloganing was still used prolifically in the 1960s and 1970s.

“For all their rhetoric, coal operators-bitterly opposed to unions and fearful of burdensome safety regulations-were responsible for standing in the way of meaningful safety reform.”

Companies focused on these two messages regarding accident and injury in the mines: carelessness causes injury and valuable company time.

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