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Health and Safety. What Health and Safety?


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Sep 7, 2010
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Although the collieries were covered by the Mines and Quarries Act and their own electrical safety regulations, during the early 1960?s there seemed precious little other safety regulations that covered ones personal safety and well-being.

As an apprentice at Ogilvie Colliery I was given the following tasks which, in today?s H&S climate, would just not be allowed and, lets face it, one would have refused to do.

The last task of every Sunday afternoon was the change-over of the ventilation fans and this entailed blowing out the brush-gear of the motor, that had run all week, with a 70 p.s.i. blast bag after running it for a few minutes to ensured that no water remained in the blast!!!. This generated clouds of carbon and phosphor bronze dust which had to be avoided as best as one could, bearing in mind the complete absence of any face masks.

Each weekday morning I was provided with an ordinary sweeping brush and made my way to the screens where I had to brush off the very fine coal dust that had accumulated around each motor.

The motors could not be stopped and, once again, clouds of dust were created.

Another potentially dangerous activity was the maintenance of the signalling batteries which were housed in a room on top pit.

Each battery of a bank of about 100 comprised open topped glass containers of approximate dimensions 1ft x1 ft x 2ft high, each covered with a piece of window pane glass which was intended to condense any vapour generated and prevent any foreign body entering the tanks.

The room was poorly ventilated, the main ventilation being provided by the space left by the many broken panes of glass in the window frames and, upon entry, an acrid smell of sulphuric acid fumes caught ones eyes, throat and lungs.

It took approximately a half hour to check and record each battery?s specific gravity and top up the electrolyte with distilled water, after which the fresh air was most welcomed.

These tasks were undertaken as the norm and no protestations regarding the lack of breathing protection ever occurred.

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