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For Belgium, which is troubled with fire damp to a greater extent than any other coal-producing country, the figures are not so good as those just given for France; but even in Belgium better results have been obtained for the three years 1904-1906 than in the United States, as will be seen from the following table:
Number of men killed in the coal mines of Belgium for each million tons of coal produced.
Prussia shows less favorable results than the United States in regard to lives lost per million tons of coal, yet during the past ten years there has been an almost steady decrease in the number killed per million tons mined, and the number of lives lost per 1,000 men employed has also decreased from 2.54 to 1.80, showing that the high death rate based on amount of coal produced is largely due to the natural conditions existing in the ccal mines of that country.
By comparing these statements with the figures given for the United States in Table 129, page 209, it will be seen that the loss of life per million tons of coal mined is higher in the United States than in any European country except Prussia. In all the foreign countries mentioned, Prussia included, the decrease in the death rate has been much more rapid than in the United States.
Natural conditions are more favorable here than elsewhere for the mining of coal with a minimum of danger to the workmen employed. The mines of the United States are, in general, not so old as those of Great Britain and Europe; the veins of coal are thicker and the operations nearer the surface of the ground. Gaseous mines are not more prevalent here than abroad, while the abundance and relative cheapness in this country of timber for use in propping should be a factor working for comparatively greater safety.a
The high death rate reported for the coal mines of the United States is of importance in connection with a study of immigration, because of the fact, elsewhere established, that persons of foreign birth are now very extensively employed in mining. The question naturally arises whether the presence of the immigrant mine workers is in any material degree responsible for the large and increasing number of accidents and fatalities.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EMPLOYEES FOR ACCIDENTS.
The following statements are made in the report of the Pennsylvania department of mines for 1907:
Of the many lives lost by falls of coal and other causes at least one-half could have been saved if the victims and their fellow workmen had observed greater care in their work.
The number of fatal accidents in 1907 was 806.
Bulletin 333 of United States Geological Survey, 1907. "Coal-mine Accidents: Their Causes and Prevention," pp. 11-12.
Chap. II, p. 21.
A careful examination of the reports shows that 332 accidents, or 41.19 per cent, were due to the carelessness of the victims; 291, or 36.10 per cent, to the carelessness of others; 159, or 19.73 per cent, to unavoidable causes; and 24, or 2.98 per cent, to causes undetermined. The 623, or 77.25 per cent, caused by carelessness include the 273 fatalities of the Naomi and Darr mines, which were caused by the carelessness of other persons. Omitting Naomi and Darr fatalities, the remaining 533 are distributed as follows: Carelessness of victims, 332, or 62.29 per cent; carelessness of others, 18, or 3.38 per cent; unavoidable, 159, or 29.83 per cent; and 24, or 4.50 per cent, not determined. At least two-thirds of these accidents could have been prevented by the exercise of proper care on the part of the workmen and officials in direct charge of the mines.
The following is from the report of the Pennsylvania department of mines for the year 1903:
Ordinary precautions on the part of the victims would have prevented probably 50 per cent of the accidents by falls and by cars and machinery.
Similar statements are frequently met with in the official reports of the different mining States. Figures for the country as a whole are not to be had, but it seems to be the opinion of those best informed upon the subject that a high percentage of all the accidents occurring in mines are due to the negligence or incompetency of the miners themselves.
INEXPERIENCE AS A CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS.
It is everywhere admitted that the percentage of fatalities is much higher among inexperienced than among experienced miners. Data upon this subject, collected by the department of mines of the State of West Virginia, are presented in the table on the page following.
TABLE 132.- Terms of experience of persons killed and injured at the West Virginia coal mines, 1901 to 1908. [From Annual Report, Department of Mines, West Virginia, 1908.]
The figures are for the years 1901 to 1908, inclusive. It will be seen that out of 4,684 men killed or injured during the period, 508 were known to have been employed in the mines three months or less. One thousand eight hundred and eighteen casualties, or 38.8 per cent of the total, were among men with from a few weeks' to two years' experience in the industry.
Data for States other than West Virginia are not available, but the situation in other coal-producing areas is about the same. The reason for this is obvious. Mining is to a considerable extent a technical occupation. If a miner is to work in even comparative safety he must not only be able to handle pick and shovel, but must understand the placing of props and the use of explosives, and must know something of coal and roof formations and of the dangers of coal dust and fire damp. Ignorance relative to any of these matters may lead to serious injury or death. It is only by several years of practical experience that a mine worker gains the knowledge that qualifies him as a skilled miner.
The importance of this fact is generally recognized by mining experts and inspectors. The mining laws of the State of Illinois provide that only those men shall be employed as miners who have certificates of competency issued by one of the several examining boards appointed under the authority of the State. To be entitled to a certificate a man must be able to answer questions concerning mining asked by the members of the board by which he is examined, and must present evidence of having had at least two years of practical experience as a miner or with a miner."
RACIAL COMPOSITION OF THE OPERATING FORCES OF BITUMINOUS
It having been seen that the responsibility for many of the accidents in the mines rests with the employees themselves, and the connection between fatalities and inexperience having been noted, it becomes evident that the composition of the working force and the characteristics of the workmen are matters of the very first importance.
The statement has already been made that a large proportion of the employees are of foreign birth. Figures showing the race and nativity of all the coal-mine employees of the country are not available. The ground has never been completely covered. It is possible, however, to determine the composition of the working force in a representative way by means of statistics from several sources.
Original data collected from individual mine workers supply material relative to between 20 and 25 per cent of the employees in the bituminous coal mines of the United States. As information has been secured from all the important mining districts, it is believed that the figures are representative of conditions for the entire industry. These figures are given for the entire bituminous coal fields. covered in the table next presented.
a Illinois Revised Statutes, 1909; Hurd, chap. 93, secs. 53–60, inclusive.
b Data upon this subject have been presented and discussed at length in Chap. II, pp. 21-24.
TABLE 133.-Male employees for whom information was secured, by general nativity and
It will be seen that 61.9 per cent of the individuals included in this table are of foreign birth.
The numbers and percentages of the native-born and foreign-born and of the different foreign races are shown for each bituminous mining area in the following table:
TABLE 134.-Race of male employees for whom information was secured, by locality; per cent distribution.