Working Conditions

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, ScotlandBlantyre History of Mining

Working Conditions

Working ConditionsAlthough the law relating to miners had been changed for the better at the turn of the century, life was still very harsh for miners & their families in the mid 1800’s. Miners were expected to work at least a daily twelve hour shift on weekdays, reduced hours on Saturday, and Sunday being the day of rest.

Working in the mines was very dangerous & unhealthy and most miners who survived the physical dangers inherent in the working environment eventually succumbed to mine-related respiratory diseases such as silicosis in later life.

One of the more dangerous risks of mining, was that of the gas referred to as “Firedamp”. Firedamp was/is a highly explosive gas found in coal mines, it is easily ignited by flame, friction or electrical energy.
It’s principal constituent is Methane (CH4) or as it is sometimes referred to “Marsh Gas”. This gas was found in most of the pits in the Lanarkhire area and often large volumes of it would be broken into during the mine workings, resulting in “blowers”.

Men employed as “Firemen” under the supervision of a “Firemaster” had the responsibility of checking the pits for the build up of firedamp and other dangerous gases such as “Afterdamp”, i.e. Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is poisonous & Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which suffocates.

These gases were removed by various means including ventilation forced by furnaces and steam and or by “burning off” in small pockets. The firemen & firemaster would normally carry out their checks prior to the commencement of the day’s work.

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