Colliery Rules

The following General and Special Rules (in Terms of the Act 18 & 19 VICT. Cap. 108.) are from the 1856 report by William Alexander, Inspector of Coal Mines for the Western District of Scotland.  The Special rules contain excellent descriptions of the duties of the various occupations in the collieries

General Rules

General Rules to observed in every Coal Mine and Colliery by the Owner and Agent thereof, as required by the Statute 18 & 19 Victoria, Cap. 108.

I. An adequate amount of ventilation shall be constantly produced at all collieries, to dilute and render harmless noxious gases, to such an extent as that the working places of the pits and levels of such Collieries, shall under ordinary circumstances, be in a fit state for working.

II. Every shaft or pit which is out of use, or used only as an air pit, shall be securely fenced.

III. Every working and pumping pit or shaft shall be properly fenced when not at work.

IV. Every working and pumping pit or shaft, where the natural strata, under ordinary circumstances, are not safe, shall be securely cased or lined.

V. Every working pit or shaft shall be provided with some proper means of signalling from the bottom of the shaft to the surface, and from the surface to the bottom of the shaft.

VI. A proper indicator to show the position of the load in the pit or shaft, and also an adequate brake shall be attached to every machine worked by steam or water power, used for lowering or raising persons.

VII. Every steam-boiler shall be provided with a proper steam gauge, water-gauge, and safety valve.

Special  Rules

SPECIAL RULES for the CONDUCT and GUIDANCE of the PERSONS charged with the MANAGEMENT and of the several WORKMEN EMPLOYED in and about this COLLIERY.

I. Colliers are expressly forbidden to proceed towards, or into their working places, at the commencement of any shift, until it shall have been intimated to them by the fireman, or underground manager, or other person acting as such for the time, that the working places have been examined, and are apparently safe to be entered.

II. Till such intimation of the apparent safety of the working places shall have been made, colliers shall either remain at the pithead or at some other place assigned them for the purpose ; if no such place shall have been assigned at which to remain, colliers shall always understand that the pithead is the proper place at which they are required to wait the requisite intimation.

III. On beginning work at every shift, and which colliers shall be bound to do as soon as they shall have entered, and satisfied themselves concerning the safety of their working places (which it shall be their duty to do, independently of the fireman’s report,) they shall thereupon work at their appointed coal-faces continuously, industriously, and without unnecessary intermission, while the shift continues, and shall obey the orders applicable to the safe and proper prosecution of the colliery works, given them by the underground manager, or other person for the time placed over them.

IV. If, while at work, or at any other time, colliers shall discover, or be informed of, the existence of any obstruction in the ventilation, or stagnation, or impurity in the air of the Colliery, or of the existence of any defect in the walls, roofs, or in any other parts thereof, they shall be bound to give instant information of the circumstances to the underground manager, or to the principal roadsman or other person in charge of the Colliery for the time, so that these defects may be remedied, and danger therefrom averted. Colliers are expressly forbidden to go into, or improperly near any place throughout the whole Colliery, where danger is known or suspected to exist. They are forbidden to continue working at any part of a coal face where a sudden outburst of firedamp shall happen, or where danger, from any cause whatever, shall apparently threaten, until the same shall have been examined and reported safe, or the impurity obviated. The common but highly dangerous practice among colliers, of testing the quantity of firedamp escaping from a blower, by igniting it with their lamps, is peremptorily prohibited.

V. Whether the Colliery operations shall be conducted by the “longwall” or “stoop and room” systems, a sufficient number of suitable props shall be selected, cut, and set up by the colliers, in those parts of the works where the roof and superincumbent strata require to be supported and secured by them; these props shall be set up at such times, in such number, and at such points within the colliers working limits after mentioned as they shall, from time to time, see necessary, – and a plentiful quantity of prop wood shall always be provided by the employer at the pithead for the colliers selection and use. But, besides being bound to prop and secure according to their own skill and experience, colliers are required to place props within their working limits, in such places and in such manner as the employer or manager shall deem necessary, and direct for the safety of the workmen and the Colliery.

VI. In the “longwall” system where followed, colliers shall be bound to prop and secure the roof and strata above, along the coal faces at which they shall be employed, and back therefrom, at least twelve feet; and in the “stoop and room” system where followed, colliers shall be bound to prop and secure the roofs, at least fifteen feet back from their working coal faces. When employed to return upon and remove coal stoops left in any coal seam, colliers shall be bound to prop and secure the roof and strata around each stoop before commencing to cut or remove the same.

VII. If from accident or other cause, colliers are at any time unable to find a sufficient supply of prop wood at the pithead, when it is unsafe to continue their work without it, they are expressly forbidden to remain at their working places.

Drawers, Putters, and Drivers

VIII. Drawers, putters, and drivers shall not be permitted to approach, or to enter the working places, until the colliers shall have been allowed to proceed thither to work. Drawers shall carefully convey they loaded hutches to the pitbottom, and shall not thence push forward the same, till they shall have ascertained that the cage is rested for the reception thereof; then drawers shall, with proper caution, place their loaded hutches on the cage and secure them there, under the supervision and orders of the bottomer, preparatory to being sent up the pit.

Bottomer or Signalman

IX. The bottomer shall attend during the working shifts in the Colliery, to regulate the number of men who shall ascend on the cage at a time – to keep order among the drawers arriving with loaded hutches at the pitbottom – to see the drawers carefully place their loaded hutches on the cage, and secure them, and give them instructions on that matter- to make the appointed signals necessary for regulating the ascent of men and materials – to examine and report to the underground manager on the state of the signal apparatus, and of the hutches used in the pit, and of the cage wrought in the shaft; and also on the state of the slides or guide rods in which the cage moves. He shall, along with the fireman, attend to, and keep in proper order the cube or rarifying furnace in the pit. The bottomer shall attend to and answer the signals made by the pitheadman from the pithead.

X. No collier, drawer, or other worker in the pit shall, on any pretext, be allowed to make signals while the bottomer is on duty.

XI The bottomer shall not suffer more, than four men at a time to. Ascend the shaft in any cage; he shall not allow any person to ascend along with a hutch, whether empty or loaded; and he is forbidden to signal the ascent if more than the appointed number shall go on the cage, or if any worker shall attempt to ascend with a hutch.

XII. In the unavoidable temporary absence of the bottomer, the underground manager, roadsman, or some other qualified person shall make the necessary signals from the pitbottom, and receive and attend to the signals sent from the pithead.

XIII. The bottomer, or such person acting in his absence, shall make the following signals, being those appointed in this Colliery for guiding the ascent of the cage: –

He shall strike or ring the signal bell at the pithead once, for the ascent of the cage, whether loaded with coals or empty.

He shall strike or ring the signal bell thrice, in rapid succession, intimating that men are about to ascend; and after a pause, during which a signal shall be made from the pithead that all is ready, the bottomer shall make the usual ascent signal of one stroke of the bell, whereupon the cage shall be raised.

He shall strike or ring the signal bell twice when he desires the engine to be reversed and the ascending cage returned to the pitbottom, and to remain there.

XIV. No deviation from these signals shall be permitted on any account; the signals shall not be made until the cage with its load, whether of men or materials, are securely placed, and everything be ready for the ascent.

XV. The bottomer shall not leave his post at the pitbottom until the whole workers of his shift shall have first safely ascended the shaft.


XVI. The roadsmen shall, at the close of the colliers’ shift, and daily, make careful inspection of the whole drawing roads, headings, and air-courses, from the pitbottom throughout the Colliery, and shall keep the same free of all obstructions, and of the fixed height, and width, necessary for proper passage and ventilation ; they shall repair and remedy all damages and defects in the roads; and shall examine, and put, and keep, in proper condition all trap-doors, and see the regulations enforced that the same are kept closed, and, wherever practicable, shall endeavour to make and keep such trap-doors self-acting; they shall make and place sufficient trap-doors wherever the progress of the Colliery operations shall render these necessary, and shall fit up “bratticing,” where required, of suitable height and length, so that air may at all times be conveyed from the principal air-courses, for the use of the workmen. The roadsmen shall also lay rails in the roads, where requisite; and, in the absence of the underground manager, they shall receive all reports or communications from the colliers and other workmen in the Colliery, as to falls and defects in the roads, roofs, and buildings, and shall proceed to, and repair or remedy the falls and defects, for which purpose they shall obtain the assistance of other workmen, and the use of all such materials as shall be needed. The roadsmen shall stop the passage of men and coals, through, or under defective roads, roofs, or places, until the necessary repairs shall have been executed. They shall receive information concerning, and communicate with the underground manager immediately in case of any interruption in the ventilation, or of any other cause of danger, and shall aid and assist in the rectification and remedy of the same, and shall when so employed, be permitted to use only safety lamps; all lighted or combustible substances are forbidden to be used in the course of such operations. :

XVII The roadsmen shall inspect and report daily to the underground manager, any instances of neglect on the part of colliers, in not carrying forward their coal faces or walls, in accordance with the plan pursued in working the Colliery or in not propping up, and securing the roof and superincumbent strata in those parts of the workings under their care; the roadsmen shall also examine and report to the underground manager, instances of neglect, and acts of carelessness on the part of the brushers, in failing to remove,, or in not removing with proper caution the strata necessary to be removed to form roads, or in not carrying forward the brushing with sufficient regularity, and of the proper dimensions or in leaving the brushing with loose or hanging stones in fend about the strata ”brushed.”

XVIII. As removing falls from the roofs of roads and air courses, repairing defects, and supporting loose strata, are within the roadmen’s duties, and as they are charged with the maintenance of all roads and passages in the Colliery, they are enjoined to proceed with the greatest caution, both for their own safety and the successful execution of their duties. In these operations the whole risk of accidents must necessarily lie with themselves ; they must therefore be careful, and are required to prevent all other workmen coming near any defective places, or interfering with them when at work. They are required to undertake no repairs of unusual magnitude or danger without sufficient assistance and until provided with every necessary material, which will be supplied on application to the employer or manager.

Brushers and Reddsmen

XIX. Brushers and Reddsmen shall, in the formation of roads, remove from the strata as much thereof as shall make them of the height and breadth required for the Colliery purposes, and shall Carefully build up the side walls, and properly remove or stow away surplus material. In detaching strata, and in the use of gunpowder for blasting, great caution must be observed, and every fragment of stone shattered or unloosed shall be taken down. If, in the course of their operations, brushers and reddsmen shall expose a “lipe,” or joint in any of the strata, indicating the probability of an immediate fall at that place, or if a “blower” shall be opened, or an accumulation of gaseous substances be encountered among the metals, report of the circumstance shall instantly be made to the underground manager or roadsman, and means shall be taken by the brushers and reddsmen in the meantime to secure the “lipe;” but if the accumulation of impure air shall be so considerable as to render it at all hazardous to continue brushing or building farther, until means shall have been taken to overcome and disperse the same, the brushers and reddsmen shall cease work, and shall be careful not to approach with unprotected lamps the places where danger exists.

XX. In brushing and building drawing roads towards coal faces, brushers and reddsmen are required to make their brushing and building regular and continuous, keeping pace with the progress of the colliers, so that the side buildings may be carried in, and the road formed at a convenient distance back simultaneously with the excavation of coal.


XXI. The fireman shall descend the pit before the colliers’ shift shall begin, and where firedamp is known or suspected to be, shall proceed with a safety lamp through every drawing road, and along the whole coal faces and working places in the colliery, and shall minutely examine the same to ascertain if they are free from firedamp, chokedamp, or other impurities, and are otherwise apparently safe for workmen to enter and to work within. And in case firedamp or other impure air shall be discovered in any working place, road, or level, the fireman shall, in the first instance, thoroughly clear the same of such impurity – if that can be done easily – and shall thereupon report to the colliers that the working places are apparently safe ; but if the impurity cannot be readily, or at once cleared out, the colliers shall not be permitted to enter any such working places, roads, or levels until the impure air shall have been, by farther appliances, entirely dispelled. If no firedamp, chokedamp, or other impurity shall be discovered or suspected, after such careful inspection, the fireman shall make report to the colliers, and allow them to proceed to work.

XXII. If the fireman shall encounter falls from the roof in any of the roads which he requires to traverse, or in working places under the care of the colliers, he shall not proceed further in the direction of such falls, so as to pass under the broken roof, but shall endeavour cautiously to ascertain if there be any accumulation of firedamp or other impurity in or about the falls, so that the safest way of clearing the same may be learned, and shall proceed elsewhere through the Colliery to examine the unobstructed parts thereof, and to complete his inspection, whereupon the fireman shall report to the underground manager the state of the falls, and whether free from impurity, to the end the necessary directions may be given for having the same cleared away and the roof secured ; and until this shall be done no collier shall be at liberty to proceed near, or be under, the broken roof. If the falls shall be within the limits of a collier’s working place, and shall have been caused by his inattention or neglect, in not properly supporting the roof, he shall be guilty of a violation of these regulations and be punishable accordingly. The fireman shall prevent colliers, drawers, and other workmen entering the roads or working places until a report shall have been made that they are apparently safe.

XXIII. In: case, from any case, the Colliery operations shall have been discontinued for an unusual length of time and thereafter resumed, no workman shall be allowed to descend the shaft until the underground manager, or fireman, shall have first descended and reported on the state of the workings; and in discharging this duty the underground manager, or fireman must proceed with great caution, and shall not go further into the workings than he, from his own experience, shall deem safe, and in case there are reasonable grounds for apprehending the presence of impure air, he shall return to the pithead and remain there until precautionary appliances shall have been employed to restore proper ventilation to the colliery.

XXIV. When a cube, or rarifying furnace, for accelerating the current of air through the Colliery has been established, the fireman and bottomer shall be bound to attend thereto, and see that it is at all times kept lighted and in a sufficient state to aid the ventilation.


XXV. The pitheadman shall have charge of the workers employed about the pithead, and who shall act under his directions. He shall also see that at all times there is in readiness, near the pithead, a sufficient stock of timber for props and other pit purposes, and saws, in proper order for being used by the colliers and other workmen in preparing the timber; he shall also superintend and direct the safe removal from the cage of all loaded hutches arriving at the pithead, and see to the safe replacing of return hutches on the cage. He shall be in attendance on the morning of each working day at the time the colliers’ shift shall commence, and he shall regulate the number of men who shall descend at a time, taking care that no more than four shall ride on a cage, and none along with a hutch ; and he shall give the appropriate signal before allowing the cage to descend with men. He alone shall work the signal bell to the pitbottom, and he shall also attend to the signal made from the pitbottom.

XXVI. The pitheadman shall carefully inspect the ropes and chains used in the shaft, which are under his charge, and if he shall discern or be informed of any flaw or weakness in them, so as to render them in the least dangerous, he shall stop the pit operations until such flaw or weakness shall be remedied ; he shall also be careful to prevent the fall of any stone, coal, or other substance, into the shaft from the surface, and he shall instantly communicate with the manager, or employer, and direct the descent of a skilled person to rectify any deficiency in the shaft.


XXVII. The engineman shall, during work hours, remain continually in charge of and so near his engine as at all times to have it completely and entirely under his control ; he shall be careful that the engine and boiler are always in good working condition, and that the whole machinery and gearing, used about and in the shaft, are in a safe, and effective state ; he shall have charge of the furnaceman, where one is employed, and be responsible for the regularity with which steam is kept up, for the proper state of the boilers; he shall have steam raised, and the engine and machinery in working order, in time to allow the fireman to descend the pit to examine the condition of the Colliery, before the colliers’ shift shall commence; he shall thoroughly acquaint himself with, and shall watch and attend to the various signals made for raising and lowering the cage, whether laden with men or materials, or when empty – he shall carefully and exactly set down the cage at the landing places – he shall observe the indicator attached to the machinery shewing the position of the load in the shaft, and he shall manage the brake connected with the engine.

The engineman shall farther attend to and see that the steam and water gauges and safety valve, attached to the steam boiler, are kept in good order.

XXVIII. Before allowing the descent of workmen into the Colliery on any morning, the engineman shall be bound to run each cage, at least once, from the pithead to the pitbottom, to ascertain whether everything is right, arid if any defect shall be discovered, the engineman shall instantly stop the engine, and shall not on any pretext allow the descent of workmen until the matter has been reported to the manager, or person in charge of the pithead, who shall direct what remedy shall be necessary.

XXIX. The engineman in charge of the engine during the night shift, shall observe in all respects the rules applicable to the engineman on day duty.

XXX. Enginemen are prohibited from allowing any person whatever, to interfere with the engine, in any way while being wrought.


XXXI. The furnaceman shall act under the engineman.

Underground Manager or Oversman.

XXXII. The whole operative details of the Colliery shall be under the care and charge of the underground manager, and he shall see that the workmen in their several departments discharge their duties ; he shall receive and attend to all reports as to the state of repair of the mid wall, trap-doors, roads, shaft, cube, coal faces, and other works, and also as to the state of ventilation, and the machinery; he shall cause remedies to be provided where needed, and every workman -in the Colliery shall be at his command in effecting such repairs, or applying such remedies as shall be urgent, and important for the safety of the men and works. The underground manager shall see these regulations faith-fully and vigourously enforced – and he shall have power to hire and discharge workmen. He shall have under his immediate and special charge, the shaft, slides, and pumps, all of which he shall keep safe and efficient.

Miscellaneous Regulations.

XXXIII. If in proceeding to their working places, and in travelling along any formed road, or other part of the works, the maintenance of which under these regulations shall devolve on the employer, colliers, drawers, and other workmen in the Colliery shall meet, or see, any fall from the roofs, or shall observe any dangerous place in the roofs, walls, or elsewhere in their progress, they shall not pass the same, but shall instantly report the occurrence to the underground manager, roadsman, or other person known to have the maintenance of such places under his charge; and colliers, drawers, or other workmen in the Colliery shall not return past the fall or dangerous place until the same shall have been made secure, which it shall be imperative on the underground manager, roadsman, or other person having the charge, forthwith to do.

XXXIV. As a matter of common safety, colliers, drawers, and all other workers in the Colliery, who shall observe, or who shall come to the knowledge of any damage to or deficiency in any road, roof, or air course, or in any roof, permanent or temporary brattice, or in the shaft, buildings, cube, or other appliance or work, devised for making, maintaining, and promoting the effective ventilation of the Colliery, shall be bound instantly to communicate such damage, or deficiency, to the underground manager, roadsman, or other person in charge, so that the same may be forthwith repaired or rectified.

XXXV. In like manner every collier, drawer, and other workman engaged in the Colliery, who shall observe, or come to know of any defect or flaw in the cage, ropes, or chains, or in any part of the engine, machinery, and gearing used in or about the Colliery, whereby the sufficiency thereof may be impaired, shall be bound forthwith to communicate the same as above.

XXXVI. No workman shall be permitted to introduce into the Colliery any stranger on any pretence, without the consent of the underground manager or of the employer.

XXXVII. Colliers, drawers, and all others in the Colliery, who shall have occasion to pass through any trap door, shall thereupon closely shut the same, and shall on no account leave it open; on discontinuing work at the end of a shift, and especially where no work is to be done in the Colliery on the following day, care must be taken by every workman closely to shut all trap doors, and thereby prevent the proper current of air, necessary for ventilation, being diverted.

XXXVIII. All workmen are expressly forbidden to throw into, deposit, or leave coals, wood, stones, rubbish, or materials of any kind, in any air-course or road, so as to interfere with, or hinder the air passing into and through the Colliery.

XXXIX. All workmen are prohibited from entering or remaining in anyplace throughout the whole Colliery where not absolutely required by duty to be at the time.

XL. Colliers and all others are prohibited from defacing or removing marks which may be made in any part of the workings, for the guidance of the work-men in their operations; all workers are forbidden to displace, injure, or damage in any way the coal stoops, props, hutches, rails, or any part of the machinery, gearing, and apparatus.

XLI. Meetings of colliers and other workmen in a body, within the coal-workings, or in any of the roads, or air-courses of the Colliery, are strictly prohibited.

XLI I. Workmen ascending or descending the shaft shall not be allowed to leave the cage while it is in motion, nor until it shall have rested at the landing place.

XLIII. No workman shall be permitted to enter or to continue in the Colliery while in a state of intoxication.

The violation of any of the foregoing Special Regulations exposes the offender to punishment by fine of two pounds, or imprisonment for three calendar months, on conviction, under the Act 18 4′ 19 Vict. cap. 108.

Any person who shall pull down, injure, or deface the Rules, hung up at the Colliery, is liable on conviction in a penalty of forty shillings.

A copy of these Rules will be delivered to every worker which he must attentively peruse, preserve, and return when ceasing to be employed at the Colliery.

Scroll to Top