Watkins v Naval Colliery Co Ltd: HL 19 Jul 1913

The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 enacts-Section 16 (1) -‘ The owner . . of a mine shall not employ any person in the mine or permit any person to be in the mine for the purpose of employment therein unless the following conditions respecting shafts or outlets are complied with, that is to say (c)-Proper apparatus for raising and lowering persons at each shaft or outlet shall be kept on the works belonging to the mine; and such apparatus, if not in actual use at the shafts or outlets, shall be constantly available for use.’
A miner, while being lowered in a cage with twenty-six others, was killed by an accident caused by the defective condition of a spanner bar, the snapping of which caused the reversing gear of the winding engine to break down, which in turn caused the brake to give way and precipitated the cage to the bottom. Two months before the accident the manager of the mine had increased the complement of the cage from twenty to twenty-six men. In an action brought by the widow against the owners of the colliery a jury found that the accident was due to the inadequacy of the brake for this larger complement of men, combined with the defective condition of the spanner bar, and that the respondents had used reasonable care in selecting competent officials to whose neglect to provide adequate machinery the accident was due. Held that section 16 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 imposed on the respondents an absolute statutory duty to provide adequate machinery at the shaft, and in consequence of their failure to do so the respondents were liable in damages.

Lord Chancellor (Viscount Haldane), the Earl of Halsbury, Lords Macnaghten and Atkinson
[1913] UKHL 613, 50 SLR 613
England and Wales

Employment, Personal Injury

Updated: 20 January 2022; Ref: scu.632754