Public Eye: documentary. Sample containing about 4349 words speech recorded in leisure context

11 speakers recorded by respondent number C395

PS39M Ag2 m (phil parry, age 30+, tv presenter) unspecified
PS39N X m (No name, age unknown) unspecified
PS39P X f (No name, age unknown, Miner's widow) unspecified
PS39R X m (No name, age unknown, mines rescue worker) unspecified
PS39S X m (No name, age unknown) unspecified
PS39T X m (Chris, age unknown, retired mines inspector) unspecified
PS39U X m (No name, age unknown) unspecified
PS39V X m (Len, age unknown, miner) unspecified
PS39W X m (No name, age unknown, mines inspector) unspecified
HMGPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
HMGPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 106601 recorded on 1993-10-29. LocationLondon: Bbc 2 ( Television broadcast ) Activity: Documentary Interview, narration

Undivided text

Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [1] [theme music] British pits are the safest in the world, but in the future could that record be under threat?
[2] Tonight on Public Eye evidence that vital monitoring equipment has been sabotaged by men who were under pressure to keep up productivity.
[3] In the fight to make our pits competitive, is the cost of coal the safety of miners?
[4] [theme music] [music] Bilsthorpe colliery, scene of the worst pit accident in Britain for more than a decade.
[5] Three men were crushed to death under seven thousand tonnes of rock.
[6] [music] David the under manager had died, a hero trying to warn his colleagues.
[7] He left a pregnant wife and shattered family.
(PS39N) [8] She's so young, she's twenty one, she's got a bairn on the way, eighth month, they had everything to live for, everything.
[9] Just snatched away, snatched away. [music]
(PS39P) [10] I was always worried when he went to work, but y you don't think your husband's going to go to work in the morning at five o'clock and never come home again. [music]
phil parry (PS39M) [11] In all six men had been trapped by the fall.
[12] Rescuers worked through tonnes of rock for more than twelve hours to free the miners.
[13] The conditions were appalling.
(PS39R) [14] As you went in to the head end where the roof bolts were still intact, it was hard to imagine that approximately forty six metre, fifty metre of gate had just come in one go.
[15] Erm, I've never seen anything like it in my life.
[16] I hope I never do again.
[17] If you can imagine your front room full of concrete, erm, one minute your sat there watching the telly, the next minute your front room's full of concrete, that is just what it was like.
[18] The the gate itself, the driveage was totally obliterated.
[19] There was nothing left.
phil parry (PS39M) [20] Like two other pits in Nottinghamshire, this driveage was cut skin to skin or immediately next to old workings.
[21] Roof bolts were the only support.
[22] [drilling noise] A special exemption certificate was issued to allow them.
[23] The mines inspectorate later cleared them of the cause, usually though they're used where there are thick coal walls or pillars.
[24] Skin to skin can be more cost efficient because the pillars themselves are extracted.
[25] [drilling noise] ... Normally the roof bolted sections would rest on coal pillars sometimes fifty metres wide.
[26] But here the health and safety executive had granted the exemption to allow roof bolts right next to the old working.
[27] For over four hundred metres there was nothing separating the new driveage from the caved in section apart from some wooden props.
[28] There was a huge movement of rock above the old coal face when the roof came in.
(PS39S) [29] A lot of the men are very suspicious about the roof bolting system, how easily the certificates have been given.
[30] Erm now the th H S C is saying that erm it shouldn't have gone skin to skin and they've stopped skin to skin in other headings.
[31] Maybe they should have had foresight and er this wouldn't have happened at Bilsthorpe.
phil parry (PS39M) [32] But they've cleared roof bolts as a cause.
(PS39S) [33] Well they've got to clear roof bolts.
[34] They are the way forward now for the British mining industry erm they've been coming in very steadily and now they are at virtually every pit in the country.
[35] Erm it is the only way, they've told us, we can get our cost down to compete with the world market.
phil parry (PS39M) [36] The mines inspectorate have admitted to Public Eye, the roof bolting method next to old workings underground made Bilsthorpe a different case from normal, but they stress the system was carefully examined before it was allowed.
[37] To some mining experts it's also a clear sign that exemptions are being given too easily.
[38] [music] One inspector, now retired, believes the Bilsthorpe exemption should never have been granted.
[39] Chris thinks roof bolts should only be allowed where the section's are supported by thick coal pillars.
Chris (PS39T) [40] The idea of a roadway supported on either side by a coal pillar and supported in the er in the beam of the roof er by er roof bolts making that beam stronger, so that the sides will support the beam, is a good one.
[41] And in the right circumstances er it need not be be criticized, but the circumstances have to be right for it.
[42] There has to be good coal pillar support on either side and there has to be a competent roof.
phil parry (PS39M) [43] Those were not the circumstances at Bilsthorpe, but the mines inspectorate insist they were right to allow the roof bolting in the tunnel, or narrow driveage that's despite the fact that on one side instead of a good coal pillar, only wooden props supported the roof.
[44] Narrow driveage doesn't necessarily mean then that there are coal pillars either side.
(PS39U) [45] Narrow driveage means what it says, a narrow driveage
phil parry (PS39M) [46] Does it mean that [...]
(PS39U) [47] It means it's not wide.
phil parry (PS39M) [48] Does it mean that there would ordinarily be coal pillars either side.
(PS39U) [49] No it means that it isn't a wide driveage it means it's a narrow one.
[50] In most cases it would have pillars either side.
phil parry (PS39M) [51] Coal pillars?
(PS39U) [52] Yes.
phil parry (PS39M) [53] But not in this case at Bilsthorpe.
[54] Does that not return then to our point that exemptions are being granted more freely?
(PS39U) [55] Well they are not being granted more freely,th [laugh] when a an an exemption is granted, the inspector, the inspector, who grants the exemption has got to say that he is satisfied that the health and safety of the workforce will not be jeopardized.
[56] Nobody, I will suggest to you Mr Parry, nobody will say that unless he is convinced that er what he is doing is correct, nobody.
phil parry (PS39M) [57] For miners today the productivity push has changed the face of the industry.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [58] If one pit had a bad patch another pit would cover it,th them days have gone now it's er one pit against another.
[59] [mine noise] They want production now.
[60] The more production the better it is for them and better to sell the pits off.
[61] [mine noise] At the end of the day it's money.
[62] It's production and money.
[63] Safety is coming second. [mine noise]
phil parry (PS39M) [64] British coal deny that.
[65] They decline to be interviewed but in a statement to us said, this year, productivity has increased while the accident rate has fallen.
[66] Yet at Bilsthorpe, British coal's critics believe productivity pressure believe played a crucial part.
[67] But we can disclose another longer term threat to the health of miners, which is also blamed on the push for productivity.
[68] It's a threat which puts miners at greater risk of contracting crippling lung diseases.
[69] [hospital sounds] After forty years underground, Len is a tragic result of old style mining in conditions thick with coal dust.
Len (PS39V) [70] I'm short of breath, I ain't got no energy, listless, I can't walk twenty paces without a rest, so [...] .
[71] There's not much they can do, there's no there's no new chests in the hospital to give out, nor an extension to life, so all I can do is try and cope. [music]
phil parry (PS39M) [72] For Britain's three quarters of a million miners in the nineteen thirties and forties, dust was a massive problem.
[73] But by the sixties, after extensive research, the deadly disease was finally brought under control.
(PS39W) [74] This was achieved by using er dust measuring apparatus, that was safe down a mine, didn't cause explosions.
[75] And er that er was placed in a certain particular position in relation to the coal face, so that it was er a standard method of measuring the concentration of dust in the atmosphere where the men worked.
phil parry (PS39M) [76] So dust samplers have been instrumental in bringing pneumoconiosis under control.
(PS39W) [77] That's right and the understanding of what was necessary.
phil parry (PS39M) [78] These vital machines are used at coal faces and driveways.
[79] Dust is drawn in through vents and collected in filters.
[80] The filter is analyzed by the pit and regular check samples are analyzed at independent laboratories.
[81] If the samples are above certain limits, the district underground can be shut down.
[82] But we have evidence that these gravimetric machines have been sabotaged in some of Britain's pits, so they give false low readings.
[83] The Selby coal field is the jewel in the crown of British coal.
[84] Coming on stream through the eighties, they've achieved their target producing ten million tonnes of coal a year.
[85] [mine noise] There are five pits in the complex taking coal to a central depot.
[86] The Whitemoor pit was one of the first three mines in Britain to reach a production figure of one million tonnes per year.
[87] Gary has been a pit deputy at Whitemoor for four years.
[88] [car noise] Last summer on a routine check of his district, he noticed something wrong with one dust sampler.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [89] I grabbed hold of the gravimetric to turn it round to look for the the switch which is on other side.
[90] I noticed the filters were sm smeared and it's like a smear on the filter, so I had a close inspection, found that they were all actually clogged up with what appeared to be superglue.
phil parry (PS39M) [91] So, what was going through your mind when you found this sampler with glued up vents?
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [92] I I couldn't believe it really I w Who would do such a You know, why?
[93] And er I were mad as well because somebody was somebody were falsifying records and Well my lungs and my life and the mens life as well.
phil parry (PS39M) [94] Other samplers were found here where readings for correct working conditions were impossible to gauge.
[95] It was discovered they too had been sabotaged.
[96] This time by the insertion of a thick filter inside the machine itself.
(PS39W) [97] We had to remove the baffle plate and in there was a piece of gauze, that's the inside cloth, cut to size so it fit in nice.
[98] It wasn't until you actually turned the machine and and actually stared in to the slots that you could see the gauze.
[99] So if if nobody was looking for it or if they weren't used to the machines, examining the machines, they wouldn't know it was there.
phil parry (PS39M) [100] And what would be the effect of that gauze?
(PS39W) [101] That gauze would prevent I'd say ninety nine percent of any dust going through it.
phil parry (PS39M) [102] We've examined British coals own figures for dust sampling in Britain's mines.
[103] In driveages the routine samples taken by the pit are lower in every single case than the samples taken and checked by independent laboratories used by British coal.
[104] In the case of the Selby complex, the independent statistics are more than two and a half times higher.
[105] British coal in response said they've led the world in dust monitoring and any irregularities in samples are immediately investigated.
[106] We spoke to one miner who admitted tampering with samplers in another pit to Whitemoor.
[107] We've protected his identity because he fears the sack for speaking out.
phil parry (PS39M) [108] Any method is used that could stop dust getting in to them.
[109] Using small bits of foam or anything that would stop it getting in there.
[110] To my knowledge I know that it's happening in at least half a dozen mines.
[111] It's being done up and down the country as well as round our vicinity of mining.
[112] I've talked to other men who've fiddled samples, you have to go to course about laws, rules, regulations to do with dust and once lads got talking it comes out how it's happening. [music]
phil parry (PS39M) [113] For experts who've spent a career bringing pneumoconiosis under control, these revelations are deeply disturbing.
[114] It's a clear breech of regulations and reverses work done on health and safety underground.
(PS39N) [115] This of course is a very serious matter.
[116] Er if your safety in your mines, from the point of view of the miners health, is dependent upon keeping below a certain limit of dust exposure.
[117] If your not measuring the dust exposure levels correctly then er you're likely to expose the men to dangerous conditions.
phil parry (PS39M) [118] Miners know the pressure is on to increase the British Coal's competitiveness and save their jobs.
[119] But the sanctions imposed on a pit with high dust readings could be serious.
[120] The mine district could be shut down for three months.
phil parry (PS39M) [121] Basically we were told to do it, and if we didn't do it we'd got us money dropped.
[122] We had threats of being moved or we were sacked.
[123] If a driveage your main driveage is found to be above the legal limit after a series of checks, in theory it should be shut until it's sorted out.
[124] But it never is.
[125] I've never yet known a coal face or a driveway closed because of too much dust.
[126] Work is always just carried on with the dust samples fiddled.
[127] It's all down to pressure to keep production going and also if you do everyone perfectly rightly you run the risk of closing the mine, or putting six or seven hundred men on the dole.
(PS39U) [128] Unless I know about it there's nothing I can do about it is there? [...]
phil parry (PS39M) [129] Well now you know about it Mr , what do you intend to do ?
(PS39U) [130] Well, well when you tell me where it is I'll do something about it.
phil parry (PS39M) [131] What might you do?
(PS39U) [132] Well where is it?
phil parry (PS39M) [133] It's in Yorkshire.
[134] It's in the the Selby group.
(PS39U) [135] Right, I shall take it up with the area director in n in ne Yorkshire as we would normally do.
[136] In fact I think this has actually been dealt with if I'm er
phil parry (PS39M) [137] It's it's been dealt with in Whitemoor, you know about that but also in another pit.
(PS39U) [138] Well we I would be more surprised that er er in fact I don't think I'm sure that it's not happening on a on a on a er wide basis.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [139] I think that's it's a liberty that shouldn't be taken that they're playing with miners health and their lives.
[140] And anything that's not on the up and up is, well I think it's detrimental to a mans life.
[141] Not only to his health but is to his life and I mean er cutting his life time short, my opinion. [violin music]
phil parry (PS39M) [142] Len 's mining area the Rhondda now has no pits, when once it gave work to a hundred thousand men.
[143] Throughout the industry now, the cut throat competition is keener than ever.
[144] With last weeks announcement that thirty one British pits are again facing closure.
[145] [mine noise] Last year the government brought American Mining consultants Boyds, in to areas like South Wales where they met fierce local hostility.
(PS39P) [146] The valleys will have nobody working at all, there'll be no one paying insurances, no income tax, so where is the money going to come for future pensions for people right through the country.
[147] Where's the common sense of the government?
[148] And I do hope that they will change their mind and bring work to the valleys.
(PS39R) [149] I I really can't answer your question mam [...]
(PS39P) [150] You can't answer me.
phil parry (PS39M) [151] Crucial to the Boyds' plan was the introduction of more American mining techniques to boost production and bring down costs.
[152] ... In evidence to a common select committee the consultants stressed the importance of newer, cost efficient, methods.
[153] Exemptions from safety laws to use them was encouraged.
(PS39S) [154] As far as roof bolting and er the er length of advance without supports, current legislation's very restrictive, I think it has to be opened upwards demonstrated by scientific evidence to be successful.
[155] To allow you to take full cuts with the continuous mines.
phil parry (PS39M) [156] One of the key techniques that Boyds wanted to encourage was deep cut or, as it's known in the U S, extended cut.
[157] Deep cut means cutting further without any support at all, making it a faster more cost effective way of mining.
[158] Now in Britain, mine inspectors have started granting exemptions for cutting up to six point six metres without support.
[159] But in America where the extended cut method of mining is taken further, their underground accident record per man shift is four times ours.
Chris (PS39T) [160] It's twelve thirty I'm with [...] news.
[161] The strike at the [...] coal mine in Sullivan county drags on and on.
[162] Two hundred four days today, no end in sight. [...]
phil parry (PS39M) [163] In Indiana seven hundred miners are on strike.
[164] They want safer conditions below ground.
[165] Deep or extended cut accounts for half of all deaths and roof collapses in American mines.
[166] For the company it means grater profits, but to these men it means more dangerous conditions.
(PS39U) [167] The main thing here concerning is extended cuts with the coal operators is er the buzz word of the coal industry, competitiveness, we have to have extended cuts in order to be competitive.
[168] And right now the term competitiveness is used to basically get by safety regulations and anything else concerning safety.
phil parry (PS39M) [169] At this mine two years ago a man was buried and later died after a massive roof fall in an extended cut section.
Len (PS39V) [170] When we got there one o one of the other boys was was already there with him and he was covered from about his waist down with coal and er we uncovered him and gave him as comfortable as we could get him until we got the stretchers and everything [...] mobilize him and get him out.
phil parry (PS39M) [171] The miner Joe had always kept details about the underground conditions hidden from his family.
(PS39W) [172] He wouldn't tell me what was going on down there because he didn't want to worry me as far as the safety conditions at that particular mine.
[173] Erm, and when they did complain to somebody, like a company man you know well that's all the farther it went.
[174] There was nothing done to correct it.
[175] The shock o of losing someone you've been married to for twenty one years, we grew up together, he was my best friend, he wasn't just my husband he was my best friend.
[176] You lose all of that.
[177] You can't get it back, no matter what else happens in your life that that part is gone, so a part of your life dies along with his.
(PS39U) [178] The fatality involving Joe was an example of what we consider as one of the most dangerous aspects of extended cuts.
[179] That when you expose great portions of the roof, unsupported, then you increase the possibilities of a roof fall which comes back on through to the supported area of the roof and then injures or kills someone.
phil parry (PS39M) [180] British mines operate at far greater depth than in America.
[181] Extending their techniques in our conditions have prompted fears among some mining experts.
(PS39W) [182] If you use techniques which are in inappropriate to those conditions then you could compromise safety because of the stability of the mine working.
phil parry (PS39M) [183] And what about the American safety record, is is it very different to to that over here?
(PS39W) [184] Yes, the American safety record is worse than ours.
[185] They tend to have far more accidents er in their mines than we do here in the United Kingdom.
phil parry (PS39M) [186] But the Americans are coming and it's causing great alarm in some circles.
[187] For union leaders such as Peter of the pit deputies, cost efficient techniques like deep cut, threaten the safety of men working underground.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [188] They push very much the deep cut system in the U K. Deep cut system in in America means that the machine goes forward a distance before any supports are set at all erm and then the supports do set [...] roof falls.
[189] We did not object this without evidence of reasons for objection and we've been in disc discussion with the erm American miners.
[190] Eighteen percent of their mines have this so called deep cut system, but has more than fifty percent of all the fatal accidents in those eighteen percent of the mines.
[191] The same eighteen percent of mines which has deep cut has sixty three percent of all frictional ignitions.
[192] That's ignitions of methane gas.
[193] Now for us that causes concern because we have gas in mines, we don't recon recognize the Americans as having gas in mines.
[194] We do, so that's the sort of concerns we have.
phil parry (PS39M) [195] And how do you know for a fact that they intend to bring these sorts of techniques in to Britain?
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [196] They're in.
[197] No, they're in.
[198] We have mines working six point six metres now.
phil parry (PS39M) [199] One of those mines in North Wales was singled out for praise by American consultants Boyds.
[200] Yet within a few months of starting the technique here two men were badly injured in a roof fall.
[201] They'd cut slightly beyond what had been allowed but the report afterwards said the roof would still have come down.
(PS39N) [202] Well I got trapped under er under one of the er rocks that f fell down and then managed to get that off me leg and went to give assistance to er the machine-man, the man on the machine which er trapped as well and er realized then that me leg had me leg was broken so took me down the end of the road and managed to get the stone off the lad and the machine and you got carried in to hospital.
(PS39P) [203] It worries me because these exemptions as [...] to there for example er where thirty nine square metres of roof was permitted to be without support of any kind.
[204] Not a roof bolt, not a prop, not an arch girder, er led to a fall of roof.
[205] And I [...] no surprise whatever, absolutely no surprise.
[206] If you don't support the roof you can expect it to fall and two men were hurt.
[207] Erm I'm not in favour of granting exemptions for large area of unsupported roof.
[208] It seems to me, that your inviting a loss of roof control.
phil parry (PS39M) [209] Now the mining industry faces a fresh set of safety laws.
[210] New guidelines are sweeping away some old regulations.
[211] [choir music] In former mining areas like the Rhondda it's bitterly resented.
[212] In a century and a half of mining, hundreds of men have died.
[213] Some of the lessons learnt from the accidents were enshrined in safety laws which are now to be scrapped.
[214] [music] One of those accidents [...] in eighteen fifty six is deep within local folklore and in the minds of people like former miner Ivor .
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [215] Before the colliery explosion they'd been a fire, in a certain district, twenty yards long.
[216] It had been reported by the colliery official and er the colliery manager of the time thought it wasn't even important enough to actually stop men going in to that district to work.
[217] And they did go in there.
[218] The legislation that came out as a result of that then was absolutely sure, you know that it was copper bottom insurances given given that er legislation would prevent accidents of that nature again.
[219] The er deputy goes in to the district and he he gives an insurance er by law that that the district is safe.
[220] That district is safe for the men to go into. [choir music]
phil parry (PS39M) [221] The [...] explosion wiped out half of the town's male voice choir.
[222] What survived was the crucial safety rule banning work before the entire district is checked.
[223] Now a suggested code of practice will kill off the old law. [male choir music]
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [224] I better do a check for gas here.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [225] It's the first one of many.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [226] Nought point four percent, ah that's in order.
phil parry (PS39M) [227] Only a few years a go the coal board was proud of the work of the pit deputy.
[228] One deputy in each district checked conditions were safe and could stop production if they weren't.
[229] Now they're to allow maintenance work while the pre-shift inspection is made and the pit deputies role will be divided up.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [230] Suddenly nothing is too trivial to matter.
[231] Everything is important.
[232] That's how standards are made and kept.
phil parry (PS39M) [233] In your years as a deputy, have you stopped production because safety was at risk?
(PS39S) [234] E yes, I have.
[235] Machinery unfit to do I've stopped it for that.
[236] Managers haven't been pleased but I've done it.
[237] They're never pleased when you stop er anything what concerns safety.
[238] They want you to carry on as normal, but I will not do that at all.
[239] While ever I've got the power I will stop it, and that's it.
phil parry (PS39M) [240] And how will that change?
(PS39S) [241] It will change dramatically.
[242] I won't have the power the power will be taken away from me.
[243] With these new legislations I have no power what's so ever to do with the safety.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [244] The deputy, the new eyes on eighties.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [245] Ah, report by deputy in charge of the district [...]
phil parry (PS39M) [246] British coal say the new laws and guidelines will strengthen safety requirements underground.
[247] But the deputies believe they've been singled out as a obstacle to producing cheaper coal in Britain's pits, in the run up to privatization.
Chris (PS39T) [248] You can have profitable mines if you want more fatalities, more accidents and more bad news like Bilsthorpe.
[249] Now if you want a coal industry you can have a good coal industry, a profitable one.
[250] It's a question of who decides at this point in time with the government that's making the decision that the workers in this country have to accept lower standards in almost anything not just wages and terms of conditions, now safety standards.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [251] Let's look at the system, let's look at the record.
[252] This inspectorate has been in being three hundred and fifty years.
[253] The accident level in this industry has come down consistently, year, by year, by year, every year.
[254] Last year were the lowest on record.
Unknown speaker (HMGPSUNK) [255] We have got to go to work with a lot of of of er tension and pressure on us.
[256] To get costs down, to turn more coal, to work more hours, when at the end of the day we don't know if we're going to have a job in in one or two years.
[257] Erm it seems very demoralizing an and not fair to the people who are trying to work hard in this industry.
[258] To to carve out a living.
phil parry (PS39M) [259] Bilsthorpe itself could now be a casualty of the closure program, on the drive for a competitive mining industry.
[260] But the pace of change has seen the introduction of controversial new techniques and men prepared to sabotage equipment underground.
[261] The future for Britain's mines has never looked so black, but some believe the future safety of miners is just as threatened. [theme music] [end of job.]