Date of the Accident – 5.2.1955
Owner – Bhowra-Kankanee Collieries Ltd.
Number of persons killed – 52
Place – Jharia Coalfield
The colliery was started in the year 1917 by the Eastern Coal Co. Ltd. under the managing agency of Mackino Mackenzie & Co. The managing agents changed hands in the year 1951 when Macneill & Barry Ltd. became the new managing agents of Eastern Coal Co. The mine passed into the hands of Bhowra-Kankanee Collieries Ltd. with K.C. Thapar & Bros. Ltd. as managing agents in the month of January, 1955. Seam Nos. XVIII, XVII and XVI had been worked in the past but coal raising from XVII and XVI seams was stopped in 1951 and since that time only No. XVIII seam was being worked. This was known to be gassy.
When the new management took over the colliery, working was started by removing two stoppings in a rise area which had been abandoned. Miners were employed in this area whenever there was scarcity of faces because of larger attendance. 5th February 1955 was the date of the visit of the States Reorganization Commission, commonly known as the Boundary Commission, and many workers, including some essential hands like pump khalasis, haulage khalasis and trammers, did not report for work as they had gone to take part in a demonstration before the Boundary Commission. On the day of the accident, although attendance was very poor, miners were sent to work in the rise area which had not been worked except for driving two galleries till the end of December, 1954. It was a dangerous area in the sense that the mine was gassy and one gallery had been driven upto a fault whiles the other met “jhama”. Owing to the absence of an attendant at the door behind an endless haulage, the door had been constantly kept open, thus allowing short-circuiting of intake air and destroying the ventilation. This resulted in accumulation of firedamp in the rise area. The accumulated gas was ignited, but it had not been possible to find the source of ignition. It might have been ignited by sparks from a non-flameproof 60 H.P. haulage which should not have been there. There was a firedamp explosion and probably coal dust took part in the explosion. Signs of coking were found at the time of inspection of the mine. Dead bodies were found covered with coal dust.
The responsibility of this explosion was placed on the management. The manager had himself noted in his diary, which he wrote after the explosion, that men should not have been sent to work in that area as it was not a safe area unless good and sufficient precautions had been taken. And, on 5th February, 1955, instead of taking precautions, there was utter neglect in seeing that ventilation was proper and adequate. The result was that the ventilation was deranged and gas accumulated in the rise area by reason of short-circuiting of the intake air through the door behind the endless haulage. Had proper precautions been taken, the accident could have been averted.
The Court of Inquiry made a number of important recommendations some of which are as follows:-
- People connected with mining operations should be made aware, by intensive and extensive methods of advertisements, pictures, lectures, etc. of the dangers to which they may be exposed by carelessness and how to prevent them. It may possibly be useful to form “Safety Committees” consisting of representatives of the officials and workmen in order to make mine workers aware of the dangers and their prevention.
- A labour representative should be permitted to go underground and inspect the places where miners work, in order to afford additional safeguards for their safety.
- The use of flameproof apparatus should be made compulsory in every part of a gassy mine.
- Use of electric safety lamps by all workmen should be made compulsory in preference to the flame type of lamps.
- In a gassy mine, the air current ventilating a goaved area and disused workings should not be allowed to ventilate the working places.
- Any change in the system of ventilation in a mine where safety lamps are required to be used should at once be notified to the Inspector of Mines.
- Appointment of Assistant Mangers in large mines should be made on a prescribed scale; their number depending upon the monthly output of the mine.
- A regulation should be added to the effect that no mine shall be worked unless daily personal supervision in respect of the working is exercised by the Manager, and during his absence, by a person authorized by him.
- The “adequacy of ventilation” should be defined in more precise terms.
- Provision should be made for the appointment of door attendants to attend to doors, the opening of which may lead to derangement of ventilation.
- Provision may be made in the regulations for appointment of a “Ventilation and Safety Engineer” in gassy mines.
- It appears that there is no co-ordination between the Mines Inspectorate and the Electrical Inspectorate. It is the Mines Inspectorate which ordinarily tests for inflammable gases in the mine. This information ought to be made available to the Electrical Inspector in order to take and adopt necessary safety precautions in the matter of electrical installations or, the Electrical Inspector of Mines may be brought under; the Chief Inspector of Mines, so that both sets of these officers may’ coordinate to ensure safety in mines.