Accident reports

This guide was last updated in 2009

Until the introduction of effective health and safety measures, miners were constantly exposed to dangers.

Not only was there the risk of tunnel collapse and flooding, but until Humphrey Davy invented the miner’s safety lamp in 1815, there was also the ever-present risk of explosion from the accumulation of methane gas or ‘firedamp’.

In 1700, at a colliery near Chester-le-Street in County Durham, an explosion 342 feet below ground killed 69 men, women and children, including one entire family of five. Despite the lamp’s protective features – with its light encased in a gauze cylinder that acted as a barrier against the infiltration of gas – explosions continued to be a major cause of mine fatalities.

The website of the Coalmining History Resource Centre features a searchable national database of mining accidents, which currently contains over 164,000 names of miners killed or injured in collieries from 1850 to the present day.

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